“I just can’t seem to follow through. I know what I want / need to do, but I just don’t do it!”
I bet at some point you’ve said similar things.
Of all of the challenges adults with ADHD have, being able to follow though and execute on ideas and tasks definitely ranks at the top of the list.
And because this is an issue that is so “large” and of such great interest, I will be doing a series of post to help you unravel…
- Why it is so hard to follow though?
- What can I do to make it easier?
Exploring your inner critic is a good place to start.
Work Harder and Plan Better?
You, like many adults with ADHD, you may think the key to follow through is better planning and better time management. While this is probably part of the solution, it is often not the first step.
As an adult with ADHD, you may feel like you are frequently falling short on your commitments. This may lead to feelings of shame, especially when you compare yourself to others. As you look around you think, “They are doing it. Why can’t I?!”
Then, while you may not do this consciously…
- You decide you need to try harder and do more.
- Then your to do list gets longer and longer as you try to prove to yourself and/or others that you are capable.
- Eventually you have more on your plate than you have time or energy.
- And you can’t follow through!
As you can see, it can be a vicious cycle.
Time to look at who is “running the show.”
That Voice – Your Inner Critic
If you are not familiar with this name, “inner critic,” you may have heard of it referred to as a “gremlin,” a “saboteur” or as “negative self talk.” Whatever you call it, it is that self-sabotaging inner voice that can hold you back from accomplishing your goals.
These inner critics may have built up over time because of past failures in part due to undiagnosed and/or untreated ADD. And now you may unknowingly have the belief that your past is a predictor of your future.
The first step is acknowledging the existence of these inner critics resting on your shoulders, whispering such insidious messages into your ears as:
- “It will never work.”
- “I’ve never been able to, so I won’t be able to do this.”
- “I’m a failure.”
- “I’m not capable.”
- “It is not realistic.”
- “I’m not good enough.”
Which of these messages do you recognize?
Keeping You Stuck?
If these messages sound familiar, it could be that this is what is keeping you from following through.
- Where am I resisting taking action?
- Where am I making a lot of excuses?
- When do I say, “I’ll try” instead of “I will”?
- Where do I give up right away as soon as something is not working?
Then consider in each of the examples you come up with whether you can identify your inner critic and the accompanying message(s).
One side effect of listening to your inner critic is that you become immobilized and are afraid of making mistakes or, perhaps, even failing.
When this happens, you stop following through and executing on your ideas and tasks, which is exactly what you need to do to reach your goals.
So, rather than continue to hit a brick wall as you try to manage your ADHD with increasingly “inventive” strategies, it may be time to stop and deal with this rascal directly.
Dealing With Your Inner Critic
So, as you learn more and more about how to manage your ADHD, what do you do when you meet your gremlin (inner critic) in the road? First, don’t invite him/her in for dinner!
Rather, try some these strategies.
- Acknowledge him: “Oh, that is Fred, again. It is not really me talking.”
- Talk to him: “You don’t know what you are talking about! I may have some challenges, but I’m learning how to address them in order to meet my goals. Let me tell you about the times when I have been successful.”
- Give him a one way ticket to a nice, warm, comfortable place so that he will not want to come back. Tahiti comes to mind.
- Write a letter to your inner critic to take with him, telling him how you feel.
Your gremlin may give you all sorts of reasons not to follow through and execute on what is important to you.
Once you’ve sent the little guy or gal on their way, hopefully you will be more compassionate with yourself, and you will stop putting more on your plate than you can possibly do.
Then you will be in a much better position to take action and, yes, follow through on what is important to you.
Question For You
If your inner critic was not sitting on your shoulder right now, where would it be easier to follow through?
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