Reaching Our Goals
What makes the subject of goals so terrifying for people with ADHD? It is not that we don’t want more in life. We do, but we really aren’t sure just how to get there! We can think and think about this, get more overwhelmed, and then give up! It is not that we don’t care. We actually care a great deal. So exactly what gets in the way for us, and what can we do about it? The traits of ADHD The first stumbling block is ADHD itself. Achieving goals typically requires some level of organization, self-discipline, and persistence. Traits associated with ADHD often run counter to them. Let’s look at the three types of ADHD.
Inattentive type. Some common challenges include not paying close attention to detail, difficulty sustaining attention, becoming easily distracted, avoiding activities that require sustained mental effort, being forgetful, and having difficulty organizing tasks and activities. Need I say more?
Hyperactive/Impulsive type. Symptoms might look like acting fidgety or being “driven by a motor,” talking excessively, interrupting or intruding on other’s conversations, blurting out, or having trouble waiting your turn.
Combined type. You might experience some or all of the above symptoms.
Many of the tasks associated with being organized are tasks a person does sitting down, like using planner, sorting papers, or doing taxes. For someone in constant motion, it’s a challenge to sit down in the first place – most certainly when you are trying to complete a task that doesn’t come easily.
Impaired executive skills
Executive skills, which play an important role in achieving goals, are often impaired in people with ADHD. Think of executive skills as tasks that a CEO of a company might do. They are higher-level thought processes that involve the part of the brain just behind the eyebrows, called the prefrontal cortex. Six areas are affected by executive function disorder, says Larry Silver, MD, in his excellent article, “Executive Function Disorder, Explained.” They are the ability to analyze a task, plan how to address the task, organize the steps necessary to complete the task, develop timelines for completing the task, adjust or shift the tasks needed to complete the task, and complete the task in a timely manner. Even if you know what you need to do in order to reach a goal, somehow you may never manage to accomplish those things if your executive skills aren’t working properly.
You might not have seen organization modeled Many of us truly want to be organized, but we may not be sure what that looks like. You may have grown up in a home where disorganization was the rule. If that’s the case, you may need some help learning how to get organized – and stay that way. One of the best things I ever did was to hire an organizer. No one is good at everything, and it is important to reach out for the help we need.
You’re living in crisis mode It is very easy to live in survival mode. The sooner we learn about our own ADHD and how it presents, the more we can begin thriving with ADHD verses surviving. We want to look ahead and to be proactive in our lives, rather than reactive. As Dr. Oz says, “when we know better, we do better.”
There may be more than one person in your home with ADHD When more than one person in the family has ADHD, there are more challenges to surmount. More distractions, more meltdowns, more struggles with managing time, big problems to solve, greater expenses with regard to treatment, and those are just a few. Many parents are burned out. It’s difficult to find the time or energy for much else when you are spending hours a day helping your children with their homework.
You may not know what you want—or how to get there If you’re unsure about what you want in life, it’s hard to figure out what to do. For some, this may mean working at a job that they hate. Others have struggled academically, perhaps dropping out of school, and think that they are incapable of success. Many parents have put themselves on the back burner as they struggle to support a child who has ADHD as well as a learning disability. ADHD is an isolating disorder. You may be embarrassed that you struggle, or you may not know where to turn for help.
Goal setting is a skill that can be acquired With the right kind of support, people with ADHD can be as successful as anyone else.
What can help?
Get a diagnosis! It is important to know what you are dealing with. We know that ADHD affects every developmental phase of life, as well as every area of life. Once you manage your ADHD, your quality of life will improve!
Understand and seek help for executive function challenges. It is much easier to reach your goals when you have support. Consider enlisting the help of an ADHD coach who truly understands the challenges of ADHD. Coaches can support you in taking a strength-based approach as you deal with challenges like managing time, breaking down projects, dealing with paperwork, etc. The right ADHD-friendly tool or strategy, tailored especially to you, can make all the difference in the world!
Realize that treatment for ADHD is multimodal. Most successful people with ADHD have various components to their treatment plan. Ask yourself the question, “Who is on my team?” It might look like going to a psychiatrist for medical support, a psychologist to assess co-existing conditions as well as learning challenges, a therapist for processing emotions, a trainer for exercise support, a support group for community, etc.
Move from surviving to thriving with ADHD. The more we understand our ADHD and how it presents, the more we can gain control of our lives. We can move from living reactively to living proactively. With awareness comes choice!
Learn all you can about ADHD and join advocacy organizations such as CHADD www.chadd.org and ADDA www.add.org , which can support you in discovering evidence-based strategies. ADDitude magazine www.ADDitudeMag.org is a wonderful publication with timely articles and webinars on various topics, including organization.
Hire a Helper. A good organizer will support you in finding systems that resonate with you. It is important to create your own systems, or you won’t want to maintain them. I hired an organizer and after 6 hours I had an office!
Discover your strengths. Use your personal strengths as a springboard to pull you forward. Focus on what is good about you. We know that what we pay attention to grows. Take a free, strength-based assessment at www.viasurvey.org.
Revisit your values. Most of us are happiest when we are living according to our values. The wheel of life is a powerful tool that helps you assess where you are in various life areas at any given point in time.
Get Support! If you have ever felt scared about setting goals or wondered why you could never reach them, consider the role that ADHD might play. Then, look for the support you need to overcome any of the challenges you face.