Learning to Thrive with ADD Part 1

As I wrote in my last Page of 2014, Self-Discipline and Accountability, my wife and I are embarking on a set of ambitious goals.  Some of those goals are financial and therefore will not be shared except in broad generalities.  For myself, however, I understand that I must make a number of changes and adjustments in my life to do what is necessary to achieve my part.  And the underlying struggle with which I’m dealing is my ADD, as it has always interfered with doing and being as much as I want to do and be.  And yet, it has also been one of my greatest strengths, when properly harnessed and controlled.  My journey now involves learning new and stronger coping skills, better habits and scheduling, and understanding how to grow to the next level in our personal and business lives.  In other words, I want to thrive with my ADD, not just survive.

Returning to Helpful Books of the Past

Excellent book about ADD/ADHD

Over the years, there have been several books that have helped me.   Of them all, Driven to Distraction (Revised) had to be one of the most powerful, and which I found to be a very eye-opening book not too long after my diagnosis.  I’ve already started re-reading it, and just in the first chapter, reading some of the stories of others with ADD/ADHD, I am reminded of how I felt the first time through: utterly astounded that this guy somehow had written a book all about me, without ever having met me!  It was a shock, seeing my whole life suddenly fall into place and all the struggles of middle school, high school, college, dental school, and “real life” explained as if I’d sat down and recorded it for him.

The other night, as I was falling asleep, I suddenly had an interesting idea pop into mind. No idea if there’s anything to it, but….I was thinking of System 1 and System 2, as described by Daniel Kahneman in his incredible book Thinking, Fast & Slow, and it hit me that it’s almost like people with ADD have more trouble engaging System 2, forcing them to rely on System 1 almost exclusively, or only under extreme pressure can System 2 be engaged?  Very curious, but as I considered it, I realized just how typical this synergistic, holistic, integrative thinking is of people with ADD when it is managed and harnessed.  🙂  I wish I could put Kahneman and Halowell/Ratey in the same room and get them talking about the possibility.  🙂

Structure & Schedule – The Necessity and Bane of Life with ADD

If you didn’t read the previously linked page about self-discipline, here is the new Self-Affirmation that I have created for myself (it’s taped up on my bathroom mirror so I can’t miss it).  You can probably figure out rather quickly why I made it.  LOLSelf-affirmation on self-discipline and structure for ADD/ADHD

Throughout my life, sticking to projects long-term has been a struggle, as pretty much everyone with ADD/ADHD can attest.  Whether it’s a home fitness regimen, work projects, blogging, completing just about any self-starting project that doesn’t involve outside monitoring is incredibly difficult.  I often liken it to a mime running into the invisible wall, unable to get around it no matter what.  And over time, it’s easy to come to believe that it’s impossible for us to complete them, and as is fairly well-known, beliefs like that quickly become self-fulfilling. And yet – I’ve also learned that I CAN complete long-term projects, usually as long as I have assistance, but also if I focus hard on reprogramming those mental beliefs.  I had to make some HUGE changes to my beliefs about personal and business finances many years ago in order to become successful, as I had many self-limiting beliefs with no foundation in reality.  Sure, it did take a lot of practice, meditation, many stops and starts, before I overcame the usual inertial that keeps me from building the momentum to charge forward, but in looking back, I realized that I can actually do it!  And the way I did it came largely from Driven to Distraction and from the next book that I’ll re-read, Think and Grow Rich: developing strong habits and routines.

This is also, BTW, where I think there is a connection between the ideas of Kahneman and Hallowell/Ratey makes sense.  As Kahneman describes System 1, it’s the “automatic” system of our thinking that happens super-fast, with minimal conscious effort.  Doesn’t that kind of sound like the way people with ADD think/operate?  System 2 is the more conscious, effortful, deliberate thinking, and the main issue for everyone, is that System 2 does require a lot more mental effort, concentration, energy, and focus.  And doesn’t that sound like the exact challenge people with ADD/ADHD face?  At the very least, that’s how it feels in my experience, so it intuitively feels right.  Naturally, how I feel doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with reality!  (I’m a big-time skeptical thinker and understand just how little our perceptions of reality actually has to do with reality.)  So I could be completely wrong, but……I think I can use this to my advantage either way.

Daily Affirmations to Reprogram Myself, and Strong Habits to Minimize Effort

From my studies of successful people about 8 years ago, I learned that a key component is to develop the habit of daily affirmations and repetitions of goals, both verbally and mentally.  The way I did it back then was spending my commute to and from work, as well as the time falling asleep at night, listening to audiobooks on my iPod and then iPhone using the Audible.com app.  Consistent reinforcement of key ideas, almost every day over a period of 3 years, was a powerful transformative factor and (I believe) a critical part of our financial success.  Along with that, I did almost daily journaling; I found that writing things out helps me tremendously.

So while there are many different parts to the puzzle that must come together for my wife and me to accomplish our goals, one thing that I know for sure about myself – I MUST find a way to become more comfortable within a highly structured work and play environment.  I must learn to believe that I actually am self-disciplined, and that I do successfully complete long-term projects by building strong habits.  The benefit of strong habits is that they minimize the amount of effort necessary to engage System 2, that conscious, deliberate part of our thinking.  Habits are automatic, easy, and powerful.  And by learning strong habits, this is my goal:

Habits & Self-Discipline keys to success with ADD/ADHD


Do you have ADD/ADHD?  If so, please share anything that has helped you learn to not just survive, but THRIVE with ADD/ADHD.  We can all help each other!  And please share on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, or whatever your favorite social media platform is. 🙂