Learning how to manage your willpower will help you work with your ADHD.
You may be thinking, “I don’t want to hear this. I’m tired of hearing that I just need more willpower. I have ADHD!”
Hang with me for a bit.
I’m not talking about the version of willpower where you are told to “just try harder” or “just do it.”
That won’t work for you. Because the challenges you experience exerting self control when you want, willpower, have to do with your brain wiring.
But there are strategies you can learn in order strengthen, conserve and use your willpower when you want.
And these same strategies will help you manage your ADHD.
What is Willpower?
Psychologist Roy Baumeister, author of Willpower, and the foremost expert on the topic notes that willpower is the energy needed to exhibit self-control.
He divides the use of willpower into four categories:
- control of thoughts
- control of emotions
- impulse control
- performance control (focusing on tasks)
Hmm, I bet these sound familiar. These are areas that are challenging for you because of your ADHD.
Where Do You Get The Power?!
It is true that your challenges with exhibiting self control are in part due to your brain wiring.
But you also know that when you are tired and hungry your ADHD symptoms seem to become magnified.
Without the right nutrition to feed your brain it is hard to mentally stay on your game. Specifically, Baumeister’s studies found that the glucose that you get from complex carbs (whole grains, legumes and other vegetables) is critical to exerting self-control.
It is the same with sleep. Without enough sleep your willpower decreases. Baumeister’s studies confirmed this. And we know that lack of sleep can also make your ADHD symptoms worse.
It Is A Limited Resource
But, even with enough sleep and the right nutrition, Baumeister concluded that willpower is a limited resource.
Yes, there are strategies to help you work with your ADHD in order to follow through and complete your important tasks.
But, because you don’t have an inexhaustible supply of willpower, even the best practices will not help you to power through your list of 150 tasks in one day or to adopt multiple habits at once.
So, if you use all of your “willpower reserves” at work, you will have a harder time using your self control to:
- engage in a thoughtful discussion with your boss at the end of the work day.
- interact and be patient with your kids when you get home.
- resist eating the whole pint of Ben and Jerry’s Chunky Monkey after dinner.
- go on the run you planned.
The same with habits. You also are not likely to be as successful if your try to build more than one habit at a time. I bet you’ve already heard this. Now you have research on your side!
Accepting What Is
The first step in addressing this reality is to acknowledge that your willpower is a limited resource.
Then give yourself a break. Have compassion for yourself. And think about what would help you.
So, for the examples above, you could decide to:
- Hold off on the discussion with your boss and schedule it for the next morning.
- Listen to some music on the way home and think about transitioning into “home mode.”
- Buy Chunky Money once a month, instead of once a week to reduce the temptation.
- Have a running partner so you have built in accountability.
What would you do differently right now if you took this first step?
Willpower and Goals
Yes, I hope you are compassionate with yourself. It will help you persevere.
At the same time you can also adopt strategies to strengthen your willpower so you can reach your goals.
And a reminder. These are the same strategies you can use to work with your ADHD.
Here are some strategies to help you rely less on using sheer force to power your way through:
- Have a clear goal in mind that does not conflict with your other goals. If your goals conflict with each other, it is hard to make decisions about how to move forward.
- Create a visual to remember your goal.
- Break it down to the smallest step possible to make it easy to execute. Makes it easier to know what to do, and you are more likely to follow through.
- Focus on the very next step to reaching your goal, even if the whole path is not clear. After all that is all you can do today.
- Remove or stay away from temptations. Why make it harder than it needs to be?
- Build in accountability by telling someone or a group of people about your goal. Start with a trusted friend. Feeling brave? Go ahead announce it on Facebook.
- Create habits. Once they are routine, you will spend less energy trying to initiate and follow through.
So, you really don’t have to “just do it” or try harder. It can be easier.
Questions For You
Is there a change you want to make to your eating or sleeping or habits so you have more energy each day?
Are you trying to “fight what is,” and tackle too much each day or attempt to adopt too many new habits? How can you cut back?
What strategies do you want to adopt to make the path to your goals clearer and easier to reach?
Think you might need help? Contact me for a Complimentary Consultation. We can talk about what steps you can take to help you move forward with less struggle.