Unleash Your Creative Genius

Archive for the Achieving goals and ADHD Category

Strengths Lessons from a 4-Year-Old

.

Four generations of my family spent a week together sharing a cottage in a remote corner of Quebec. My oldest daughter, her husband and our two grandsons, Evan, 4 years old, and Peter, 20 months old, live in Regina, Saskatchewan. That’s 2,850 kilometres (1740 miles) away, so we don’t get to see them nearly as often as we’d like. The whole family only manages to get together once or twice a year.

I miss them terribly and so I cherish every moment with them. I was delighted to discover the cottage came with access to their two kayaks. On the first morning, I was up early and following breakfast I jumped into the bigger kayak. I’ve only kayaked twice in my life but found I was fairly skilled at it and developed an instant liking for it. To my great delight, my oldest grandson, Evan, also took to kayaking like a duck to water. It became something we could bond over.

Evan’s ease at learning kayaking inspired this post. He exhibited such clear signs of a strength it was a joy to watch. You often ask me how to determine what your strengths are, so I thought I’d use my experience with Evan and kayaking to share the five signs of a strength. Maybe it’ll help you identify your own strengths.

Your Strengths Are Your Path to Success

One of the keys to being a successful Creative Genius is to work with your strengths as much as possible. You may think this is easier said than done. My clients often tell me they’re so busy correcting their mistakes that there is little time to devote to identifying and developing their strengths.

The great news is that it takes much less time to develop your strengths to a high level of ability than is does to improve your weaknesses, even if you’re only trying to achieve mediocrity! Even setting aside a few hours a week to work on developing your strengths will reap great results quickly.

First, you must determine what your strengths are. Many Creative Geniuses fail to recognize the uniqueness of their strengths. When you discover something you’re good at and that comes easily to you, you usually think it must be easy for everyone else as well. Perhaps you’ve struggled so long it’s hard for you to imagine that you could be better at something than other people. Or perhaps you aren’t observing other people closely enough to see that most people struggle to do something that comes easily to you.

Whatever the reason, I invite you to take a different approach. When you find something comes easily to you, suspect a strength.  Then set out to prove that it is indeed a strength. You can do so by looking for these specific signs.

Recognizing Your Strengths

The first sign Evan was exhibiting a strength is the relative ease with which he picked up the new skills. Like most young boys, Evan can be a bit clumsy. But with the kayak, he exhibited very fast learning. With only a few instructions, within 5 minutes, he was paddling around the pond like someone who’d been doing it for months. And he learned each new technique quite quickly.

A second characteristic of a strength is that you yearn to do it. As soon as he set eyes on the little kayak and saw me kayaking on the big one, he wanted to try it. I know, for a four-year-old that’s not unusual – they tend to have unbound curiosity at that age – but every chance he got, Evan wanted to be kayaking. He also yearned to learn more. He was observing me and asking how I was doing each stroke and then he’d attempt it. This brings me to the third characteristic.

Evan, wanted to kayak every chance he got, and he was always interested in learning better ways to do it. His interest was consistent, and he was confident as he attempted each new technique, unafraid of making mistakes. Most four-year-olds quickly become bored with things and can get easily frustrated when they don’t get a technique right the first time. He seemed to know he’d eventually “get it”, so he was willing to continue to work to perfect his skills.

Evan strived for excellence, a fourth characteristic of a strength. He kept asking me to correct him and would follow my advice to the letter, always striving to improve his paddling, or other techniques such as stopping, turning, embarking and disembarking.

Finally, he gained a huge amount of satisfaction from it, the fifth characteristic of a strength. He enjoyed himself a lot.

How Can You Use This?

As an adult, we are often curious about trying new things but we hesitate. We’re afraid of looking foolish if we don’t get it right the first time. Unfortunately, the only way around this is to change your mindset. Worrying what others will think is keeping you from some potentially amazing experiences.

I encourage you to always seek out new experiences. You never know what will lead you to discover a strength. Don’t dismiss any opportunity – it doesn’t matter if it’s “practical” or related to your career. Any strength could help you in your career, but it’s unlikely Evan or I will make a career out of kayaking. However, successful experiences and activities you enjoy make your life more enjoyable. They also allow you to increase your confidence, which can help you in all areas of your life.

If there is something you yearn to try, seek a way to try it:

  1. Ask a friend who does that activity to let you try it.
  2. Take an introductory class or an online course on it.
  3. Read about it.

If you find an activity easy, don’t discount as “it’s easy for me, so it must be easy for others.” Set out to prove it is a strength:

  1. See if your skills grow quickly compared to others. What more can you learn to get better at it? Do that.
  2. Practice and see how much satisfaction you get from it.
  3. Are you consistently performing well?

In a comments box below, share what activity you’re going to experiment with. And enjoy!

The Single Most Important Thing Creative Geniuses Can Do to Get Better Results

 

Most of you don’t know this, but I suffer from chronic pain from an injury I sustained almost 20 years ago in a car accident. Since then, I live every day with pain. I manage the chronic pain through good lifestyle choices such as exercise and good sleep. Every now and then, the pain increases to excruciating levels. Those periods can last between two and four weeks. A bone growth digging into nerves on both sides of my spine creates severe pain. It can affect my back and one or both arms. There’s no cure for this at the moment.

