What do you think of when trying to manage your ADHD? When starting down the path of managing their ADHD many adults, at least in the beginning, may assume they are broken.
If this is the case for you, you may focus your time and energy on trying to fix yourself. Because that is what you do when something is broken. You fix it, right?
But what if you decided you were not broken? What if instead you were able to adopt the perspective that you just operated differently? What if you decided to rely more on your strengths?
Your approach to managing your ADHD could look quite different.
Talents That Come Naturally To You
The key to managing your ADHD is to identify, build on and work in domains that utilize your strengths as much as possible, while still managing around your weaknesses when necessary.
For now let’s focus on your strengths.
One definition of strength is:
“…an innate or learned characteristic that you possess, or behavior you exhibit, that when applied consistently allows you the greatest chance of successfully reaching your goals.”
You could also say that strengths are talents that come naturally and easily to you – you do not have to work so hard to express them.
You may even possess strengths that you utilize in one area of your life that you do not yet realize can be applied to help you in other areas. It is also possible that there are things that come easy to you that you do not even realize are your strengths!
The trick, of course, is to identify these assets and examine how you can use them to help you accomplish your current goal(s).
Identifying Your Strengths
You are probably intimately familiar with your weaknesses. If you are like many other adults with ADHD, you may focus an inordinate amount of time and energy on patching up your weaknesses.
Try putting away your “sewing kit” for a bit and pick up your “weights.” I hope you will take the time now to focus on ways to identify your strengths. The ideas below can help get you started.
Before looking outside yourself try this exercise. You may be surprised by what you find.
You can answer these questions in one sitting, or you may take a couple of weeks as you observe yourself in action. No doubt, reflection takes longer than answering questions on an assessment. However, taking more time may uncover hidden strengths that a quick assessment may not reveal.
- To start with the most obvious, what are your strengths? This is not the time to be modest!
- What activities capture your attention and keep you consistently engaged? Often the activities that we get excited about participating in are those that use our strengths. What are the strengths related to these activities?
- What types of tasks do you learn and understand quickly, and which are challenges you approach with a sense of joy? If you are a “natural” at something, there may be a strength related to the skills required by the activity. What are your strengths related to these tasks?
- What are you passionate about? How are your strengths related to your passions?
- Under what conditions and in what environment do you work best? When these conditions are present and you are in this environment, what strengths do you notice?
- What are the strengths you can use most directly related to achieving your goals?
- If you are not able to complete this exercise on your own, ask one of your “fans,” such as a friend or family member, to help you. Who would you ask? If you have someone in mind, ask him or her to help.
After reflecting on your strengths, you may be curious enough to go beyond these questions in order to learn more about your strengths.
It is also important to remember that your ADHD symptoms can be strengths. Whether your ADHD symptoms are strengths or weaknesses depends on the context. To identify how your symptoms are strengths think about how they help you in various domains.
For example, my willingness to take risks, persistence, creativity, energy and sense of humor have been instrumental in my business success. But that same energy and humor, if not managed well, can be a distraction in some settings, like in “very serious meetings.”
What strengths do you have that come from your ADHD? In what context(s) can they serve you?
Check out Lara Honos-Webb book, The Gift Of Adult ADHD, to explore more about the gifts of ADHD.
There are many assessments you can use to learn more about your strengths in the various domains of your life. If you’re interested, I encourage you to continue this exploration.
If you are interested in exploring your character strengths, the VIA Survey of Character is a great place to start.
Kolbe A Index
The Kolbe A Index measures your instinctive way of doing things, your strengths. You can use this information in both your personal and professional life.
The DiSC is another assessment that gives you insight into your behavior and personality, designed primarily to help you understand yourself and colleagues in the workplace.
By finding out your personality preference as measured by the MBTI you can make decisions about your current environment and future goals.
The StrengthsFinder 2.0 is also a popular assessment to uncover your strengths. You can find a free strength assessment along with a 20 minute video by Marcus Buckingham, co-author of Now Discover Your Strengths, here.
Imagine The Possibilities!
Theoretically, I think you could do many things you want, given the right amount of persistence, dedication, and time.
However, I am just as interested in your journey as I am in you reaching your end goal(s). And, if you also think the quality of your journey is just as important as reaching the finish line, then using your strengths along the way is critical.
Because when you are operating from your strengths you are more in flow and life is just easier. As Dr. Seligman, founder of the Positive Psychology Movement notes, using your highest strengths leads to…
- more positive emotions
- more engagement in life
- better relationships
- more meaning
- and more accomplishments
Wouldn’t that be nice?!
Once you know your strengths you can make choices that will work best for you in creating the life you want.
What Is Next?
Ok, so you know that knowing and utilizing your strengths is helpful. Great. But now you may be wondering, “After I figure out my strengths what do I do?” Here are a few options to ponder.
Choose What You Do
Put yourself in situations where you can apply and use your strengths.
If you have some freedom in what tasks you do at work, think about choosing those that will draw on your strengths. Likewise, if you are considering a career / job transition, incorporate what you know about your strengths into your decision.
Another example is volunteering outside of work. You may be afraid of getting stuck with some administrative task, if you offer to help. So, if being outgoing is one of your strengths, offer to greet new members at the meetings. And when asked to take minutes say, “no!” Well, maybe say, “No, thank you, but I can do…”
Where else can you put yourself in the “right situations” that rely on your strengths?
Negotiate, Delegate, Barter, Decline…
There are things that need to get done both at work and at home. Ideally, everyone would just get to do those things that play to their strengths. That will likely not happen for you, right?
But once you know your strengths you can be more strategic. And start to think about how you could spend more time and energy doing tasks that draw on your strengths.
- ask to “trade” tasks with someone for one that better suits your talents?
- delegate a task so you have more time for others that suit you better?
- barter for a task that will use your strengths?
- just say, “no,” so you have more time to operate in domains that use your gifts?
Just because you have been doing things a certain way up until now doesn’t mean you have to continue that way.
What could you change up?
Become More Skilled
We know that strengths are not fixed. They can both grow stronger or atrophy. It is up to you.
As you discover your strengths you could choose to focus your attention on a particular strength to make it stronger, if you think it would serve you. Because strengths can be learned, practiced and cultivated.
What is one strength you have that you would like to improve?
ADDed Perspectives Bottom Line
When you are using your strengths you will be fueled by the motivation that comes with performing tasks that come easier to you.
And be the best version of yourself!
Oh, and the journey will just be more enjoyable…