This post is dedicated to everyone who lives with ADD or loves someone with ADD.
In our minds we have three states of time. Past, present, and future. We can only do anything in one of them. It is only the present moment in which we can physically act. Before you read on take a moment and let that sink in. The only time you can act is in this present moment. You can’t take action in the past, and you can’t take literal action in the future. It is only right now that you can do anything. If you didn’t stop and think that through please do so now. It is the foundation for what follows.
Our thoughts are constantly either recreating events of the past, or trying to paint the future. Unless you are under immediate physical attack the only emotional pain you suffer are those memories of the past or thoughts of the future. Your thoughts about the future and the past dictate what you do in the present moment. That statement was not meant to de-legitimize anyone’s pain or emotional state. Therapists and Life Coaches spend much of their time with clients, listening closely to their thoughts about what is going on in their lives or how they might achieve their goals. Their potential to help their client begins when they detect unhealthy thought patterns, or those thoughts that don’t align with the client’s goals. For the sake of improving your life, what if you were to begin to live your life more fully in the present moment? Do what I am about the suggest the next available time after reading this post, or right now if you are in a quiet place and won’t get interrupted. Wherever you are sit quietly, close your eyes if you want, and pay attention to the subtle noises in the background. You can also focus on your breathing instead, or notice the subtle feelings in your body. Notice the feeling of your body against the furniture. When a thought comes to mind, don’t judge it or react to it just notice it. Then take your focus back to the sounds in your environment, your breath, or the subtle feelings in your body. Do this for at least five minutes and no more the twenty minutes. When I was first starting with Mindfulness I did this for twenty minutes a couple of times per day. Over a period of a month or so I started to notice that I was calmer overall. I also started to notice that I could better control my impulsivity. I remember the first time I noticed this. Someone had said something that would have normally triggered me to respond and start an argument. I was able to let the comment pass, without incident. If you have ADD, you know how that incident would have likely ended, if I hadn’t created that space that allowed me not to react to the comment. I also noticed something else. I didn’t feel any ill will towards the person who made the comment. It was as they say like water of a ducks back. If you honestly participated in that exercise, and had a positive experience I want to issue a “temporary” warning. I once heard a popular success guru tell an audience about his meditation practice, and then right after he warned them that if all you ever do is bliss out on meditation, they will eventually come and take your furniture. I call this a temporary warning because Mindfulness is not just about meditating. Once you are able to stop the racing thoughts in your mind you will realize that being mindful can be done throughout the normal course of life. Here are a few ways you can practice Mindfulness throughout your day. Let’s say you want to get into the habit of making your bed every morning. Tomorrow morning you can get up, and Mindfully make your bed. Take a deep breath and deliberately make your bed, noticing the feel of the fabric in the pillows, or how the wrinkles flatten out when stretching the sheet. Overall just pay attention to the process. Another way I practice Mindfulness is when I am writing an email or message to someone. I will notice myself deliberately touching each key. Whatever you do throughout your day for work or home just pick a few things to do deliberately noticing the details.
The real goal of Mindfulness is to quiet all those thoughts that normally keep you out of a state of being attentive. Have you ever wondered why no matter how hard you try, you just haven’t been able to change certain behaviors. It is likely because you never noticed the thoughts that were causing them. When you learn to observe your thoughts without passing judgement, you will become conscious of them. When you are conscious of your thoughts, it shines a light on them that makes their impact diminish. The bible tells us to “guard the door of our minds.” The only way you can guard against the thoughts is to become aware of them, let them be and they will dissipate. If you have questions or comments drop me a note here or comment below.