Want to Change Your Results? Change Your Mind

Why am I telling you this? I’m not seeking sympathy. Many Creative Geniuses struggle in a neurotypical world, faced with failure after failure. At least, they do until they discover how to unlock their full potential. Life is lonely and painful – it is its own brand of chronic pain. If you’re a Creative Genius who’s felt the “chronic pain” of not fitting in, what I discovered will make your life better.

This flare-up came right in the middle of the launch for my biggest program. Program launches demand enormous effort, energy and money to be successful. A lot was riding on this launch.

There couldn’t have been worse timing. Or…? I now see what happened as an omen.

It All Depends on Your Mindset

Like many Creative Geniuses, I struggle with negative thinking and rumination. Every now and then, a horrible Gremlin whispers in my ear that I don’t deserve success. That voice tells me “catastrophes” always occur when I’m taking risks.

But are these “catastrophes”? Or is it only life unfolding? No one is bombing my neighborhood; no tornado is destroying my home. Those are catastrophes. Let’s de-dramatize the problem.

When I’m stretching out of my comfort zone, I often feel I don’t “qualify” for the “Successful People’s Club. Is it true? Am I “not enough” to be successful?

Kick Your Gremlin to the Curb

Everyone has the potential to make a great contribution.

This belief led me to work with Creative Geniuses. My Creative Genius husband transformed his life, yes. But he also transformed our family. And his transformation has affected friends, co-workers and thousands more Creative Geniuses. All by learning how to succeed as a Creative Genius. I wanted to unleash that potential for every Creative Genius.

We all have the potential to make a great contribution. It’s true for me, and for you. “Being” is all you need to qualify for the “Successful People’s Club.” All you need is to change your mindset so you have the strength and the courage to say, “Shut up Gremlin!”

While this was happening, I was reading “You Are a Badass: How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Start Living an Awesome Life” by Jen Sincero. A great book for anyone, it is especially wonderful for Creative Geniuses. You’ll find wisdom and inspiration to push through the hurdles you face as you stretch out of your comfort zone.

Seeing the Perfection of It All

The author suggested we face every challenge with the statement “This is good because …”

One Wednesday morning, I called my husband, Duane, at work. I was crying in agony – nothing would relieve the pain and felt vulnerable and hopeless. Duane dropped everything and came home immediately. He spent the next week and a half with me. We often say “I love you”, but nothing brings home that love like the selfless support he provided. I’m getting teary-eyed as I write this.

I had no choice but to rely on other people for everything. There were people counting on my program and I could no longer deliver, not on my own. Duane and my assistant, Kelly, worked together to support me and to run the launch. With my support system in place and medication for pain, I was able to complete the last video.

It was terrible. It looked like I felt. I couldn’t think straight, I didn’t have my usual energy. I hated it, but I knew it was the best I could do. As I watched it, my inner perfectionist struggled to release it.

This is Good Because…

Despite that lousy last video, I enrolled twice as many participants as my previous record! The statement, “This is good because…” was challenging. But demanding an answer no matter what obstacle I faced that transformed my mindset. That’s what allowed me to push through instead of giving up.

Looking back now, I still ask that question. And I like the answers! This is good because…

  • I (finally!) realize I don’t have to do everything myself. I can rely on others to help me.
  • I discovered I’m a badass! I can persevere in the face of any adversity, as long as I adopt the right mindset.

How Can You Use This?

  1. Live full out. You have much to contribute to this world. The world works best when we all enjoy our lives, when we do what we love, when we are our true selves… masterpieces trying to shine through.
  2. Reaching your full potential will demand you get out of your comfort zone. It’ll be scary… ok, terrifying! But if you push through despite the struggles, know you are growing into a better version of yourself.
  3. When faced with adversity, finish this statement: “This is good because…

Goal Setting for Creative Geniuses: Reaching Goals Without Willpower

This is the third part of my three-part series on Goal Setting for Creative Geniuses. In the first lesson of the series, we discussed the importance of the big WHY, your reason for wanting to achieve this goal. In the second lesson, we looked at how you can improve your chances of making progress by taking consistent actions that lead to results. In this lesson, I’ll share a model you can use to turn results-driven routines into habits so powerful you’ll practically be able to achieve your goals in your sleep! (Well, almost.)

As we’ve seen, it’s much easier to reach goals using small consistent actions than it is to try to do everything at once. If you were able to make those small consistent actions without thinking about them, you wouldn’t need willpower to reach your goal. The way to do this is to turn those routines, the small consistent actions that move you toward your goal into a habit.

Let’s look at how to do that. Turning those actions into a habit requires three components: a trigger, a routine and a reward. Let’s dive into each of these elements. A trigger is an event that occurs in your environment that tells you it’s time to start the routine. A routine is simply a series of steps that when completed in the same order allow you to reach a consistent result. The reward, of course, is a motivator – it can be external to the routine or integral to it.

So let’s look at an example of the “habit loop.” When you are hungry, your stomach growls (the trigger), you raid your pantry or the staffroom refrigerator for food, heat it up and eat it (all these steps are the routine) and your hunger is abated (the reward).

