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ADHD: A Shift in Mindset

October 6, 2020

When experiencing a let-down from a symptom of ADHD (e.g., late to a meeting, forgot an important detail, made a small but important mistake, forgot to turn in an assignment, observe yourself seeking distraction instead of completing a task), ask yourself, “What’s on the other side of this coin?” What superpower goes along with this difficulty? It’s your process. The blips of distraction are part of it. It might not be conducive to certain things (e.g., long papers, tedious chores, or sitting through lectures), but it’s totally conducive to other things, such as, coming up with novel solutions, developing more efficient strategies (because your neurodiverse brain doesn’t tolerate inefficiencies or tedium), creating new ways of looking at a problem, deftly handling fast-paced work, engaging in hands-on or active projects, discovering new things.

Here are some suggestions for making this shift in mindset:

  • Start by changing your self-talk around your ADHD symptoms. For example, when you notice your attention waning, thank your brain/body for reminding you it’s time to take a break.
  • Acknowledge the mismatch between your current task demands and your own preferred process.
  • Take some of the negative bias out of it for yourself. When you observe yourself seeking distraction or forgetting details, take it as data, and use it to inform your decisions for the future.
  • Learn your flow. What types of things are happening when you’re in your flow (things in the external environment, things in your body, type of task)? Learn this about yourself and then start recreating it for yourself.

This type of approach will slowly but certainly lead you to tasks, activities, hobbies, social groups, and professions that fit you best.

As the influential neuropsychologist, Donald Hebb, wrote, “Neurons that fire together wire together.” You are capable of changing your own experience through shifting these associations of thoughts. Shift away from “I’m incapable” and toward “I’ve got a unique approach and I will grow through this.”

The initial diagnosis of ADHD can mark the beginning of a healing process, for young children and their parent(s) as well as for adolescents and adults. Through self-awareness and recognition of the effect of neurochemistry on behavior, one can begin to shift from the perpetuating cycle of self-limiting beliefs, to awareness, compassion, and growth.