Unlock Meaningful Change in Three Proven Ways Living with ADHD

This New Year especially is a time when we are reassessing our goals and commitments and are inspired to create change. But when you live with ADHD and related challenges, there can be a history of failures and missed opportunities that can make it challenging to unlock resistance to change and stay on track.  

ADHD, Growth Mindset and Locus of Control  

You may be familiar with “It’s not my fault I failed the test,” “My teacher/boss didn’t like me,” or “It was luck that I passed.” The tendency to feel little or no control over life circumstances and to refuse to take responsibility for failures or successes is known as external locus of control. A study in the Journal of Clinical Psychology showed that children with ADHD tend to have a significantly higher correlation with external locus of control than their peers without ADHD.  Someone with a high internal locus of control believes their failures or successes are due to their own efforts. “I didn’t study hard enough,” or “I put in a lot of effort, so I did well.”  

Dr. Carol Dweck coined the terms fixed mindset and growth mindset which describe the views people have about learning and intelligence. A fixed mindset is a belief that a person is born with smarts (or not) and there’s little in their control that they can do to change their circumstances. When individuals believe that effort makes them stronger learners, they have a growth mindset, and they put in the time and energy that leads to development and higher achievement.

Recent advances in neuroscience have shown us that the brain is a lot more pliable than we ever knew. Defined as "brain plasticity," the brain can reorganize its structure and literally rewire itself. It can change at any age, with daily experiences. This is good news for us all! Still, it can be frustrating when you live with ADHD, and change just isn't sticking, or it's not happening in the way you had hoped. 


In individuals with ADHD, the irregular communication of messages between the brain's neurons means it can take more experiences to rewire the circuitry of the ADHD brain. As a result, ADHD'ers benefit from being curious, experimenting, testing, and drawing conclusions, so they can engage with their experiences more completely.


Here are three proven ways to help yourself and your loved ones stay on track with desired and meaningful change. 


Let go of the Need to be Perfect  

Individuals with ADHD have a history of intense sensitivity to criticism and feedback and as a result, can be harshly critical of themselves.  There’s a tendency to need to do things perfectly, or the “right” way, or there’s a perception of failure.

Quick Tips:
Seeking perfection takes up time and energy. When you check and re-check a project over and over again, is becomes enervating and leads to exhaustion. Not only that, it holds you back from finishing. Ultimately it keeps you from living up to your capabilities. 
The quest for perfection is a misleading way of feeling in control. You can’t control every possible mistake or error. Attempting perfection only stretches out finishing and gets in the way of moving forward.
Give yourself permission to stop beating yourself up for past failures. Instead, focus on your strengths and move on. The only thing you can control is to do the best you can 

Own Responsibility for Failure and Success

You or your loved one with ADHD are creative, hard-working, and diligent. Yet, as an ADHD’er, you live in a world of “now,” that makes it difficult to learn from past experiences or project into the future to consider consequences. 

Rather than focusing on your failures, tune into the difficulties you overcame, what you are learning about yourself now, and how you will use your new learning as you move forward. 
Quick Tips:
Examine your actions in your successes. If you or your child have a tendency to chalk up success to luck or circumstance, pause to remind yourself or your loved one about the actions taken to get there.  For example, perhaps you didn't prepare for a presentation but did well because it was “easy.” On the other hand, you could remind yourself that you participated in meetings, and kept up on the required tasks.  The combined actions allowed for your success in doing what was required. 
Ask open-ended questions. If you’re a parent, and your child isn’t following through because the work is “too hard,” or “too boring,” ask your child "what" questions, such as "What makes it hard," or "What are your plans to make it more interesting?" This will assist them in taking ownership. 

Accept Rather Than Judge

When circumstances don’t allow things to be different, it’s important to accept your situation as it is, not as you think it should be. The amount of resistance to the way things are is directly related to the suffering you confront.

When you are accepting, rather than judging that this shouldn’t be happening, you are giving yourself permission to move forward while owning the current situation. 
Quick Tips:
 The way you encourage or discourage yourself gets transferred to your loved ones. For example, you may say, “This was a bad choice. I can’t believe I did this. I’m so foolish.” You may then communicate your own self-judgment to your loved one: “Does this room look clean to you? You can do better than that. You’re not foolish, are you?” Focus instead on what you can do about the situation and what you are learning about yourself: “I’m not happy with the choice I made. What can be another option.”  Your more positive choices for yourself will reflect on more positive and cooperative interactions with your loved ones.

• Giving too much general, overall encouragement can lead to your child or partner feeling pressured to live up to unrealistic standards. For example, “you are always so helpful” can imply that if they do well that they are loved, and if not, they will aim to please you, rather than themselves. This can lead to resentment and not taking responsibility for their actions: “You’re the one who wanted me to do it that way in the first place.” The results will be the opposite of your intentions.

Show acceptance, by being specific about what you see, as if you’re taking a photograph with your words. “I noticed you put your clothes in the hamper.”  If you’re a parent, praise that focuses on what you feel about your child’s behavior teaches your child to seek approval. “I’m proud of you for doing well at school” teaches you to value finished tasks, rather than effort. Instead, you might say “Look at all the hard work you’re doing” and let your child draw their own conclusions to link their efforts to their results. 

Show your love and that you are there. Parents, even if you’re worried about the consequences of your loved one's actions, the best you can do is show them you love them, and you are there for them. After that, the end result is up to them. It’s important to let your kids fall sometimes so they can take ownership of their situations and take responsibility. 

When living with ADHD and related challenges, there can be a history of failures and missed opportunities, making it difficult to stick to commitments with consistency. To help you or your loved ones stay on track with desired and meaningful change:

• Let Go of the Need to be Perfect 

• Own Responsibility For Failure and Success

• Accept Rather Than Judge 

Try these and let me know how they work out for you!




 PS. Need more assistance with staying on track with the change you want? 

Contact me for an ADHD Strategy Assessment and we can talk about some steps you can take right away!


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