It definitely can be harder to make choices for many ADHD adults. If you want it to be easier, try experimenting with these strategies.
- There are specific aspects of your ADHD that can make it harder to choose between various options.
- It’s important to understand how making choices and making decisions are different so you are able to identify the right work arounds to your challenges with either.
- There are several strategies you can use to make it easier to both make choices and feel good about the choices you make.
The Paradox of Choice: Why More Is Less by Barry Schwartz
If you struggled to make choices both big and small, then you know how much time and energy it takes away from doing what’s really important to you. You’ve tuned into Scattered, Focused, Done – Reimagining Productivity with ADHD, a podcast for ADHD adults, like you, who want to learn how to adopt the best strategies, tools, and skills, to be able to get your essential work done in a way that works with the way your brain is wired. I’m Marla Cummins, and I’m glad you decided to join me today on this journey to Reimagining Productivity, with ADHD. So, you can get what is important to you done without trying to do it like everyone else.
Many adults with ADHD struggle when attempting to choose among an overwhelming number of options or trying to make decisions. While in the beginning of this podcast I’ll talk both about making choices and making decisions, I’m only going to cover strategies to address your challenges with making choices. And then I’ll cover workarounds for avoiding analysis paralysis when it comes to decision-making in my next podcast. Now that I’ve told you what I’m going to do and not do in this podcast, I want to read a quote. A former client gave me permission to share.
I’m really struggling to make any decisions in almost any scenario like choosing between two things, choosing to get rid of something. I get a sense of panic, anxiety, as well as a sense of frustration. Logic makes no difference. The magnitude of the decision makes no difference trust in someone else to make the decision makes little difference. I still have to pull the trigger. When I do make the decision. I hold my nose, squelched, the butterflies, and just do it on faith that it won’t bite me in the butt later.
Does this sound familiar? I’m guessing it does. If that’s the case, then you’ll want to keep on listening to find out how you can make it easier to make choices. By the way, many of the following ideas I adopted after reading the book, The Paradox of Choice: Why More is Less by Barry Schwartz. I highly recommend it. Okay. So, by now, you’re probably curious as to the difference between making choices and making decisions, right? You may even think they’re the same. And so even use the terms interchangeably. But there is a difference. And knowing the difference can help you in creating the right strategies to address your challenges in either case. You make choices all the time. You’re driving along one road or the other. It’s three o’clock in the afternoon, and you’re choosing between decaf or caffeinated coffee. Should you buy the large jar of mayo or the small jar. In all of these examples, you’re choosing between known options. Either you can visualize the options, or you actually see them in front of you. You may choose to take Newton street instead of the busier West Roxbury Parkway. Since you commonly stopped drinking caffeine at three, you may opt for the decaffeinated coffee. You may choose for a smaller jar if you’re the only one in your household who uses Mayo. Of course, other choices can be life changing. Choosing whether to go to law school or not
Move to London or stay in the town you grew up in. These are the kinds of choices that can play a part in determining your path in life. Whereas if you buy the larger jar of Mayo, you may have to throw it out later and may be disappointed about the waste. But life will go on. Choices, whether big or small are still between known options. And there are various ways to choose between the options. You may weigh the pros and cons. You may go with your gut in the moment or just follow what other people are doing. Alternatively, you may get stuck choosing indefinitely or at least longer than you’d like. And later on, I’ll talk about how to make this easier. So, what about decisions when making a decision you may or may not be choosing between known options. You are, though, trying to solve a problem, reach a specific goal, or fulfill a certain need.
For example, you may be deciding whether to maintain a particular friendship, what the best resources are to help you work with your ADHD, how to best prepare for retirement, what you would need to do to continue growing professionally in your current job. So that in a nutshell are the differences. If you’ve been listening to my podcast or reading my blog for a while, then, you know I think it’s helpful to understand why something is a challenge for ADHD adults before exploring the workarounds. As I really think having this information will help you make a more informed decision about which strategies to experiment with and then adopt. So, let’s look at this for a minute. Like others, you may think the difficulty you have with making choices or decisions is because you just don’t pay attention. And you’re just all over the place, but that’s just not true.
