You’ve heard the expression, “You can’t see the forest for the trees?” Some people get bogged down in details, focusing on the “trees” and losing sight of the bigger picture, the “forest. But this is rarely an ADHD trait.
I’ve long remarked that most adults with ADHD are “forest”, or “big picture” thinkers. You are visionary, with an ability to clearly see your dreams and what they’ll look like and what it’ll be like when you experience your dreams realized. (Some of you may have lost this ability, or rather, you’ve lost the desire to indulge in your ability to imagine a fantastic future because repeated failure has beaten down your motivation and your belief in the possibility of a better future, but you likely still have that ability, and you can recover.)
A clear vision is very powerful for staying motivated, even against great odds and obstacles. It’s also essential when leading others. A clear and exciting vision and the passion and talent to share that with others is powerful for motivating others to join you in achieving your dream. That’s why many ADHD adults become successful entrepreneurs.
One of the frequent challenges faced by visionaries, however, is that you might never make progress toward realizing your vision. It’s not much help to have a great dream if you never make it out of the starting gate. Goals must be set and steps must be taken. (It’s a lovely forest, but you’ve still got to deal with those trees!)
If you’re not a big picture thinker, you usually think of goals in concrete steps. When you have a dream, you think, not of the big picture, but of the goals or steps you’ll need to take to realize your dream. “Tree” or concrete step thinkers are more likely to take action than big picture thinkers, especially when something is new, difficult or complicated. However, if (or should I say when, since you surely will face challenges when you have big dreams and ambitious goals), you hit a snag, you are more likely to lose your motivation.
If every time you deal with a tree, you’re faced with another tree, it’s easy to forget, not only about the forest, but about the beautiful cabin by the pristine lake waiting for you on the other side of that forest.
The Best Approach
The best approach to reaching ambitious goals according to research is a combined approach of the big picture view to motivate you and others with a step-by-step process to getting there. When I read about this research recently, it confirmed what we have been preaching for six years in Succeed in a FLASH, one of the six modules of The Maximum Productivity Makeover. Of course, we don’t just recommend it, we coach you into adopting both approaches.
Adults with ADHD often struggle to shift back and forth between the two approaches. Many prefer the “forest” approach, while others, having experienced numerous failures, get stuck in the “trees”, constantly analyzing each step and ruminating over everything that could possibly go wrong. Neither makes much progress. How can you, an adult with ADHD successfully combine the two?
What Can You Do?
If you’re a tree thinker, sit down and imagine what things will be like when your dream is realized. What will you see? How will you feel? Engage all your senses… If it’s relevant, imagine even what you will smell. How will your life be different once you’ve achieved this goal? In other words, why is this important to you? Once you’ve created a clear picture in your mind’s eye of the successful outcome, create a way to revisit this regularly. You can create a vision board, find a song that represents for you the way you feel when you’ve reached your goal and play that song to recreate the feeling of success or write a newspaper article announcing your success as if it had already happened.
If you’re lost in the forest, you’re motivated, but not making any progress toward your goals. Determine a few steps, or even just one, that will allow you to make progress toward the realization of your dream. Notice that I did not say, “the next step” because often, the order in which you do things is less important than just making progress. Make a regular appointment with yourself to plan another step. What’s another step you could take?