Let’s apply this same model to a goal you might want to reach: Getting in shape.

As we mentioned earlier, it’s much easier to reach this goal through a series of consistent actions, such as exercising every day, than it is to do it all at once. You can’t get to the Olympics by being a couch potato for three years and then working non-stop for the last year!

Step 1: Consider the routine first. When you apply this strategy to reach goals such as getting in shape by exercising every day, you’ll always want to look at the routine first. In this case, let’s say you decide you want to run for 30 minutes every morning before work. If you haven’t run in a while, you might need to start with running 5 minutes a day.

Step 2: Identify a trigger that will remind you it’s time to put on your runners and pound the pavement. Triggers can be auditory cues such as reminders or alerts on your phone, visual cues such as keeping your runners next to your bed so your feet hit your shoes first when you wake up. A trigger can also be an event such as waking up or eating breakfast. Choose one or more triggers to see what works best for you. You decide to set your alarm an hour before you usually wake up and to put your shoes next to your bed.

Step 3: Determine how you will stay motivated to continue. ”Ideally the reward comes naturally as a result of the routine. In this case, feeling healthy is its own reward, but you may need to spice things up, at least until you start feeling the health benefits of running. You may decide to reward yourself with a small piece of dark chocolate (my favorite!), read a magazine you enjoy, watch a couple of cat videos on YouTube, spend time with friends, etc. The key is that the reward must be motivating for you. Eventually, these three elements will be linked in your mind so that the trigger will not only remind you of the routine but also of the promise of the reward you’ll get from completing the routine.

One client who works in real estate wanted to increase his listings. He decided to use the Habit Loop to help make it happen. He chose his trigger as an appointment he had twice a week with a junior real estate agent he wanted to mentor to make calls.

The routine that would lead to more listings was to call more prospects, among other things. However, he struggled to get this done, so he looked at a reward that might help motivate him.
His reward initially was to have several prospective listings to visit. His ultimate reward was to increase his standing in the real estate brokerage firm he was associated with.

The Habit Loop works for everyone, but as a creative genius, just remember that your rewards need to occur relatively quickly after completion of the routine.

How You Can Use This

So now your it’s your turn. What results are you looking for?

Step 1: What is a routine that will help you progress toward that result?

Step 2: What trigger can you use to set the routine in motion?

Step 3: What reward will you get?
Will it be intrinsic to the routine or will you create an artificial one while you wait for your desired results? (To play it safe, use both!)

Once you’ve established a strong Habit Loop, you can count on reaching your goal automatically. You won’t need to think about it, and it really will feel like you could succeed in your sleep! Master the power of the Habit Loop and you’ll be able to easily achieve goals you once thought were out of your reach.

Goal Setting for Creative Geniuses: Taking Action

 

In the first part of this lesson, Goal Setting for Creative Geniuses: The Big Why, we looked at how important it is to have a good reason you want to accomplish whatever it is you’re trying to accomplish. It doesn’t matter if you call it a goal, an objective a desire or a New Year’s Resolution. Regardless of how important the objective is to the people around you, and that includes everyone from your boss to your children, you’re unlikely to achieve it unless you have a compelling “why” that will keep you motivated when you just feel like giving up.

Today, we’ll learn about a strategy that will make reaching your goals much more likely and more predictable.

Achieving most worthwhile goals require some repeated actions on a consistent basis. Achieving a goal that doesn’t require a continued effort and repeated action is usually not a challenge for creative geniuses. You’re here at your desk and you want to go to the fridge for a drink. This is a goal that will require a small effort over a relatively short period of time. On top of that, the motivation is built in. That drink is going to taste great!

No, the goals that challenge creative geniuses are those that require you to sustain your effort for a long period of time, and that effort includes doing things you’ll find difficult or worse, boring! For example, if you’re trying to increase sales in your business, you can’t just pick the next name on the list and go sell them something. Not every person you talk to is a prospect, and not every prospect becomes a customer. In order to increase sales, you must increase the number of people you speak with. Some of those people will become prospects. If you speak to more people, you’ll have more prospects. Then, you need to pitch to more prospects. Some of those prospects will become customers. If you pitch to more prospects, more prospects will become clients. Only a sustained, consistent effort will result in more sales.

Let’s look at another example. If you want to be and feel healthy, you must consistently sleep better, you must exercise more and you must eat more nutritious meals. You will not have a healthy lifestyle if you stay up all night every night and then sleep 50 hours on the weekend. You cannot eat junk food every day for lunch and hope to recuperate by eating nothing but vegetables on the weekend. (Besides, you’re supposed to be catching up on your sleep, remember!)

