You are probably reading this article because, yes, you would like to fix your adult ADHD. While managing your ADHD is a lifelong journey, creating the changes to make this possible can be easier.
Maybe you’d like to be more productive, have better relationships, improve your finances. What kind of changes are you trying to make right now? Whatever change you are trying to make, I bet you have tried many different strategies.
I’m also guessing your efforts have been met with varying degrees of success. Yet, while you know creating change is difficult, you may still get exceedingly frustrated when it doesn’t come easily. And, because of this frustration, maybe you give up easily on a strategy before giving it enough of a chance.
So, how can you persist long enough to make it over the finish line? The answer lies in adopting strategies and learning skills that will work with your ADHD. You can do it! You might just need to stop comparing yourself to your non-ADHD peers.
Ready to see how you can do this?
How Your ADHD Can Make It Hard to Make the Change You Want
The first step in creating the change you want is identifying the strengths that can help you and the challenges that might hinder you. This includes appreciating the impact of your ADHD. Then you can incorporate this understanding in creating a plan that is tailored just for you.
For example, it is important to remember that your challenges with emotional regulation may mean you become sad or angry quickly. And you may also feel these emotions more intensely than those without ADHD. If this is true for you, you will need to learn strategies to manage your emotions.
In part, your emotions might be magnified because of your challenges with executive functioning, which include decision-making, planning, focusing, and attending. Since these are skills you need to create the change you want, you may need to also work on improving these skills.
But, before you get to work on a plan, the first step is to remember to practice self-compassion. That is, acknowledge that your ADHD might make it a little bit harder.
Then you can take the second step, which is adopting the strategies and improving the skills to make the change you envision possible. And reach out for help, if you don’t think you can do this on your own.
Understand How Change Happens
In addition to learning about your ADHD, it is helpful to learn a little bit about how change happens. As this understanding will help you gain clarity on your readiness to make a change and then determine what actions to take.
If you are considering working on managing your ADHD, below are the steps you might take.
5 Stages of Change:
- Precontemplation – you deny that your ADD symptoms are problematic or that you even have ADD and avoid change
- Contemplation – you are willing to consider that that your ADD symptoms are problematic and change may be necessary
- Preparation for Action – you are committed to change and start making plans to understand and manage your ADD
- Action – you implement your plans
- Maintenance – you are building new habits and addressing any relapses to old habits
Remember, while it may certainly seem otherwise from the steps above, change is not linear. You may go back and forth between the steps, and even plateau at times. Happens.
Take the Time to Prepare for Action
You’ve made the commitment, and are thinking, “I’ve got to change. I don’t want to keep going on like this. You may also be wondering, “What can I do? Where can I get help?” You are ready to make the changes you envision!
But, as is typical for many adults with ADHD, you may be tempted to jump in with very little planning. After all, you are tired of your old ways. And you want a “fix” now!! Understandable.
Yet, you know from experience that your efforts may fall flat without a plan and support system. And then your commitment wavers, and you may even start to question whether the change you envision is even possible. You may even quit trying, at least for a while.
Sound familiar? You can avoid this scenario by taking time to make the necessary preparations. Here are few questions to help you get started:
- Where do I want to focus first? Trying to make too many changes at once can be overwhelming.
- Where can I find answers to the questions I have about creating this change?
- If I don’t think I can make this change on my own, where can I find support?
- What changes do I need to make in my environment to create the time and space I need? For example, you may decide to discontinue some of your current activities to make time to focus on the change you want.
What is the first step in your plan?
Be Aware of This When You Start to Take Action
When you take that first step you may think, “Finally things are going to be better!” And, if you have support, you may also feel a sense of relief that you don’t need to figure it out on your own. But this optimism and relief may be short-lived.
Because, believe it or not, you may actually feel worse in the beginning, rather than better. I know it sounds counterintuitive. But it happens. And, when it does, you may once again doubt your ability and/or the efficacy of the support you are receiving to create the change you want.
This is not the moment to despair!
You have just encountered the backdraft, “a firefighting term that describes what happens when a door in a burning house is opened – oxygen goes in and flames rush out.” When you open the door to address your challenges, instead of avoiding them, it can feel hard and overwhelming.
This is normal. And to avoid giving up in the beginning when it is difficult:
- remember that the beginning can feel, well, a little wonky.
- be willing to sit with the discomfort you may encounter.
- acknowledge that, while the plan may look easy, execution is often hard.
- remind yourself change will take time and it will not be linear.
Frequently reminding yourself of the above points will foster your willingness to persist when it might feel difficult to do so.
How You Can Get Through the Messy Middle
When you get past the starting gate you may feel excited that you are creating the change you envision. You’re gaining traction and feeling like this is possible.
Then, though you’re sure you want to reach your goal, you falter.
Meet your sinkhole or what Seth Godin refers to as The Dip. This is “the long slog between starting and mastery. A long slog that’s actually a shortcut, because it gets you where you want to go faster than any other path.”
The Dip will look different for everyone. But, as an adult with ADHD, you may encounter it in the form of one of the common ADHD challenges, such as:
- losing interest in the process.
- becoming easily frustrated with the pace.
- having difficulty working with other people when you are not on the same page.
- becoming easily distracted by the next shiny penny.
- not wanting to do the necessary administrative work.
In those difficult moments, you will think, “Maybe I can’t really do this, after all.” And then you may question well it’s worth it to continue, and wonder, “Should I just quit?” Sometimes it is better to quit and change paths, for sure.
But what if the best decision is to push through? Then the key is to recognize when you are in the Dip and decide how to address your challenges. Whether they are related to your ADHD are not, you may need to reach out for help to persist to the finish line.
Am I Done Working So Hard, Yet?!
When I complete my work with clients it’s a time for celebration. They have managed to reach their most important goals, and we’re both excited. Yet, as we go through the completion process, we also need to create a maintenance plan for them.
You will need to do the same. Because, like many of my clients, you may be tempted to shift into cruise control. But now is not the time.
Because you will still be tempted to revert back to your old ways. This might happen because you are bored or it feels too hard. Other times, it might be because of a life event, such as a job loss, illness, etc. And, even when you “know” your best practices can help you through these difficult times, you may let them slide.
The key to not getting completely derailed is to have a plan in place to address the occasional detours as they arise. A weekly review of your progress and maintenance efforts will help you to stay the course and counter the pull of immediate gratification.
During these review sessions, you can ask yourself:
- What went well? What strategies am I using that are working?
- What was a challenge? What strategies can I use to address these challenges?
- If my plan is no longer working, what do I need to do? Do I need help?
- Which best practices can I use to make next week better?
Sometimes you may be too close to objectively evaluate your progress. If this is the case for you, you may need “an outside mirror” to help you. Either a professional or a supportive friend or family member can help you review your intentions on your progress.
Question for You
Think of a change or trying to create your life right now. Which of the above strategies can help you to persist in your efforts?