Well, it is true you may feel like you’re all over the place. But that is because with ADHD, it’s not that you can’t pay attention. But that you pay attention to everything. That is, you have a surplus of attention, not a deficit of attention. Yes. I know. Attention Deficit Disorder really is a misnomer, right? Anyway, because of the surplus of attention, when it comes to making choices, you may be overwhelmed by the sheer number of options. Going to the grocery store can definitely be overwhelming, right? Especially when you want to get out of there as quickly as possible. Similarly, making a decision can be stressful because, for example, when deciding whether your current company is a place you can envision yourself staying long-term and growing professionally, you can think of tons of reasons to stay or not to stay.
With all the thoughts swirling about in your head it can even feel like a game of pinball. How do I make this choice or that decision? And, because it’s so hard, you may do one of three things. You may avoid deciding or choosing. So, you leave the grocery store without any Ketchup. And just stay at your current job, even though you’re not sure if it’s the right one. Alternatively, you may impulsively make a choice without giving it enough thought. You grab the extra-large Ketchup. You quit your job after a particular bad day. Obviously, you can live with the extra ketchup. But quitting your job? Right. Being impulsive can have serious consequences. The third thing you may do is just continue ruminating or thinking about the decision or choices. But not doing anything about it. This could mean staying in the ketchup aisle, a real long time. Frustrating, perhaps. But not the worst thing. But staying at your job monthly after month or even year after year because you can’t make a decision.
Clearly that’s much more problematic. Ok, for the rest of the podcast I’ll be talking about how to address the challenges of making choices. And, as I mentioned before, I’ll cover decision-making in the next podcast. To make choosing between a number of options less stressful and overwhelming, the first step you might take is to minimize the number of choices you need to make moment to moment and day to day. There are a few ways to do this. One way is to add structure to your day. Obviously, for many adults with ADHD, too much structure can feel constraining and you might even resist it. So, you want to add just enough. For example, you could establish rules and routines such as having a rotating menu of meals to avoid choosing what to eat at 6:30 every night. Think Taco Tuesday. Establishing a regular time every week to do your finances.
So, you can avoid trying to choose the best time to do it. As if there is a best time, right? And put information in the same place consistently. So, date and time sensitive information goes in your calendar. Always put your task in a task manager. So, you don’t have to choose where to put the information, and then maybe end up randomly putting it someplace. Only to forget where that place is later. Another strategy to limit your number of options in advance. For example, you might say, okay, I’m going to compare three laptops in depth, instead of 10. I’m only going to 2 stores when shopping for clothes, rather than the whole mall. I’ll interview and choose from among three accountants, not 15. Maybe having the same thing for breakfast every morning, or alternatively having just two to three choices. And, as you work toward becoming more of a satisficer, rather than a maximizer, limiting your choices will become easier.
So, let’s look at what it means to be a satisficer. And how you can do that if you choose. Obviously, to do this, you’ll need to let go of your desire to maximize every choice, wanting the very best. And move toward being willing to be more of a satisficer. And part of this journey will at times include letting go of the fear of missing out. Think of a time when you agonized over making a choice. Maybe it was about buying something or choosing how to use your time. In those moments, you might’ve been trying to make the absolute best choice possible. So, what is the very best gift I can get for Bob? But, as you know, being a maximizer has a lot of downsides. For one, you may worry about the regrets you might have after making a choice – anticipatory regrets.
In trying to avoid having these regrets when looking for new earbuds, for example, you might splurge on the most expensive ones, even though they are beyond your budget. And then subsequently, maybe you’re frustrated at yourself for spending all that money. You also may worry about missing opportunities when you make one choice over another. If you choose the earbuds that are within your budget, will you not be able to enjoy your music as much as if you had bought the better earbuds? Since I have a hearing loss, that won’t be an issue for me, but it might be for you. You may also look to what other people have or are doing in making your choices. Bob has the space X ear buds. They must be really good because he always gets the very best tech stuff. I want to get those. Of course, you don’t know if Bob also has a huge credit card debt in his effort to accumulate all his cool tech stuff.
And maybe you don’t want all that, right? All of these worries associated with the unrealistic expectations that come with being a maximizer costs you a lot of suffering, right? No doubt. There’s an opportunity cost to every choice you make. And, if the cost of being a maximizer is too great for you and you’d like to work on becoming more of a satisficer, here are a few ways you can do that. Instead of trying to make the perfect choice what if, what if you learned to accept good enough? That is, what if you learned to be a satisficer, rather than a maximizer? I know what you’re thinking. Because I’ve heard it before. If you accept good enough, that means you have to resign yourself to accepting mediocrity. That’s just not true. For example, I definitely could have chosen a different topic for this podcast.