If you want an organized home, you’ll be much more successful if you determine a place for each item and get in the habit of putting things away where they go right after you’re finished with them than you will if you do a “spring cleaning” every other week. Clutter is impossible to stay ahead of any way but with small, consistent actions.

une-petite-etapeTo achieve the goals that preoccupy most creative geniuses, the key to success is a series of small actions that move you in the right direction repeated routinely. Alone, these small steps look easy, and they are easy! Anyone can eat one healthy, balanced meal. It’s easy to get to bed on time once. The challenge is to do it again, and again. The thing is, it really isn’t any more difficult to eat balanced meal every day than it is to do it once. A healthy meal is the result of a series of identifiable, repeatable steps. Every time you follow those steps, the result is predictably a healthy, balanced meal. We call those series of repeatable steps that give a consistent result a routine. How then do you ensure you repeat those same series of steps over and over until you achieve you ultimate goal: good health? The best way to consistently get the same results is to turn that routine into a habit.

A habit is simply a routine that you’ve repeated so many times that it has become mechanical. You’ve followed that same series of steps so many times that the new pathways you created in your brain to allow you to prepare a healthy, nutritious meal have become four-lane highways. Your automatic reaction to hunger is to prepare a healthy meal. No thought is required.

Habits become so ingrained they become the easiest way for you to act. This reduces the amount of energy you use to accomplish those repeated steps. The human brain is bombarded daily, with stimuli it must react to, with choices it must make decisions about and problems it must solve, that it welcomes, and even encourages you, to use routines and habits. In fact, without routines and habits, you’d find it very difficult to get out of bed – the decisions you’d need to make before you even left that house would leave you exhausted!

You can reach any goal that’s important to you, break it down into a series of repeatable steps or routines, and turn those routines into habits. Creating those routines and adopting habits that help you progress toward your objectives reduces the energy you must expend. In fact, this is the easiest way to achieving almost anything.

So, given the goal you’ve set for yourself, what routine could you create that would move you in the right direction? Once you have a routine that delivers consistent results, repeat that routine again and again until it becomes a habit. Once you’ve created that habit, success is inevitable!

In the next part of this series, I’ll share a model you can use to help you turn those routines into habits more effectively.

Goal Setting for Creative Geniuses: the Big WHY

 
By Linda Walker
This is the time of the year, after indulging during the holidays, when many of us decide to buckle down and set new goals or targets for ourselves in the coming year. Creative geniuses often set big goals. Big goals have the power to energize and inspire, especially when the going gets tough; however, big goals are usually long term goals and that can often spell trouble for you.

You see, Creative Geniuses, a term I use to describe people with out-of-the-box thinking such as entrepreneurs and people with ADHD, are interest-based performers who need the quick payoff of shorter goals to stay motivated. In addition, many ambitious creative geniuses think big but, faced with then taking action, don’t know where to start. Add to that a sometimes limited level of belief in your ability to reach your goal, and your stick-to-it-iveness will be tested many times. If your goal seems too “pie-in-the-sky” or feels too out of reach, only a strong belief in your ability to eventually succeed will keep you going, or not. You’ve heard the old adage: “if you think you can or you can’t, you’re right”.

On the other hand, many who’ve tried and failed too many times limit themselves by only setting small goals. The problem with this approach is that when you choose goals that don’t move you out of your comfort zone, even if you manage to reach your goal, it doesn’t feed your need for accomplishment. You know you didn’t have to stretch so you don’t respect the achievement. Of course, small goals aren’t very exciting and so don’t have the same power to motivate. So what should you do?

If you’re a creative genius who wants to aim higher and accomplish more, the first thing you need to do is to think about the change you want to make happen in your life and get clear on why it’s important to you. Keep digging deeper. Once you have found a first reason it’s important to you, ask why that’s important to you. Then ask why THAT is important to you and so on. Keep digging deeper until you reach a reason that really resonates emotionally with you.

Here’s an example: many people want to be wealthy and set a big financial goal for themselves. The problem is that, oddly enough, even if it’s a big number, the dream of being wealthy is not a compelling one. As soon as you hit some bumps along the way, you’re very likely to resign yourself to your current lifestyle. But go a step further and ask why it is important to be wealthy? “I want to be able to quit my job”, you answer. Then ask, why is quitting your job important? “I hate that my job takes me away from home”. Why is it important not to be away from home? “Because I want to spend more time with my spouse and kids”. And why is that important to you? “Because I want to be a bigger part of their lives”. And why is that important? “Because I love them and I cherish every moment I can be with them and I want to guide my kids through all the experiences life has to offer them.” Ah ha! Now we’re talking!

Once you have a reason that really resonates with you emotionally, when you face setbacks, and you will face setbacks if you’re reaching high, which is more likely to keep you going? The thought of having a lot of money? Or the dream of being present in your children’s lives and being able to share all sorts of wonderful experiences with them? So the real goal is to have more time and more freedom so you can be a bigger part of your family’s life. Your goal is really not be wealthy. The great thing is, there are ways to break that goal down into smaller steps with the possibility of spending more time with your family showing up as a reward much sooner than the time required for you to achieve sufficient wealth to quit your job.

The next time we talk, I’ll show you how to set yourself up to take action toward whatever change you want in your life.

Solving your ADHD Problems at the Source

In my recent article entitled “I Have ADHD, Help me!”, I explained the importance of identifying which ADHD challenges to work on first. In the follow up article, “If You’ve Got ADHD, Missing this Step Practically Guarantees Failure,” I discussed the importance of building awareness of ADHD in your life to determine what’s causing the problem.