I was sitting in my office this morning thinking about a work related effort, and had some ideas. I started to get really psyched about the possibilities. It’s that excitement you get when you think you are about to start something really awesome. I started thinking about specific next steps. Almost immediately my mind went to all the reasons this wasn’t going to work, and all the negative reactions that were going to come from my colleagues, and our leadership. Before I got carried away with these negative thoughts, I was able to stop myself and thought about the reality behind these negative thoughts and about the ideas I had. The first thing I realized is that these negative thoughts had no basis in reality, and were really my unconscious trying to protect me from hard work and possible personal failure. The reality is that the company and leadership I work for is completely open to feedback, and ideas from colleagues. The ideas themselves were pretty good, but needed some further thought and would have to be approached with tact, and a collaborative perspective. After thinking this through I came up with a more realistic approach, with a good sense of the realities around the effort. There are two things to recognize here, first I wasn’t thinking through all the details up front, and second that instead of letting those negative thoughts sabotage the whole effort, I was able to take a bit of time to think it all the way through. I shared this personal story with you because I know that no one is immune from the negative thoughts that sometimes, or often try to hold us back from achieving an outcome. In my case, It is the result of a Mindfulness practice and learning to live more in the present that has helped me to learn to stop those thoughts from sabotaging my efforts. It is also a deeper understanding of our three levels of conscious. A while back I posted this blog entry on the topic of levels of consciousness. Understanding these three levels of consciousness is the foundation for learning why Mindfulness works. It is creating a separation from the constant thinking, and your conscious mind. It is developing this separation that allows you to stop sabotaging self-talk.
If you are interested in hiring a life coach, or just want to use a free thirty minute consult to get some insight drop me a note here.
“If you always do what you always did, you will always get what you always got.” — Albert Einstein
Following through on the things I start has been one of the greatest challenges in my life. It is difficult for everyone, but especially difficult for the ADHD brain to persist to the finish line. If it isn’t required to maintain the status quo it often won’t get done. The reality is that goals only get achieved when action is taken. What are some practical things we can do to help ensure we persist in reaching our goals?
Once you have a goal take a fifteen minutes or so and write down what achieving that goal will mean for your life. Read and visualize that paragraph every day. Sometimes we get these great ideas, that we don’t think through before we set out. If you can’t recall the excitement that caused you to set the goal it will be difficult to persist.
Have an accountability partner. Find someone in your life to share your goal with and help hold you accountable. Make sure the person you choose is not a dream stealer. Some people mean well and want to warn you about all the risks associated with your goals. They may mean well, but they will hold you back if you let them. If you don’t have a person in your life to fill that role find and hire a life coach.
View achieving your goal as a Marathon, not a sprint. It is important to realize that any goal worth achieving is going to take time. I have heard it said that people overestimate what they can get done in a day, and underestimate what they can get done in a year. If that is true for everyone then it is certainly true for the ADHD brain.
Make your bed. Discipline is going to be required to achieve any worthwhile goal. Start developing “small” daily disciplines like making your bed, or keeping your room clean. After this discipline has become a habit, (30 days) add another “small” discipline. If you add one new small habit every thirty days your growth with be exponential, not additive.
What if you get off course? If you get off course, don’t beat yourself up, just get back at it. One of the things that hold many of us back is that we don’t cut ourselves enough slack. Keep in mind you are not a machine. You are a perfectly imperfect human being like everyone else.
Before I wrap this post up I wanted to share an insight that has helped me drastically in achieving more of what I want in life. Nothing frustrates me more than having someone chide me with “just pay attention”, or the famous “try harder”. It is true that paying attention would really go a long way in helping us to achieve our goals. It occurred to me that I never asked the right question when someone told me to “just pay attention”. How? That is the question I never thought to ask. Mindfulness is the answer to that question.
Do you struggle with racing thoughts? Are you often attacked by negative emotions that make you believe some form of the idea that you are no good? Is your self-confidence low? Do you often see the negative in things, and rarely see the good? If you answered yes to these questions, you are not alone. Many more people that you think experience these problems. Everyone experiences them at some level. I am writing this post today because eight years ago I had an ADHD life coach who introduced me to Mindfulness. I didn’t do much with it at the the time. During my educational journey to becoming a life coach myself, I discovered something that lead me back to Mindfulness. Once I learned what I am about the share with you, Mindfulness became a powerful tool for me. One that has helped me to catch negative thoughts, and simply acknowledge and let them go. I became aware that all those negative thoughts were not me. I was someone different than those thoughts. This post is broken down into two sections. The first is “Levels of Consciousness” the second is “Mindfulness”. I did it this way because it is learning the levels of consciousness that caused me to see the great value of Mindfulness.
