Learning to Say NO with ADD

As anyone living with ADD knows, one of the most prominent aspects of it is the propensity to bounce around from one idea to the next to the next to the next; starting 10 projects and being lucky to finish 1-2; planning out 3 start-up businesses but never incorporating even 1; jumping from 1 hobby to another out of boredom, etc.  Before my diagnosis and beginning medication a decade ago, these tendencies were the bane of my existence.  They were the reason that my Charlotte dental practice struggled non-stop for the first 11 years until my wife became actively involved. They were the reason that I’d become quite good at multiple sports but never truly excelled at any of them, despite it being obvious that I could have done so with enough effort.  And in recent years, even with more understanding and experience and medication, they are the reason that our office has plateaued, even if at a level that less than 20% of dentists ever achieve.  Yes, as we ADD’ers know, even when we KNOW that we should focus and stay on track, we still struggle to do so.  Why?  Because we have too many good ideas!

Too Many Ideas, Not Enough Time, Energy, or Money

Learning to Say NO with ADDOne example?  How about this blog?  LOL  This is my 3rd WordPress blog; the first and most important is the website for my dental practice.  The second is www.DentalDigitalPhotography.com, which I started about 4 years ago to avoid having to repeatedly answer the same questions about dental photography techniques on DentalTown.  After all, I’d developed a reputation as a photographer and in using both Photoshop and Lightroom for cataloging, editing, and publishing dental photos, so it seemed easier to build a new website and then refer people there. How many people with full-time jobs are going to say that, right?  “…easier just to build a new website….”  HA!  And along the way, I developed an entire business plan around that site, based on making it an online learning center for which people would pay a monthly subscription fee, there would be live seminars, etc.  But you can probably guess where this is going…….it never happened, of course.  Family, work, martial arts, fun photography, all kinds of stuff got in the way of staying consistent with a blogging schedule, new material, learning to edit video.  It could have worked, of that I am sure.  But not by me.  And so that idea languished, the website’s been neglected, and others have now far surpassed my knowledge and skill in those areas.  The amount of work to even catch up makes it not worth the effort.
And once I was tired of that, because I still like writing about a lot of other stuff, and someone said something that inspired me, I started this blog so I could write about anything I like, whenever I like, no pressure.  Thankfully, I have no plans to ever monetize this – it’s about me, our family, ADD, dentistry, books; essentially, this blog is intended to let me be as ADD as I wish.  But still…..I started a 3rd website just because I could….

Painful Lessons in Saying Yes….Then No

2014 was a perfect example of what happens when you don’t say no.  Naturally, this can happen to anyone, not just people with ADD.  We happen to be people to whom it happens faster and more easily.  We get sucked in before we even realize what’s happening, because it’s something new and interesting.  Rather than re-writing the whole story, however, you can read these 3 posts for the story, and if you’re really interested, you can even check out some of the posts on www.DentalDigitalPhotography.com to see how far it went:
  1. Ever Feel a Little Overwhelmed? Yeah, Me Too
  2. The Law of Unintended Consequences
  3. Know When to Fold ‘Em

Saying No and Really Meaning It

With all that in mind, a big part of my goals for this “learning to thrive with ADD” self-improvement project is to learn to say NO a lot more, and to stick to it, and most importantly, to feel good about it.
I don’t know about others with ADD and a lot of unfinished ideas, but I’d bet that a lot of them have similar experiences, along with this gnawing feeling in your gut that you let yourself (or maybe others) down by not carrying your idea through to fulfillment.  Know what I mean?  It’s like, even if you recognize and know that idea isn’t going anywhere, you still feel bad about it.  You wish you could find a way to make it happen because you know in your heart that it’s a good idea, and maybe one day …
This is one of the reasons I’m looking for an ADD coach/mentor, too.  Someone who understands how my brain works, who can help me focus on those things that I know are TRULY important: my wife and daughters, dogs, work, and own happiness doing things that I can realistically do.  Not only do I want to say YES to those important things, but I want to know how to let go of the other stuff completely and fully.  And just as importantly, to catch and stop me before something else new and interesting comes along that distracts me once again.
Have you found ways to say no to all the cool ideas that bounce around your head?  If so, please share them in the comments!  And don’t forget, “Sharing is Caring,” so if this struck a chord with you in any way, or if you know someone else struggling with similar issues, please share the article. Thank you for reading!

