“You’re on the cusp of great things,” my Managing Director said as he turned to me. “You just need to really nail down these last few things. Once you’ve taken care of the boring stuff, we can move on to the high level stuff that you’re really excited about.”
Subtext: You’re not there yet.
When you’re living with ADHD, there are going to be times when the path you’re traveling doesn’t feel quite right. You might be feeling like everything is falling apart, as though you’re only just getting through each of the days by stumbling along and managing to find your feet. The days drag on, mishap after mishap, and you find yourself just struggling to stay afloat. Maybe you feel like you’re doing pretty well, but the elusive goal of success feels just out of reach.
Then, finally, you find yourself sitting at the kitchen counter one night, punishing yourself for the numerous screw ups throughout the day, wishing that things could just be easier. You just want to reach out and make the grab for that success, killing the stress in the process.
You aren’t alone in this. I’ve sat at that kitchen counter, going through those thought processes, feeling like I just couldn’t get it right. It’s not uncommon to feel like this. What is uncommon, however, is how we re-frame it.
STRESS IN THE WORLD OF AN ADHDer
You may not know this, but stress is not easily categorised. Sure, most people refer to stress as being a negative sensation where they start to become mentally crippled, but the truth is that this is just one of the two types of stress in action – distress.
Distress is the type of stress that we are all too familiar with. It’s the feeling we get when we let someone down, when we’re running late, and when we’ve made an apparently fatal mistake again. (Spoiler alert: few mistakes are fatal – they’re just slight panty pinches in the path of life).
But that leaves the second type of stress – eustress.
Eustress is the sensation you get when you’re about to tackle a challenge. It’s healthy for you, pushing you to surpass your limits and grow. It’s responsible for the big improvements in your life; the removal of the spare tire around the waist as you punch out a high intensity training session at the gym or the completion of a project before the deadline.
It’s good, it’s healthy, and we want more of it. And we do that through a re-frame.
THE STRESS TEST
After my performance review, I sat down and went through what we’d spoken about. He’d raised some valid points. I wasn’t perfectly consistent, and some days I didn’t smash out things to the same level. I was still struggling with some of the more boring things, mainly because they bored me and I wouldn’t put the necessary effort in.
And now I was left to face the music. Was this going to stress me out, running a mental pattern of “I’m such a shit guy,” or was I going to throw myself into the Arena and step up to the challenge?
The responsibility was on me, as I sat at my kitchen counter thinking about everything that had been discussed.
- Was I going to put myself under distress, or propel myself using eustress?
- Would I dig my heels in and think of myself as someone who’d failed?
- Or would I consider the fact that I hadn’t succeeded just yet?
One choice would paralyse me. The other would help me to excel.
TAKING THE STEPS FORWARD
I left the company nearly five months later, by choice.
In the three roles I’d held over 15 months, I’d been responsible for some massive changes in the organization including streamlining company-wide processes, managing international relationships and reducing production and delivery timelines. I’d enacted massive change through a series of challenges that I faced head on.
If I’d let the struggles and confrontations get to me, I wouldn’t have gotten the promotions or made the ground that I did. But instead, I chose to take on the eustress and face the challenge, not just improving my position but the lives of the people around me.
What can eu do?