The ADHD Blue Print to Your Best Year Ever

The beginning of a new year inspires hope for new beginnings and better outcomes. Many people will review their goals and chart a new course or make New Year’s resolutions. Other people, perhaps even you, have abandoned any hope that this year can be different than years past. While you may be motivated to change – after all, if you’re living with ADHD, you likely face major challenges in your life that you’d like to address – you’ve learned the hard way that maybe you’re better off avoiding setting goals and making New Year’s resolutions.

After all, your track record for achieving either has been poor and you can’t, or don’t want to, deal with the disappointment and guilt you feel when things don’t pan out. It’s true that one sure way to avoid failing is not to try, but unfortunately, if you want your circumstances to change, you have to change something you are doing. That change demands that you form an intention to change – that’s where the goals or resolutions come in – but it also requires effort and a plan, and that’s where things often go wrong for anyone with ADHD. However, there is another way.

How to Have a Better Year without Setting Goals

If setting goals scare you, there’s a simpler and just as effective approach. Create new habits that manifest the desired changes in your life. We’ve all heard that a journey of a thousand miles begins with one step, but there’s an even more powerful underlying truth here. A journey of a thousand miles, or even ten thousand miles, is made up entirely of single steps! Achieving long-term goals by creating new habits is extremely powerful, and ultimately, even more effective than traditional methods of achieving goals.

Your 6-Step Blueprint for Creating a New Habit

Here are a few steps to creating a new habit:

1)  What results do you want? Do you want to be more physically fit? More organized? On time? More focused? Less chaotic? Have better relationships? The sky’s the limit. Pick just one that means a lot to you. Once you master the process of creating new habits, you’ll be able to take full control of every aspect of your life, but choose just one to practice on first.

2)  What small but consistent actions would allow you to move closer to the results you want? Many people want to lose weight or get in better shape. They join a gym, buy exercise equipment and eat only salads. By the time they’ve been working at it three weeks, they’re exhausted and fed up! If you want to become more physically fit, start small. Create a new habit to always take the stairs instead of the elevator at work.

If you want to feel more organized, don’t start a major cleanup of your whole house; create a new habit to make your bed every morning before you leave your room. You’ll immediately feel more organized and that feeling will slowly spread to other areas of your life. Once you’ve established a habit of making your bed so well that it’s automatic, add another habit, like washing your dishes immediately after using them.

Every big change in your life starts with one step, one new habit. If you want to be on time for work, start by creating the habit of preparing your clothes and lunch the night before. If you want to improve your focus, create a habit that will help you sleep better. If you want to improve your relationship, develop a habit of listening instead of interrupting.

You may need to break some changes down to even smaller steps and work your way up, especially if you’ve never purposefully created and kept a habit. (You do have some habits; how often do you accidently forget and leave your house naked? Getting dressed is a habit!) Analyze the actions you need to take. For example, what steps would help you sleep better? You will sleep better if you turn off the computer at least two hours before bed. It also helps to dim the lights in the house after supper. Don’t do them all at once, but create a habit of first one, then the next, and so on, and before long, you’ll sleep better than you ever have.

3)  Improve your odds. You won’t remember to do what you’re supposed to automatically in the beginning – it’s not a habit yet! Set visual or auditory reminders. Find a buddy who is also striving to build new habits and encourage each other. Make a game of it. Anchor your new habit to an existing one. For example, when I wanted to write my first program for adults with ADHD, “Grow With the Flow” (now called “Thrive!”), I anchored the new habit of writing every morning by placing a pencil and paper where I sit to have breakfast, a habit I’ve now had for quite some time, and that has helped me create many programs for adults with ADHD, one step at a time!

4)   Determine how you’re going to track your progress. Even after repeating the action for what seems like a very long time, ADHDers often forget habits they’ve created. You get distracted. However, if you also make it a habit to use tracking software like HabitBull or a scorecard, it can help you stay motivated, especially if you reward yourself as you progress, and you won’t forget to keep up the habits you’ve put in place.

5)  Celebrate your progress. You need to stimulate the hedonistic part of the brain (right brain) by creating a positive experience of change. Make it fun to create habits, not something you dread. This will help you keep going and make future change easier.

6)  Be OK with occasional slip-ups. It takes an average of 66 days to create a habit – and that’s only an average – but the longer you maintain it, the more solidly it’s anchored. Aim for consistency but if you fail one day, just let go of the guilt and disappointment and recommit to your habit. Chalk it up to being human. Miss one day and all is not lost. However, we tend to see little slips as failures and actually help make that true. If you cheat on your diet by having a cookie, you can get back on track by not having any more cookies, but many people see that as a failure and say, “What the heck, I’ve cheated now. I’m a cheater! I might as well eat the rest of the bag!” That’s when the trouble starts. No slip up needs to be a major crash. If you lift weights every day but one day you miss your weight training, you don’t have to start over at the beginning the next day. It’s the same with habits.

