The biggest mistake that I see adults with ADHD make is that they try to do things just like everyone else. But when you’re wired differently than the vast majority of the people around you, trying to be like everyone else just doesn’t work.
The people around you–your friends, your coworkers, and certainly many members of your family–go through their lives doing things a certain way. They have specific systems they follow to make their lives easier. They may have their desk organized a certain way, and they may go food shopping twice a week, or wash the dishes right after dinner every night.
And these systems are definitely a good thing–when the person who’s following them creates them based on what will make their life easier.
But you can’t be successful trying to emulate other people’s systems. You have to create your own systems, taking into account your own personality and your own strengths and challenges. And you most certainly have to take into account your own ADHD! Unfortunately, this is where a lot of adults with ADHD get tripped up.
As a person with ADHD, you may need to have your desk organized completely differently than the desks of your coworkers, in a way that makes sense only to you. And you may have to delegate the food shopping trips, or wash the dishes in the morning, instead of the evening. It’s all individual, and what matters is what makes life easiest for you!
The problem is that, in our society, we’re often taught that different equals bad. In your early life, you were probably made aware of your differences when the people around you pointed them out.
- Your parents may have called you lazy because you had no interest in cleaning your room. (I know I got that one!)
- Your teachers may have told you that you didn’t apply yourself because you daydreamed in class.
- Your friends may have commented that you never paid attention to the rules of the game.
But these behaviors in and of themselves aren’t bad, they’re just different from those of most other kids. And over time, you start to internalize all these differences as criticisms of who you are and how you naturally do things.
Then, in adulthood, things suddenly become worse because you become the one who points out those differences to yourself. You see others around you going about their lives in ways that are foreign to you, and you convince yourself that they know something you don’t. You convince yourself that you don’t measure up. And you judge yourself, probably very harshly, for not being like everyone else.
And as long as you continue to judge yourself for your differences, you’re working against your ADHD. You have to embrace who you are as a whole person, challenges and differences included, if you want to find the systems and solutions that are going to make your life easier.
This is a mindset shift that is absolutely necessary to achieve before you can learn to manage your ADHD effectively. And once you make the shift, you can stop working against your ADHD and start working with it.
Imagine how much easier life will be when you’re not fighting to change who you are, but working to enhance what you’re capable of doing…
P.S. If you’ve already made this mindset shift and you’re ready to start developing specific strategies and systems to manage your ADHD challenges, then consider joining us at the Executive Functions Online Forum later this month, where Dr. Ari Tuckman will help you understand your brain to manage your life.