In this article, the third in this series, I explain the best way to solve the problem you’ve identified once you’re aware of its source (or sources).

You know the cause of your problem, what’s next?

So you have a pretty good idea of what’s causing your most vexing problem, what should you do next? Most of us think, “Well, stop whatever’s causing the problem!” Ah, if only it were that easy.

The good news is, there are almost certainly several ways to solve the problem, just as there may be many sources at the root of it. Remember, though, it’s very likely that solving your most vexing problem may take a few more steps and a little more effort than, say, turning off a light. However, while this may sound counterintuitive, if you want to make progress quickly, start by asking yourself this question: What is the smallest significant step I can take towards solving the problem? Don’t try to change or fix everything at once; pick one small, but meaningful, thing, and change that.

When our financial awareness-building exercise revealed we were overspending on small purchases – we were both shocked to discover Duane was spending $200 per month on soft drinks alone and I was spending the same amount on coffee – we looked at ways to cut only on those purchases. We didn’t try to refinance the mortgage, get another job or begin growing our own food. Those might also be good ideas, but when you try to fix everything at once, you often sabotage your own efforts.

Instead, we asked, “What’s one small, but significant, change we can make to help solve our problem?” Duane began to purchase his soft drinks at the supermarket instead of from the soda machine, saving a whopping $1.50 per drink (75%) and I started making some coffee at home; I’d drink my first coffee of the day at home, and then fill a travel mug for my second. Only buying one coffee per day instead of three saved 67%.

Starting one small step at a time

Nick, who was on the verge of a burnout, realized several behaviors were reducing his productivity. He wasted a lot of time on emails each morning, said “yes” way too often and jumped from one task to another because he didn’t plan his priorities each day. He knew he’d go a long way to solving his productivity issues if he had a clear plan of what he wanted to do with his time throughout the day. He decided his small but significant step would be to start planning. He didn’t start planning his whole week right away, because that would have been too big a step and he would have been overwhelmed. Instead, at the end of each work day, he identified his top three priorities for the next day and wrote them on a post-it note in front of his computer. Seeing those first things reminded him what his priorities were. He committed to only checking his emails in the afternoon, once the three priority tasks were completed.

The only approach that guarantees success

If you want to “fix” the problems ADHD is causing in your life, the only approach that guarantees success is to start with a small step and work your way up. Changing everything at once doesn’t work. Even changing multiple things at once doesn’t work. When you make too many changes in your life, you get too far out of your comfort zone. No one can sustain changes that are too uncomfortable.

You can also help yourself succeed in maintaining your changes by developing small support systems. For Nick, his system was as simple as having a post-it on his computer monitor that said “Check Your Calendar”. For Duane, it was writing a note to himself to include soft drinks on the grocery list.

Your mission should you choose to accept it…

  • Identify the first small step you can take that will make a significant difference. Implement it.
  • Devise a simple system to remind yourself of your plan.
  • Leave a comment in the box below to let us know what small step you’re planning to take.

 

If You’ve Got ADHD, Missing this Step Practically Guarantees Failure

In my last article, I Have ADHD, Help Me! I wrote how difficult I found it to respond to ADHDers who write simply, “Help me!” As I mentioned as well, it’s no easier to respond to those who write their life story and everything that’s ever gone wrong as a result of their ADHD in the hopes that I can give them THE answer. Of course, ADHD is much too complex for a single clichéd answer. Instead, I thought it would be best for me to provide you with a step-by-step approach to defining the problems and then finding solutions to your unique ADHD challenges.

In the first article, I assigned you a “mission.” You were to choose the first ADHD issue you would want to manage better based on your unique needs. I even described an approach for going about deciding which challenge to start with. Today, I’ll tell you what you need to do next to be able to proceed toward improving your ADHD.

By the way, the reason you need to choose only one thing to work on is that change is difficult and trying to change too much at the same time always backfires. It’s always better to take one step at a time. When Mary-Jo decided she wanted to improve her health, she didn’t start exercising, begin going to sleep earlier and start eating right all at once. Actually, she didn’t do that this time, because she HAD tried that before and sure enough, it backfired! So this time, she started with one thing, working on exercise first. She started with 5-minute walks around the block, eventually moving to longer walks then starting Zumba classes. Soon she was “addicted” to exercise, and this provided the catalyst for her to desire to begin eating better. As an added bonus, she found that because she was keeping a consistent routine of exercise, she was soon sleeping better and it was almost effortless for her to improve her sleep hygiene. Improving her health one step at a time made the changes manageable and not too uncomfortable.

If you accepted your mission in the last article, you’ve determine what problem you want to solve. Now what? Most people think the next step is obvious, “FIX THE PROBLEM!” But no, there is one more step that is essential, in fact, it’s a step ADHDers usually miss, and when they do, it practically guarantees failure! Before you can fix the problem, you must build awareness.

The First Step to Any Change Is Awareness

Unless you do this step, and it’s a step most ADHDers miss, nothing else works. The first step to changing your circumstances is always to build awareness. Ask yourself, what are you currently doing that’s contributing to your problem? You need to do this in a non-judgmental way; name-calling, especially calling yourself names, is not productive.

