Hidden Agendas

We’re all committed. (Or perhaps we should be!)

all-tied-upThat’s why we’re often surprised (and furious at ourselves) when we fail to deliver on a promise we’ve made.

One client, a workaholic entrepreneur with ADHD (is there another kind?!) has committed to spend more time with her children. It’s important to her and it’s important to her family. She fully intends to leave work each day at 5:30 pm, but she has yet to follow through; instead, she continues to work past 6:30 or 7 pm.

Another client, a university student, must devote time to researching and writing an essay; he needs to ace this assignment to pass the course, and he’s committed to his academic success. However, he instead offers to help a classmate move over the weekend, taking up most of the time he had available for devote to his paper.

A Creative Genius client desperately looking for work, plans to contact prospective employers, but instead whiles away his days talking on the phone with his girlfriend, watching TV and other lower priority activities. He’s committed to finding a job, and he’s certainly committed to paying his bills!

Should You Be Committed?

In these examples, are my clients just bad people? No! Is there something wrong with them? No! Are they lying about their commitments? No! So what gives?

When speaking with them during their sessions, I was certain they were each committed to the projects we had identified at their top priorities. Each had a plan, and each wanted to succeed. It should have been easy but…

We often think of a “hidden agenda” as negative, a sneaky underlying objective that one person is perpetrating on another unsuspecting person. However, in the cases described above, each person is both the perpetrator and the victim of their own hidden agenda; they each had an underlying objective, one that remained hidden, even from them, that threw their priorities out of whack!

We all have these hidden agendas, promises we made to ourselves, usually as the result of some traumatic event in our childhood, that influence our actions daily. We’ve often had them so long that we don’t even recognize them anymore, at least, until they sneak up on us and confuse our priorities.

Our entrepreneur is divorced and is terrified of being destitute. Her hidden agenda is ensuring her security at all costs. The student fears not having friends, and so a hidden agenda of “being helpful so they’ll like me” rules his life without him even realizing it. Like many of us, our job searcher is afraid of rejection and so his hidden agenda is to “avoid rejection” which prevents him taking the risk of asking for a job, or even an interview.

What are your hidden agendas? Maybe you refuse to risk looking foolish, you never disturb or inconvenience others, you never allow yourself to be out of control or you reduce risks at any price. Somewhere in your past, you developed a belief that terrible things will happen if you don’t… work hard enough, help anyone who asks, do things perfectly or if you … ask someone for something, try something new and so on. There are more hidden agendas than there are people (some of us seem to collect them!)

What’s Your Hidden Agenda?

Each of our heroes is the victim of his or her own hidden agenda. What hidden agenda holds you as its unsuspecting victim? Have you made it a higher priority to avoiding anticipated financial ruin by accepting all work that comes your way than to spend time with your children? Are you more committed to “being a good friend” than you are to making good grades? Or are you more committed to avoiding ridicule by never trying anything new or risky so there’s no chance of making a mistake than you are of leaving a job you hate and trying to succeed in a new career?

The good news is that when you become aware of your hidden agendas, you can begin to stop their clandestine effects on your life. It’s natural for humans to develop these mechanisms to protect us from danger. However, we put the same mechanisms in place whether the danger is real or imagined. Once you recognize the mechanism, you can re-evaluate the perceived “danger” and uncover your “hidden” agenda. Once it’s uncovered, you are free to decide if it continues to serve a purpose.

How Can I Use This?

  1. First, notice how your hidden agendas control your life. Consider all the things you would do if only you didn’t have a hidden agenda to remind you of “horrific danger” looming at every corner. What is more important to you than the priorities you set in a moment of panic at a real (but no longer relevant) or imagined danger? What are you doing/not doing because of these hidden agendas?
  2. Where did your fears come from (Consider a childhood event or situation)? What’s the history of your fear? How did it serve you then? Though it really was a clever way to manage back then, is it still serving you?
  3. What do you think will happen if you choose not to let your hidden agendas rule your life? Look for evidence that they are not true. Look at other people’s behaviors, people who seem to live without fear of the consequences you envision, think of times when you didn’t heed your hidden agenda and the world did not end, or if you can’t find any, start testing its validity. Try “safe” tests and progress toward more daring tests.