Levels Of Consciousness
We all have thoughts coming at us all the time. Sometimes they are coming at a furious pace, and other times a little slower. Sometimes they are encouraging, and other times they are telling us we are no good. I was exposed to Freud’s Iceberg Theory several times before it really impacted me. Imagine your mind as an Iceberg. The surface of the iceberg above the water represents our conscious mind. It contains all the thoughts that we are aware of at any given time. Just below the water’s surface there is another area that represents the subconscious ( preconscious ) mind. This is where the answer to queries like 2 +2 = 4, and other facts and memories are stored. When someone asks you a question that you know the answer to the answer is called back to consciousness. The largest area in the conscious structure is the unconscious mind. This is the area of the Iceberg well below the water’s surface. This is where unconscious memories, events, and emotions are stored. The majority of these items were stored prior to your tenth birthday. This is also where most of our values, opinions, and worldview come from. The unconscious mind is the source of the thoughts that constantly come to mind, and the sometimes negative emotions that accompany them. When I was three years old I lost my dad, which had a tremendous impact on me. The problem is I don’t remember much about my dad or even missing him. My mom recalls that I cried for days, and was a complete train wreck. All those emotions are still stored in my unconscious mind, even though I can’t remember their source. Just before working on my life coaching certificate, I took a college counseling class. Our professor, to whom I will always be grateful was an experienced trauma counselor. She knew that many of her students were interested in the helping professions, because they had deep hurts themselves. For this reason the vast majority of the lessons were accompanied by homework that was designed to help us pick our own lives apart. I had heard Dr. Jordan Peterson say in a several talks that “People don’t know what they are up to”. I didn’t know exactly what he meant until I understood the impact of our unconscious mind on our daily actions. If you want to overcome issues in your life it is important to recognize the thoughts are causing those issues. It is not an easy task to recognize much less change the negative thoughts and emotions as they enter your mind. This is where the power of Mindfulness can come to your rescue.
Mindfulness or mindful meditation can be practiced in a number of ways. There are a lot of great resources on Mindfulness. Lot’s of TedX talks on Youtube. For those of us with ADHD being attentive or mindful doesn’t come naturally. The most common way of practicing Mindfulness is just to turn off all distractions like television, smartphones etc.. You can sit or lie quietly in a comfortable position. Relax, take a couple deep breaths, and just purposefully become aware of your environment. You can do this with eyes open or closed. Notice the sounds in your environment. Maybe the sound of a running refrigerator, birds chirping, or the sound of a ceiling fan. If you have any thoughts enter your mind just gently acknowledge them and go back to put attention on your breathing or sounds around you. I takes a while to quiet the mind, that is why they call it practice. I will typically do this about 20 minutes or so twice per day. Even if you only do two minutes a couple times a day you will notice a difference. Once you learn to quiet your mind, you will catch thoughts as the come. When you do just acknowledge them without judging and go back to whatever you are focusing your attention on. Many people use their breath as an Anchor to go back to. Another way to practice Mindfulness is to take a simple task, and for a minute or two try to quiet your mind and perform the task paying attention to every small action. An example of this would be what I am doing right now. Normally I type instinctively and pretty quickly. Right now I am paying attention to every letter I type. I am doing it deliberately, and slowly. Paying attention to every space and character and not thinking about anything else. Spending time alone in nature with no distraction is another great way to increase Mindfulness.
Go back and watch some of the YouTube videos linked above. If you would like to find out more about Life Coaching, go the contact page and send me a message. I do a thirty minute online consulting session free of charge.
I am not a big on setting New Years resolutions. I believe our resolutions won’t likely be successful, if it is only the time of year that inspires them. I do however think that if you have some days off during the holidays, it is a great time to review your goals. If you don’t have formal, written goals then it might be a good time to do that. As I was reviewing and adjusting goals this year, I realized something. Over the last three years I have made some significant progress on my goals. I figured out why. When I used to set goals I focused completely on the outcome, and then would try to figure out what tasks would need to be done to achieve them. Of course the real work of achieving goals is pretty tough, so I found myself not wanting to do the hard work to reach the goals. This lead to disappointment. In the last few years I must have subconsciously realized what I am going to share with you today. What I realized is that I have learned to find more fulfillment in the activities that help me achieve my goals. The primary fuel that will help you achieve your goals is discipline. Sometime during 2019 I read a book called “Make Your Bed” by William H. McRaven. It talked about starting your day with a win by making your bed. I started the habit of making sure our bed was made every morning. Then I started paying closer attention to other small habits. During 2020 I started two more new habits. Habit 1 was to read my devotions every morning. Later in the year I added at least ten or fifteen minutes of exercise every morning. The key is that these activities became goals themselves, and were small, and achievable. Don’t get me wrong, it took a while to develop the habits. When I did develop the habits I felt better about myself. As I look at my goals now, I notice that no matter how big the goals I am always focused on the next step. That next step is to just add to the disciplines I already have. If you really want to achieve big goals, and you don’t already have daily disciplines, then those might be the best goals to start with. During 2020 I took a college course, completed a lengthy Life Coaching certificate course, worked fifty to sixty hours a week in my job, and am on my way to transitioning into my retirement career. I was also able transition my job from what I used to see as a soul sucking job into something much better. I started creating disciplines and focusing how my job helped my colleagues, and helped me to be more disciplined. As you prepare to make 2021 better than 2020 set small discipline goals to start. It feels good to win. Make your goals small and focused on discipline. The achievement of those goals will become fuel for your larger goals. Also notice the thing I didn’t talk about. I didn’t talk about how terrible 2020 was. That is a focus for another post, but I do want to say “focus on things you can control”. Hope this helps.