Building awareness is not an easy thing for an adult with ADHD to do because you’re often not paying attention to what’s going on. However, when you create the intention to get to the bottom of what behaviors are causing your problem, you are already half-way to a solution.

When Duane and I realized we had 17 creditors and were getting into a bigger hole each year (each month!), we could point to the fact that we were spending more than we were making and so were getting into debt faster than we could get out, but we still didn’t know how it kept happening. And when we fought but were focused on trying to win the argument, we didn’t understand why the same fights happened over and over with nothing ever getting resolved.

When my clients tell me, “I get to work early and leave late, and I don’t take breaks, plus I eat at my desk and take work home”, it’s obvious they’re expending a great deal of effort trying to solve a problem without really knowing what behaviors are causing the problem in the first place. There is no end to examples of how we can expend a great deal of effort to solve a problem without achieving results unless we first build awareness of the specific behaviors causing the problem.

How Do I Build Awareness?

So, how do you build awareness of your behaviors when you can’t pay attention? Let’s pretend there’s been a series of crimes perpetrated and your team of detectives are here to solve the case. I liken awareness-building to playing the role of Crime Scene Investigator. The CSI mantra is to study the evidence without judgment or bias.

Set the intention to become aware by creating systems that will help you pay attention to what you’re doing and will capture your behavior as you’re doing it. ADHDers can pay attention – in fact, you are distractible because you often notice things before others do – but unless you create an intention to note your behaviors and give yourself a way to capture the information, you’re not likely to pay attention and if you do, you’ll forget what you noticed before you have a chance to take note of it. Here are some examples of systems to build awareness.

To determine why our finances were a problem, Duane and I decided to track our spending, all our spending big or small. At the time, smart phones didn’t quite exist so we wrote every expense in small notebooks we carried everywhere. For one month, we tracked what we spent, where we spent it and how much, from the 32 cent stamp (yeah, I told you it was a while ago), to the $1.50 coffee and big ticket items, like furniture. This exercise allowed us to see where the money was going.

When my clients go on a mission to improve their ability to focus so that they can really improve their productivity in my Thrive! Program, I ask them to track their levels of mental and physical energy throughout each day to determine their energy patterns. Armed with this and other information they need to build awareness around, such as lifestyle behaviors that enhance or reduce their mental focus, my clients are then able to plan to make better choices that vastly increase their productivity.

Create a system to track your behavior. When tracking my finances, I put my notebook in my purse with my wallet so that I was always reminded to track. Nowadays, there are apps that can help with that.

Duane and I recently joined Weight Watchers. An important step to Weight Watchers is to track your food intake and to become more aware of the nutritional characteristics of the food we eat. Just this simple step makes a world of difference and often leads to weight loss without necessarily following a diet, simply because you become more mindful of what you put in your mouth.

Your agenda can be used as a tracking tool to determine how you spend your time each day. Clients who struggle, because they seem to leave at the end of the day with an in-basket that’s piled higher than when they arrived at work, use their agenda to track how they spend their time. There are also tools like the ADDA Storylines mobile app, which is specifically designed to help ADHDers track their ADHD symptoms.

If you’re struggling with an issue, the first step is to determine the source of the problem by creating the intention to build awareness, then devising a system for capturing the information you need to become aware.

Your Mission on Your Way to Finding a Solution to Your ADHD

So this week,

  1. Set your intention to become aware of the behaviors that are causing the challenge you’ve chosen to work on.
  2. Devise a system to help you collect the information you need to create that awareness.
  3. Collect the information. (Yes, you’ll miss some things, but you’ll still have far more information to work with than you do right now.)

In the next article, I’ll tell you what to do with the information you’ve collected.

Share in the comments box below the problem you’re struggling with and describe the system you’ll use to build awareness of the source of the problem.

I Have ADHD, Help Me!

You have ADHD and you’ve hit a wall. Your job is on the line, your spouse is screaming divorce, your finances are shamble and you’ve just made another huge ADHD mistake that might just be the last straw. You just can’t keep up with your life anymore, and you’re on the verge of a burnout. Whatever your wall is, you’ve already hit it, or you can see it looming as you approach at 100 miles an hour, and it’s all because of your ADHD.

I’m sure you recognize this moment. This is when the typical adult with ADHD seeks help, and they want it now. I know this moment well. I can tell exactly when someone has reached this point, because they write me an email or post on my Facebook page, “Help me!” Sometimes, that’s all they write! They’re so overwhelmed they can’t even explain the problem. Or they write their life story (usually in one continuous sentence!) and finish with, “So what should I do to fix this?”

You can imagine how difficult it is for me to answer such a cry for help. It’s not that I don’t want to help, but how can I? I suppose I could send off a list of “tips and tricks” saying “Do this” or “Don’t do that”, but that would trivialize ADHD and the person’s situation. When you have ADHD, you’re never tackling a single problem. No, ADHD is so much more insidious than that.