Related posts:

What It Takes to Break a Habit

What Does It Take to Break a Habit?

how to break a habitSuccessful people tend to do the same things repeatedly (AKA habits and routines). As I gear up for year-end and New Year planning, I’ve been researching how we form habits for an update to tools in Succeed in a FLASH, a module of The Maximum Productivity Makeover. One thing is clear to me:

“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” – Aristotle.

To change your life, you must transform yourself and to do that, you must change your habits. If you have a habit of watching TV from the time you get home from work until you go to sleep, you’ve become a couch potato. If you want to run a marathon, you’re going to have to change that habit. You’ll need to choose a habit that allows you to progress toward this new objective… perhaps running!

Unfortunately, new habits can be difficult to form. Self-help gurus have been saying it only takes 21 days to form a new habit. Of course, you believe there is something wrong with you if you aren’t able to meet the 21-day deadline, but there is no evidence to support the 21-day rule.

The Real Deal About Habits

In fact, an article published in the European Journal of Social Psychology in October 2010 by Philippa Lally & al. who conducted research on how we form habits, states that is takes anywhere from 18 to 254 days to form a new habit, depending on the habit. Other studies show it takes an average of 66 days to form small habits. Though you have your work cut out with you, at least now you know there’s nothing wrong with you!

Our brains are wired with pathways of varying strengths. The strongest pathways are habits you currently hold and they are very difficult to break. Even that is good news, because once you form a new, more progress-oriented habit, you’ll be more likely to keep it.

However, you might feel discouraged at having to work this hard to break or form a habit. Take comfort in knowing that it won’t take that long to gain the benefits of making these changes. And if you focus on the benefits, you’ll find it motivating to continue.

So, let’s say you’ve decided to adopt a new habit because you’d like to run the marathon. You’ll need to break your bad habit of watching TV and start a new habit of training for the marathon. What’s next?


Breaking a Habit

You’re more likely to break a habit if you replace it by another one. However, it’s important when trying to break a bad habit to consider the need this habit was filling, and to address this need by finding another more positive way to fill it. If your TV watching fills your need to unwind after a long day’s work, you’ll need to find a different way to unwind or your efforts to change that habit are wasted. Read, play music, dance, or chat with a loved one; whatever re-energizes you. If you ignore this need, you’ll soon be mindlessly watching TV again in no time.

Make Sure It’s Important to YOU

It will take a lot of work to adopt a new habit. It might even be painful at times. You’ll often be tempted to slip back. So if you expect to stick with it, you really, really, really need to want it badly, very badly (is that enough emphasis!?) Your new goal and the habits required to achieve it must be for your benefit and not for someone else’s. If someone else is dictating that you create a new habit and the objective is not important to you, you will not likely make the change or, if you do, you won’t sustain the change. You must create a goal that is compelling, emotional or fun. Ask yourself why it’s important to you to run the marathon. Ask that question until you find an answer that moves you (in this case, literally!)

Journal about it, visualize it, act as if you had already achieved it. These activities engage your emotions and help you stay the course.

Make new habits easy to adopt

To adopt a new habit, you’ll need a reminder or trigger. You can use a reminder on your smart phone or better still, use a trigger. A trigger is an event that already happens consistently in your life. For example, every day you get home from work at 5:30 pm. Arriving home from work can be the trigger that reminds you it’s time to don your running clothes.

Other triggers can be other habits you already have, such as having breakfast, brushing your teeth or having lunch. Anchoring a new habit to one you already have is a powerful way to improve your chances that your new habit will stick.

How can I use this now?

  1. Set a goal and identify the habits that will help you achieve that goal;
  2. Identify the habits you currently have that don’t support this goal. Determine what need they fill and find different ways to fill that need that will allow you to change your habits to those that will help you progress to whom you want to become;
  3. Make sure your goal is something you want and is emotionally compelling to you;
  4. Change your habits one at a time. Start with one habit, and anchor it to a habit you already have or an event you live every day.

