Think you can’t control your thoughts? Hmmm. Did you wet your pants today? Did you cry and stomp your feet today over anything? No. You’ve learned to control your bladder. And your temper (well, mostly). And you can learn to control your thoughts to reap HUGE benefits. To wit, imagine if you could:
- Power up your mind by quieting it down.
- Spend more time on meaningful things, less on useless BS.
- Prioritize thoughts so you can better prioritize actions.
“What?! If I could do that, I wouldn’t be a @#$%! ADDer!” But yes, Grasshopper, you can. It’s all about identifying and labeling thoughts that fall either inside or outside the Thought Sweetspot. The more you’re in it, the more you escape the overwhelm.
The first step’s simple. Listen to your mind. Just listen. Be a “witness” to your thoughts on a regular basis. You’ll find the vast majority are ego-based noise—worry about the past, anxiety over the future, trivial judgements. You can classify them further in opposing pairs, e.g.:
- Positive vs Negative
- Future vs Past
- Thinking vs Worrying
- Titillating vs Relevant
There are other, more nuanced, pairs—Big vs Small, Action vs Activity, Have To vs Will Do, Manufactured vs Real, Love- vs Ego-Based, etc.—but stick with the simpler sets for now.
Obviously, the first of each pair is in the Thought Sweetspot, the second in the crapper. NOT where you wanna be.
Positive thoughts benefit your body chemistry, attitude, and general happiness—so they’re real sweet. But when you come across a negative thought, LABEL it as such and either toss it aside and move on to something else, or at least shift to a positive interpretation of it.
Future thoughts can be time-wasters (“Ooh, can’t wait ‘til the big game/date/cat show”), but even trivial thoughts about the future open the door to planning that future (“I better leave by 4:00 to be sure I get to the stadium/bar/arena”). Thoughts of the past are mostly re-hashing stuff you can’t change—so label them as such and switch into future-oriented “here’s-how-I’ll-do-it-differently-next-time” mode!
Thinking vs Worrying overlaps many of the pairs. Indeed, mental fatigue is caused less by work than by worry, frustration and resentment. As one sage put it, “Worry does not empty tomorrow of its sorrow; it empties today of its strengths,” so label it as BS that can’t change anything, and shift to creative thinking about that worrisome problem.
Titillating thoughts are the ADHDer’s bane: they take us away from relevant (i.e., important) tasks, and keep us from finishing things. Indeed, most people prioritize based on what’s most important (duh!), but WE prioritize based on what’s most interesting at the moment. Label titillating stuff as BS occupying valuable mental real estate, evict it from the property, and let relevance move in.
In sum, once you’ve labeled a thought as useless, drop it and stop dwelling. When you identify a thought as useful, put it to use and start propelling.
Think of it this way: when we wake up, we have a full tank of mental fuel which, except for some fill-up stops over the course of the day, heads toward empty all day long. And our ADHD brains get lousy MPG as it is, often getting stranded on the side of the mental road. So, do you wanna use your precious fuel driving around in circles? Or to get where you want to go?
Give your mental energies to things in the Thought Sweetspot, and you’ll make that tank of fuel go much farther and faster.