Each Situation is Unique

Even if we could narrow the focus to one thing, such as “chronic procrastination” or “disorganization”, each of these problems is so much more complex than we first imagine. Overcoming procrastination means more than applying any quick-fix, solves-all solution. Each ADHDer has a different set of circumstances, different strengths and different tasks they procrastinate. There’s no solution that works for every case. The same is true of disorganization. You may be disorganized, but only at the office. Or maybe your home looks like a tornado went through it, while your cubicle looks like nobody works there. You may be able to organize your space, but you struggle to organize your thoughts. Perhaps you have great ideas but can’t put them in order to write them down. Maybe you know how to do many things, but you can never organize them into a series of steps to manage a project. It’s easy to see why there’s no Band-Aid solution.

I’m Stumped!

Despite a great desire to help people (and I do want to help as many people as I can) when I see an email or Facebook message that’s a cry for help, I don’t know what to do. It’s not a lack of skills or training; no professional, doctor, coach or therapist would be able to solve that problem.

So, that’s why I’ve created this series of article explaining how you can figure out exactly what you’re facing, and how to break it down into identifiable, definable, solvable(!) problems. Then you’ll be able to ask for help in a meaningful way that will allow an expert to give you meaningful, useful advice. If you’d like to start overcoming your ADHD, this will deliver far better results than yelling for help.

Decide What You’ll Work on First

Deciding which ADHD problem to tackle first is essential. You can’t work on them all at once. However, this will not be easy for any adult with ADHD. ADHD permeates every area of your life, with both negative and positive effects. Write down an inventory of your ADHD issues. I have a form I use with my clients to help them create an inventory of the things they’d like to work on. It may be helpful for you to identify what ails you. Download it here.

You may find it easier to track challenges as you go along than to just sit and write the list. For example, as you go through your day, every time you see a symptom, write it down. If you waste an hour surfing the Web when you sat down with the intention of quickly answering an email; write it down. If you have a blowout with your spouse over the mess you left in the kitchen (again); write it down. If you realize you don’t have enough money to pay your rent because your finances are a shamble; write it down. Keep a notebook with you, or use your phone – there’s a free app designed to help you track your ADHD symptoms, called the ADDA Storylines App.

As soon as you have a reasonably good list (it doesn’t have to be complete – you may have challenges you don’t even know are caused by your ADHD), decide which ONE you want to work on first. Yes, it will be difficult to choose, because making decisions is also a struggle for adults with ADHD, so let’s look at that first.

But Decisions Are Hard for ADHDers

The best way for you to make this difficult decision will depend on the type of person you are (just one example of why there’s not one-size-fits-all solution.) I’ve built my business by always considering each individuals unique situation, strengths and personality. I do this when working with clients one on one, and I’ve even incorporated it into my online training programs. Here are three options for how to choose what to work on first. Pick the one that fits your personality best.

Option 1: If you’re someone who struggles with ADHD AND with low self-esteem – you’ve tried so many things that haven’t worked, your belief in your ability to change is almost non-existent – or you really need to take things slow to avoid having anxiety attacks, find the low hanging fruit. That means, choose the problem that is easiest to fix but would make a significant (it doesn’t have to be huge) difference. Why? Because the biggest problem may not be something you believe you can tackle right now. Studies show that when you don’t believe you can succeed at something, you are right.

Option 2: If you’re someone who believes you are a creative genius and you feel confident you can change your life – you know it won’t be easy, but you’ll make – or you’re someone who needs to see big change to stay motivated, choose the problem that is the most present in your life. If you’re always late; choose that. If you’re not very productive at work, choose that. If you’re constantly saying things that get you in trouble, choose that.

Option 3: If you’re still not sure, choose option 1.

Your Mission on Your Way to Finding a Solution to Your ADHD

So this week,

  1. Make a list of what ails you. I invite you to share some of the doozies in the comments box below.
  2. Choose one challenge to work on.
  3. Like me on Facebook :). I’ll announce when the next article in this series comes out there.

Don’t miss the next article in this series on The One Step Most ADHDers Miss That Guarantees Failure

12 Great Strategies that Help ADHDers Thrive

As an ADHD family, we’ve had our fair share of challenges, particularly early on when we didn’t know what we were dealing with.  Looking back, I could identify twelve great strategies that helped Duane and Kyrie thrive. And no, they aren’t about productivity; they’re about feeling about yourself.