Related posts:

Attitude is Everything
ADHD Brainwashing First, Transformation Follows

So Good It Hurts?!

iStock_000006612240XSmallTwo Ways Your Creativity Can Hurt You

As an entrepreneur, adult with ADHD or other creative genius, your creativity is one of your most important assets. Your imagination knows no bounds and it’s a great strength. However, if you’re not careful, your best friend, your very own creativity, can actually hold you back.

Your Creativity Hurts You When You Use It to Explain What Happened

Things happen… constantly. Most events are completely meaningless in your life… in fact, you aren’t even aware of most of them. However, if you’re aware of something happening, you automatically try to assign it meaning. You have a voice in your head constantly evaluating every event and categorizing it according to its impact on you, and to determine its impact, you make up a story about it. Usually, making up stories is a good thing, but if your imagination invents a story that generates pain or self-doubt and paralyzes you, then you’ve just imagined shooting yourself in the foot!

Of course, most events have no effect on your life, are completely innocuous and/or have nothing to do with you. But you explain every one of them using scenarios you invent with that wonderful imagination of yours. Even events that affect you may not have anything to do with you; certainly, they’re not your fault. For example, if your parents divorced when you were young, you may have invented a story that “if I didn’t ADHD, my parents would have stayed together.” If you wave to someone across the street and she doesn’t wave back, you might interpret it as meaning “she hates me.” If you notice people laughing as you enter a room, you could decide, “They’re laughing at me.”

Your Creativity Hurts You When It Stops You Trying

You can even make up stories about things that haven’t happened yet. This is when your imagination really kicks into high gear. Your creativity makes you a fortuneteller! For example, faced with a new project, you might tell yourself, “I can’t do that! After all, I’ve never done it before.” Or you’re using the past to predict the future (it doesn’t work that well for the weather so why would you think it would work for your life); “I’ve tried that before and it didn’t work. These things never work for me!” You’re defeated before you try.

This, of course, is deadly for a Creative Genius. After all, as you unleash your creative genius and follow your passion, you’re going to be doing many things you’ve never done before. You should be stretching so far out of your comfort zone you won’t even remember what it looks like. You don’t need your imagination predicting failure before you get started.

Just the Facts, Ma’am

Detach fact from fiction and you’ll soon realize that while your parents did get a divorce, it had absolutely nothing to do with you. Yes, it affected your life, but you were not the cause and nothing you could have done would have prevented it. You invented that meaning using your wonderful (but sneaky) imagination! The girl who didn’t wave back just didn’t wave back. It doesn’t mean she doesn’t like you; it doesn’t mean anything. Your imagination decided she didn’t like you. Your imagination could have also decided she didn’t see you or that it wasn’t even who you thought it was, but even that is an invention! Yes, they were talking when you came into the room, but that’s all. Your imagination is hijacking your emotions by creating a story about how they were talking about you.

If you do things you’ve never done before, how can you predict what the outcome will be? (Actually, by imagining you will fail, you increase your chances of failing, but let’s not get into a philosophical discussion!) And if you try something new and it doesn’t work out the first time, is it possible that it might go wrong without meaning that “I’ll NEVER be able to do this!”? Hey, I’ll be that if you used your creative genius, I bet you could even come up with another explanation!

Things happen. They’re going to keep right on happening. You can continue to let your imagination hold you captive by inventing stories that make you feel bad or helpless. Or you can decide to examine the facts objectively without attaching a made-up meaning to it (and they’re all made-up!), a story that implies everything bad that happens is your fault, everyone is your enemy and you’ll never be able to do that! You can choose to see things objectively and save your imagination for creating new and exciting projects and ideas and free yourself from the pain your distorted or limiting beliefs are creating for you.

How Can I Use This?

  1. When faced with a recurring painful situation, ask yourself:
    1. What am I thinking about that situation? What do I think happened?
    2. What really happened? What are the facts, just the facts?
  2. When you hear yourself say, “I can’t”, ask yourself:
    1. Is that true?
    2. How do I know it’s true? And is it really, really true? Is there another explanation?
  3. Separate your distorted or limiting belief from the facts, and choose to only look at the facts. This will open up a completely new world for you.

Related posts:

Attitude is Everything
ADHD Brainwashing First, Transformation Follows