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  • Tom Schoen

    Chip, I weigh every decision by what my friends complain about..boredom and taxes. I would like to some day see what it is like to be bored. The opposite of boredom, I call it creating, is what I try to avoid. If I am going to create anything it has to have the long term goal of creating the opportunity of boredom (defined as free time where I am finished with what I started..not kicking it down the road).

    I only in the past couple of years have been able to feel I was even paying my fair share of taxes. To get to the point where I can retire I will have to create more income with new strategies. That is what is important to me, so my efforts are in that direction and it is working. I had to hire a great accountant Long term boredom and too many taxes are my short term focus. The busier I get the more opportunity to create, but if they do not pass the boredom/tax test, I don’t go there.

    You can make your own standards to weigh your decisions by. Think both short and long term how things will apply to those standards. Tom

  • donald whittier

    Hi chip.

    this is donald whittier…aka master whittier. I mainly wanted to write and chime in on a few things. First, were you aware that I am a n ADD or ADHD lifer? When i was diagnosed at age 8, the term back in the day was hyperactive. If you had ever noticed that when you came into the training hall my desk was never neat, just a huge mess. Now you know where that came from. Mainly wanted to write about a couple of points. First, I think often that many people with ADD try to NOT be ADD or try to be something we are not. That is not possible. If you look at the history and the memory of my personal success you will understand from your own personal experience what drew me to the martial arts. Having participated in a strictly formal and traditional martial arts school, while many people find it restrictive, it was in fact, for me very freeing because someone else was taking the reins and leading in an area that I often was not focused enough in to excel. Hence with years of structured discipline my own personal achievements within the Art. The Art itself lent it self to that. However, I need to point out that for me that cannot and does not work in all aspect of my life, because i would then not be true to myself. In some ways i think the martial arts is about finding and and discovering who we are and then having the honesty and the discipline to be that, especially in the face of ADD. What that meant for me was KNOWING that i’m not an organized person, there for surrounding myself with people who are/were. I do not try to do things that my nature is not set up to do. Yes, I can do the dishes, but even if i set my mind to it i’m never able to get the kitchen as clean as people who just intrinsically are wired for that. That goes for my desk too. I learned to stop trying to be what other people expected of me and embrace those qualities of who i am. This not only has helped me be more successful but also more at peace and more forgiving. I have learned to educate people around me of what it means to be ADD (even when some people say pffff that’s just an excuse for laziness) the people who know me actually find it endearing and understand the personal struggle directly (of trying to have long focused conversation with me) and of my own inability…but as I helped people around me understand it helped me have more connected relationships. In the end, I learned simple skills of seeing myself when I watched the squirrel, or by having the people around me understand what it means to be ADD, and the bring to my life people and structure who are focused, deliberate, neat organized etc…and it was the calling in some way the reason I know i found the martial arts. My two pennies of thoughts on this subject…it looks like you have been doing well, and I’m glad for that. I still remember the conversation we had days before your black belt test when you were doubting yourself…you have stood up proud and have accomplished many great things. Keep at it. donald

    • Master Whittier!!!!! OMG it is awesome to hear from you!!! Do you know, when I was writing the page on my martial arts training, I tried finding you via Google Search, Facebook, etc. and couldn’t find you. I found something that you’d sold Chapel Hill/Carrboro Taekwondo, and something about your movie making, but that was it – no way to contact you. I hope you are doing well, and yes, I still remember that conversation, too. I also remember another conversation after Collegiates, I think, in which you told me that I was defeating myself before my opponents did; I’ve used that conversation as motivation several times since. Thank you once again. 🙂

      And thank you so much for your thoughts here; I had no idea that you were ADD back then. Heck, I didn’t even really know what it was, and I didn’t get diagnosed until age 33, so right about 10 years ago. And yes, I think the excellent training and discipline with you was a big part of helping me get through dental school, but once I moved to Charlotte and couldn’t find a school that was up to the bar you set, it faded quickly.

      I’m slowly coming to the same conclusions that you describe, although I keep hoping that I can find a way to discipline myself better. Since everything is going so well, though, maybe I just need to let myself be as I am and not try to change and enjoy?

      So what are you doing these days? Still training? Movies? Moved on to something completely different?