  1. Take advantage of your strengths. Identify what you’re strong in and find ways to do more of it. Keep a journal and note down when you’ve managed to learn something particularly well.  You know, when you realize “you’re a natural” at something, this is almost always an indication that you are playing to your strengths.
  2. Surround yourself with people who can embrace your differences and who accept you for who you are and for who you are not.
  3. Determine what ADHD traits aren’t going so well for you and your loved ones and consider what could change. Even though you want others to accept you, you also want to live in harmony with others. This may mean you’ll need to modify some of your behavior to reduce the negative challenges of ADHD.
  4. There will be things you cannot change. I’m thinking of your short-term memory for example. For those things, you’ll need to manage with systems and routines. I know, routines, ick! but all very successful ADHDers have a set of routines that solve many of their problems once and for all.
  5. You’ll have ADHD your whole life. That means you have all the time in the world to master the skills to thrive with ADHD. It won’t take that long to make your life fantastic, and then you can keep improving it forever.
  6. Small but significant changes are always the best way. They’re effective, their sustainable, and if they aren’t the right approach, there’s not great investment of your time and energy lost.
  7. Create a cue, a reminder, an alert, something that will help you remember to accomplish your new change.
  8. Document the changes that work for you. ADHDers often forget strategies they’ve used successfully in the past. Documenting them will also allow you to use strategy 9.
  9. Celebrate ever day you progress in your new habits. Celebrating the progress and results increases the chances you’ll repeat the habit. We all love happy experiences. Celebrating could be as simple as acknowledging your progress, noticing the results, or giving yourself a pat on the back.
  10. Ensure you balance your work life with active recreation. Engaging in hobbies, reconnecting with your creative side, connecting with friends and family are great active recreation. They bring much more joy in your life than watching TV, surfing the Internet or chatting on social media.
  11. If you forget your habit for a day, chalk it up to being human, consider what went wrong then recommit to the habit, ensuring you make adjustments to avoid forgetting again.
  12. The most important: laugh.  Don’t take yourself too seriously.  When you make mistakes, laugh about it.  Find humor in your life. Read a funny story, watch a funny video.

How to Ask for Accommodations at Work (Without Coming Out About ADHD!)

The workplace has become a very challenging place, even for neurotypicals. Maybe it’s always been this way, but with the speed things happen today, increased expectations from bosses and clients and world-wide competition for your job, it certainly seems more stressful than ever. If you have adult ADHD, you add a big bunch of extra challenges to the mix:

  • Inattentiveness and lack of focus can lead to missed details, and make it challenging to accomplish work that requires concentration at the best of times,
  • Forgetfulness has very likely already led to more than one missed commitment and the resulting loss of credibility,
  • Disorganization has you feeling overwhelmed, distracted and jumping from one task to another,
  • Procrastination leads to last-minute, gun-to-the-head, high-stress production to meet deadlines, causing you great stress,
  • Or you play the hero, pitching in to put out other people’s fires while your own work goes undone,
  • and more.

These extra challenges make the workplace a veritable minefield of reprimands and disappointments, but what can you do about it?

The obvious answer, and the one most experts provide, is that “You should ask for accommodations at work.” That sounds simple, doesn’t it? Accommodations have been proven to help, and it’s likely they would help you, but there’s a little problem. How can you ask for and get accommodations unless you disclose your ADHD at work? And as we know, there are risks associated with that.

So what can you do? There are ways of asking for accommodations without disclosing your ADHD. If you don’t feel it’s safe to disclose your ADHD at work, or if you’d just rather not, you’ll be happy to hear there’s a “formula” that will help you to ask for “accommodations” without outing yourself. Use this model “script” to write down what you’d like to say, adapted to your specific circumstances, practice and use again and again with success:

Step 1. Describe your specific struggle and the circumstances surrounding it.

Step 2. Describe a possible solution you’ve thought of.

Step 3. Describe the benefits your boss, your co-workers and you will get from implementing this solution. WIIFY & M (What’s in it for you and me.)

For example, if there’s too much noise in your cubicle farm and you feel you’d be able do a better job preparing a particularly challenging report that you need to do regularly if you had a quiet place to do your work, you would apply the three steps as follows:

Step 1. Describe your specific struggle: Say something like, “I really struggle to stay focused on the XYZ reports because of all the noise in office.”

Step 2. Describe a possible solution: “I’ve thought of one possible solution: when I work on these reports, would it be possible for me to use a closed office, conference room, or to work from home?”

Step 3. Describe the benefits: “This will help me get it done much faster, so Joe can get started on his part sooner, and I’ll complete it with fewer or no mistakes so it’ll reduce the time you spend double-checking everything.”

You’ve done a good job of selling the solution by pointing out the benefits to all, it doesn’t sound like you’re whining… and no one mentioned ADHD!

So the formula is:

accommodations-ask-formula

 

“Job accommodation means modifying a job, job site, or the way in which a job is done so that the person with a disability can have equal access to all aspects of work.”1

Job accommodations may also include the use of tools such as headsets, assistive technology, training, job restructuring, job reassignments or even an administrative assistant.

One of my clients, an administrative assistant, had to review all of her supervisors’ direct reports’ expense reports once a week. This was tedious work that required a lot of focus and some quiet uninterrupted time. The challenge she faced was that she was expected to answer the phone at the same time, which led to numerous mistakes. Here’s the script she used:

Step 1. I’m really struggling with reviewing your direct reports’ expenses. The challenge is that each time I answer the phone, I lose track of where I was before the call. This leads to missing details or making mistakes.

Step 2. I know that I need two or three hours of uninterrupted time when I am most focused to ensure I don’t make these mistakes. I’ve found a possible solution: Could Carol take my phone calls on Tuesday mornings so that I can do the work uninterrupted?

Step 3. With this solution in place, I’ll be able to dramatically reduce mistakes and make sure all the receipts are there and accounted for. This will prevent you from getting calls from the Accounting Department or the company paying out more than allowed by receipts. With fewer interruptions, I may even be able to get it done faster.

Her supervisor thought it was an excellent idea and allowed the phone call transfers so my client was able to complete this work without mistakes. And they all lived happily ever after!

Page 1 of 3123