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.