When faced with a problem, it is all too easy to focus on what is wrong. After all it is a problem! And for many adults with ADHD focusing on the problem may lead to endless non-productive ruminating.
Can you think of an example in your own life when a problem seemingly hijacked your brain?
You may even have tried distracting yourself with a productive activity, like a project, or a non-productive activity, like watching TV. But that was only a temporary fix. The thoughts, like the air from a window that has not been properly sealed, kept seeping back into your brain.
And the problem remained!
So you thought hard about how to solve the problem. Makes sense. You have a problem. You need a solution.
But there is an alternative approach. Rather than focusing on the problem, you can focus on what it is you want to achieve. A subtle, but very important difference
Solving the Problem
Before looking at this alternative approach, try putting all your attention on a problem you are currently facing.
If you cannot think of a current one, think of an old problem. Still stumped? Use one from your professional life. I’m sure that at some point you have struggled with some aspect of your job or business (if you are self-employed), like:
- a boss who gives you more to do than is realistic
- a co-worker who does not pull her weight
- a client who does not pay on time
- an assistant who does not follow your instructions
What did you do to try to address your problem? How productive was the time you spent thinking about or trying to solve the problem?
Perhaps, thoughts of the problem took up far more of your time and energy than you would have liked.
And the solution did not come easily.
Ready For Change?
When you have a problem it is because there is something negative that you want to get rid of or something positive that you want to achieve.
Before investing your time and energy into trying to make a change, you want to make sure it is what you really want. Answering the questions below will help you to be confident that you are heading in the right direction.
Using the problem you identified above, answer the questions below.
- Why is it a problem for you?
- If it is something negative, what are you trying to get rid of? If it is something positive, what are you trying to achieve?
- If you could achieve this change, what would be different for you?
- On a scale of 1-10, how much do you want this change?
Wait. Not so fast. Maybe you need some air time to talk about how you are feeling, if the situation brings up a lot of emotions for you. That is normal. Take the time you need. Don’t short change yourself.
Whether it is a friend, professional or family member, find someone who you feel comfortable with, someone who will keep what you say in confidence. Talk, talk and then talk some more. Get it out of your head.
Then, when you feel you are in the right frame of mind to work on finding a solution, you can move on to the next step. Ready?
Solution Focused Change
When you are ready you can focus on the solution you would like to achieve.
Using the problem you thought of earlier, think about what you want instead of the problem. That is, what do you want to achieve?
For example, if a colleague is not pulling her weight, you may envision a solution that includes a fair distribution of the workload. In this scenario you and your colleague agree on an even breakdown of the tasks, as well as a system to check in with each other to ensure that you both follow through on your commitments. You may even include, as part of the solution, an agreement to renegotiate, if down the road either of you feels that the workload is not fair.
You want this solution because, not only do you value fairness, but you may also value balance in your own life. That is, if you have to do more than your fair share of work, you may not have time for some of your own pursuits.
When you achieve this you will no longer have thoughts about this situation flooding your brain and will feel more of a sense of calm at having a arrived at a fair solution. You may also feel that your workload is more doable.
The next step, creating a plan for how you are going to arrive at this solution, will provide you with roadmap as well as a sense of optimism that the solution is realistic and achievable.
Try this approach for your own problem.
Using the problem you identified above, answer the questions below
- What do you want instead of the problem? That is, what do you want to achieve?
- Write out what the solution will look like. Include as much detail as possible.
- What is it about having this solution that is important to you?
- How will things be different when you arrive at this solution? On a scale of 1-10, what will 10 look like when you have what you want?
- What are the steps you need to take to accomplish this?
A Different Perspective
As you take the spotlight off the problem and focus on the solution, you will notice a difference in how you feel and act.
You will likely feel more optimistic about the possibility of getting what you want. You will also feel more in control, as you can envision a path to the solution.
These feelings will motivate you to act. And, as you take concrete steps toward what you want to achieve, feelings of optimism and control will only increase.
Better than letting the thoughts of the problem swirl about in your head, right?
Give it a try. See what works for you.