Do you often wonder, “Is my life always going to be this way because of my ADHD? Can I really make any changes… and make them last?”
The simple answer is, “Yes, you can.” The more complicated and honest answer is, “Well, it really depends on whether you think you currently have the bandwidth to put in the necessary time and energy.”
Read on to see what steps you could take to start taking charge of your ADHD. Then you can decide whether you are ready to make the changes you envision.
Understanding How Change Happens Can Help You Persist
You already know that change is not easy. Yet, when a strategy does not work for you right away, do you sometimes get frustrated because, well, it looked simple and “everyone else” seems to be able to do it?
Maybe you even give up trying for a while.
One way to deal with this frustration and be able to persist in your journey is to understand how change happens by exploring models of change, such as Carlo C. DiClemente and J. O. Prochaska’s Stages of Change outlined below:
The 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 – 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
Being able to anticipate both how change happens and what you will need to do to create lasting change will help you approach your journey from an informed perspective and help you persist even when it is hard.
Since you are reading this I’m assuming you are past the Contemplation Stage and, while you might not be totally committed, you really want to make changes so your ADHD does not get in your way.
So, let’s jump right to Stage 3 – Preparation.
Stage 3 – Preparation: Getting Ready
In the Preparation Stage you are trying to figure out, “What can I do to make __________ better?” You are definitely not satisfied with the status quo and are ready to try something different.
When you get to this stage I know, as is often the case for Adults with ADHD, you may be tempted to just jump in and try something, anything, as long it seems like it will help make your situation better.
But you really want the change to last, right? In order to create lasting change you first need to spend time doing some upfront thinking by considering questions like:
- Where do I want to focus first? Trying to make too many changes at once can be a recipe for disaster.
- What is my initial plan of action? That is, where are you going to start? While you likely will not know all the steps you need to take to reach your goal, you should at least identify the first few steps.
- What resources / support do I need in order to reach my goal? Depending on your needs you may look for help from books, websites, support groups, an ADHD Coach, a therapist, etc.
- What can I do to create enough time and space to work toward the changes I want? You may decide to take some other activities off your plate in order to do the necessary work.
While doing this upfront thinking may make sense to you, you may be tempted to skip the preparation part. After all, you are tired of your ADHD getting in your way. And you want to fix it now, not get ready to fix things.
Yet you also know, without the necessary preparations, your efforts may fall flat. And then your commitment might waver because you do not see your efforts getting you anywhere. You might even decide it will never get better and just quit trying.
Trying to get there, wherever there is for you, faster may not get to where you want to go.
Stage 3 – Preparation: Make Sure You Are Asking the Right Questions
Part of preparing to create the change you envision is looking for information. And maybe you’ve been looking for quite a while in books or on the internet for answers to questions, such as:
- How do I get organized when I have ADHD?
- How do I deal with overwhelm and ADHD?
- How can ADHD Adults communicate better?
I bet you even tried some of the tips you discovered in your searches. Then, for reasons you might not even remember, you stopped using the strategies. But, when you feel overwhelmed and frustrated you go back to searching for solutions.
If this sounds familiar, it might be time to rework your questions. Because it’s likely your questions, like the ones above, are too broad to help you find the answers that are going to really help you find the solutions you need.
Let’s look at the example of Glenn, an aeronautical engineer, to see how you could do this.
One of the questions he wanted help answering was, “How do I track and follow through on all of my tasks?” A pretty broad question, for sure.
So, I began by asking him about his current task tracking using, among others, the questions below to help him figure out how he could do this better going forward
- “How do you try to track your tasks now?”
- “Why is this not working for you?”
- “What would it look like if you were tackling all of your tasks the way you want?”
- “Why doesn’t your tracking system look like this vision now? That is, what is getting in the way of creating your vision?”
And then we could begin to answer the questions:
- “What if you did ________ to track your tasks?”
- “How would you follow through on __________”
Interested in learning how to ask better questions? Check out A More Beautiful Question by Warren Berger.
Stage 3 – Preparation: Learn How Your ADHD Gets In Your Way
Part of your preparation to design the right solutions is an understanding of what could be getting in your way by asking, “Why am I not able to do….? You probably will come up with several answers.
But, if you don’t know enough about your ADHD, you may not know what part it is playing in preventing you from reaching your goals. Knowing how your ADHD contributes to your difficulties will help you, as you will be able to incorporate this understanding into your plan of action. Dr. Thomas Brown’s ADD/ADHD model below is one place you start to get an overview of possible ADHD related challenges.
If we look again at the example of Glenn we can see how his ADHD can get in his way when he tried to track his task
Activation: He needed support in learning how to organize his tasks and decide what was important among all his tasks
Emotion: When he tried a strategy and it didn’t work right way he became frustrated and gave up.
Focus and Effort: He would often forget to use a strategy after he used it for a while.
Once he had a better understanding of how his ADHD was getting in his way, he could devise a solution that incorporated this information into the solution
Coming Up Next
Look for the next article in this series where I’ll explore the best practices you should use when you are ready to put your plan into action.