Remember, start with a small, simple change and create one habit at a time. Build from there. And please share your new habit with us in the comments section (above)!

Break Free of Your “Sorry, No Money” Chains!

In my parents’ generation, talking about money was taboo.  I’ve been very open about the serious financial problems Duane and I had, because we both know how not talking about it only made the problem worse.  For a long time, Duane and I put our heads in the sand, hoping the problem would go away.  But we had to face it, to talk about it and to take action.

Yes, it’s embarrassing to admit it we had money problems.  It’s probably something you’d like to think would just disappear if you ignore it too.  But our financial problems taught us that they don’t go away by themselves.  You have to take positive steps to overcome the problem.  Our experience also taught us that there is a solution.

In all the years Duane and I struggled financially, we searched for and tried many ways to overcome this major source of fighting in our family.  We bought books, put ourselves on strict budgets and spent hoursà often every day, just trying to deal with our financial misfortune.  We had to collect empty bottles to turn in for the refund just to buy groceries.  Using a budget, we’d make some headway but felt so deprived that at some point we couldn’t handle it anymore and we’d go on binge and fall off the wagon.

We also felt guilty!  Every time our kids would ask to go to special school or church outing, we’d have to say “Sorry sweetheart, but there’s no money!”  We even turned down programs that would help us work through our financial difficulties, saying “Sorry, no money!”  When the investment opportunity of a lifetime presented itself, we’d reluctantly say “Sorry, no money!”

Years of following the same pattern, depriving ourselves, followed by binging, and feeling guilty about it, we realized that spending every waking moment of our lives worrying and thinking about our lack of money did not bring us closer to our goals, and certainly wasn’t helping us lead the life we’d imagined.

Finally, we decided to take a different approach to managing our finances.  Instead of the “binging and dieting” approach of splurging and budgeting, we decided to change our money lifestyle.  We faced our limiting beliefs around money and shifted them.  (It’s amazing how changing your thoughts really can change your life!)  Finally, we made small but significant changes to the way we managed our financial health.  Before long, we were able to stop spending all our time thinking about money because the situation was fixing itself automatically.

If you’re tired of having to say “Sorry, no money!” and you’d like to learn to manage your finances more successfully, join us on ADHD Money Management: Finally Dollars and Sense group coaching program (http://tinyurl.com/adhdmoney) that starts on Monday, February 9th at 8:30 pm. Don’t wait, space is limited!

Manage your Finances Without a Budget

Most personal finance gurus insist that to take charge of your financial health, you need to create and stick to a budget.  For most creative geniuses, especially those with ADHD, a budget is BOOORINGGGGG and so all but impossible.

Because even if you believe a budget is essential, you’re not likely to be able to prepare one, or follow it… remember, it’s boooringggg!  Boring things don’t stimulate your brain.  Trying to focus on tasks such as preparing a budget when you’re brain isn’t stimulated is about as easy as driving your car around the block when you can’t get the engine started.

No wonder creative geniuses, with or without ADHD, suffer financially far more than the “neurotypical” population.  But you’re not doomed to financial hardship, bankruptcy or a retirement age of 97!  You just need a different, non-budgeting, approach to managing your financial health… an approach that isn’t boring.  (No, not gambling!)

What worked for Duane and me – and believe me, if it worked for us, it can work for anyone – was to stop trying to manage our money the traditional way (and failing miserably!) and adopt ADHD-friendly ways to organize our finances.  It all started with a three-step process:

1. We took our financial pulse – it wasn’t pretty, but knew how deep a hole we were in (and it was deep!)
2. We figured out where we wanted to be by deciding what was important to us, and what really wasn’t.
3. We started looking for money “hidden in the sofa cushions.”  No, not really, but by being aware of the money our poor choices were robbing from us, we were able to start getting out of debt (instead of getting in deeper every month!) using the money we were already earning!

Already, I was thrilled, and that was just the beginning!  In a couple of days I’ll tell you how we went from having 17 maxed out credit cards, no savings and an old rusted car that we owed five thousand dollars on, to being debt-free (except for a small reasonable mortgage), with a nice home, retirement savings.  On top of that, we purchased a new car for cash, and this spring we’re going on a one-month vacation to Italy this year.