If I had, maybe I would have gotten a lot more listeners. And there’s a lot of other ADHD podcasters out there who’ve covered this topic. Maybe I’m just adding to the noise. That’s a lot of worry. Yet, I think you would agree while you might not like everything about the podcast and might want to suggest I changed some aspects of it, it’s not mediocre. Well, at least I hope not. Without the perspective of good enough, I’m sure I never would have gotten started with podcasting at all. In any case, since it’s impossible to make a perfect choice, is it worth your peace of mind to embrace the practice of accepting your choices as good enough? What is less overwhelm and stress worth to you? If you want to practice being a satisficer – accepting good enough – think about where you’ve recently made a good enough decision or choice.
Maybe it was deciding on an internet provider, buying a gift, choosing a meal at a restaurant, etc. How did you make this good enough decision? And where could you apply these strategies in making a choice now. Not sure how to do this on your own? Go ahead and ask for help from a friend, a family member, a coach, or a therapist. Learning to accept good enough is one step along the way to becoming more of a satisficer and less of a maximizer. But to feel better about the process, as well as the outcome of your choices, you’ll also want to explore how you commonly evaluate the choices you make. That is, if you limit your choices and kinda, sorta accept good enough, but still have regrets about the choices you make, you’re still going to feel pretty crummy, right? But when you can express gratitude by focusing more on what was good about the choice you made and focus less on your disappointment, that is what didn’t measure up to your expectations, you can feel better about your choices.
One way you can do this is to use a gratitude journal. At the end of each day try writing down 5 things, including 1 to 2 choices you made that you were grateful for from each day. While your choices may not turn out exactly as you envisioned, you can begin to see what was good about them. And to focus less on the regret you might feel you can also try reminding yourself that few choices are as life altering as we might think in the moment. And you really don’t know if a different choice would have led to your imagined outcome anyway, right? For example, think of a time you went out to eat and while the food was not quite what you had hoped for, the company was good. Sure, you might decide you won’t go to that particular restaurant again.
But what if, what if instead of bemoaning the awful food, you expressed gratitude for spending time with your family or friends. That is, rather than focusing on the bad food, you can focus more on what was good about the choice you made. Not sure if the strategy works? Try experimenting. I’m pretty sure you’ll be surprised. Another way to minimize the potential for regret after making a choice is to remove excessively high expectations. So, in the example of going out to eat, don’t expect some idealized version of a gathering – perfect food, perfect company, perfect service, etc. Rather attempt to go into it with the mindset that you want to spend time with family and friends. And it’ll turn out the way it turns out. For a lot of people to stop creating excessively high expectations you’ll probably need to explore how you compare yourself to others.
Are there any choices you’re currently trying to make based on what you think others have? Maybe you’re thinking, “If only I had… then I would be happy.” And maybe this is prompted by what you see in social media – the gathering you saw of your friends or family at that fabulous restaurant with the fabulous food. Is it real? Is it illusory? Maybe check in with yourself when you’re looking at Facebook or maybe stop looking at Facebook. You know, trying to make based on what others have or what you perceive they have is likely not going to make you feel better. The alternative, the alternative is to focus on what’s important to you and brings meaning to your life. And you can do this by choosing to focus on what you decide is essential, which is going to be the topic of my next podcast where I’ll focus on how to make decisions easier. But for now, is it essential to enjoy your time with family and friends or to have the perfect experience? If there is such a thing.
So, what is one practice you’re going to try to make choosing between options, less overwhelming, less stressful, and more satisfying. That’s it for now? I’m really glad you joined me. And as always stayed until the very end. If you’re interested in learning more about my work with adults, with ADHD, please do check out my website, marlacummins.com. Of course, if you’ve learned a thing or two from today, which I hope you have, please pass along the link to anyone else in your circles you think might also benefit. Until next time, this has been Scattered, Focused, Done. And I’m Marla Cummins wishing you all the very best on your journey to Reimagining Productivity with ADHD.