I always chuckle when I hear a CEO or any other successful person proclaim they are self made. While they may have lead the effort, the amount of work they did themselves is a tiny fraction of all the work that was done to get them where they are. In the same way you are going to need other people in your journey. People like life coaches, and those that will love you and support your journey to a better life. When I started my journey I didn’t really have either. I did eventually get a life a coach who helped me to get the ball rolling. That was the real beginning of my forward momentum. If you look in the right margin of the bapcinco.com home page, you will see two of the things that my life coach introduced me to. Mindfulness, and Green Time were both tools that helped me to get to where I am today. If you are in a position where you can’t afford coaching, look for someone around you to share your journey with. Someone who will support you in your efforts and hold you accountable. Make sure they are really a positive person who has your best interests in mind. This process might take bit, but you will be surprised who might step up to help you out. A lot of clients think a life coach is going to somehow make their journey easy or be able to do things for them. A life coach is there more than anything to guide you in coming to the conclusions that will move you forward. In the end of the first post in the Foundations series, I talked about “knowing what you are up to”. There are reasons that you act the way you do, and for the most part we are all a bit clueless about what we really up to and why. A good certified life coach will listen closely to you and help you uncover the unseen motivations, and traumas that impact you. Once you know what is impacting you, your coach can then help you to put together a plan for overcoming your challenges. Do a Google search in your area for ADHD life coaches, and counselors. Try to find someone with reviews and high satisfactions scores. I know she has quite a lot going on, but Casey Dixon was tremendous help in getting me headed in the right direction. As you begin the process of finding someone to help support your efforts, get a piece of paper or a word processor and start thinking about and writing down what you are looking for a life coach to help you with. If you have goals and you haven’t written them down, do that too. There is some power in putting your goals on paper. Once you know you really want to change, and you have someone to help keep you accountable, the progress will begin. I am so convinced of the value of coaching, I am currently working through a life coaching certification myself.
I was recently thinking about times in my life, when I was most happy. When I was a child, my mom used to take us to a small church in a small town, not only on Sunday mornings but many Sunday evenings, and weekday nights. It was during these times in my childhood, that I felt the most loved, appreciated, and accepted. It was one of the few places, I felt this sense of love and acceptance. I started with this, because many of us who have ADHD don’t feel a lot of love and acceptance in our adult lives. Some time ago successful business author Seth Godin was on a popular ADHD podcast. He attributed much of his success with ADHD, to the love and support he received from his family. Everyone yearns for love and acceptance in their life, and that is doubly true for someone who might act in ways that draw criticism from others.
The world will tell you that you can’t depend on the acceptance of others, to feel worthy. To some extent that is true. Once you internalize the fact that you do have intrinsic worth as a human being, and that there are many good things about you, you will thrive. The struggle is that until you have this epiphany, you may need a space where you can succeed. Do you have at least one place in your life, where you feel understood, and accepted? There are many ADHD support groups, and every city in our country has Christian churches where we can find this kind of environment. There are coaches who specialize in working with people with ADHD. If you are someone who feels like your life is a constant onslaught of one struggle after another, take that first step and find some space where you can be valued and accepted. This space will allow you to get through until you realize how valuable you are. I truly believe that all of us are capable of much more than we think, but we have to arrive at that moment, when we truly believe that.