Reflections on the Film, “NORMAL ISN’T REAL”

I was honored to be part of a panel with neurodiversity advocates Jonathan Mooney and Jodie Knowles as we discussed Kris Kornmeier’s brilliant film, “NORMAL ISN’T REAL: Succeeding with LD/ADHD” at the 2019 BOOST Conference in Palm Springs this week.

The film’s title says it all – what we consider to be “normal” is only an illusion. What exactly is normal? Average? The “Goldilocks of abilities” – not too much of this or too little of that? Not standing out? Not being different? Not being ourselves?

Redefine Yourself

I propose that we NOT strive to be considered “normal,” whatever that is, as each one of us is beautifully unique, with varied experiences, interests, values, strengths, passions … as well as personal challenge areas. We all have things that we’re really good at and we all have things that are harder for us, whether we have “disabilities” or not. We should not define ourselves by what challenges we might face, or what makes us not fit in somehow. We can learn to embrace who we are as people, with our strengths and challenges together, controlling our own narrative so that we can move forward toward our vision of the future.

Rewrite Your Story

As an ADHD coach, I have the distinct honor of helping people rewrite their stories with an ADHD lens, helping them appreciate who they are, what they’re good at, what they are passionate about, as well as what doesn’t come naturally. As people come to understand why certain things have happened, they move from self-blame to self-awareness and to self-acceptance; with the confidence that comes with self-acceptance, people are able to leverage their strengths, discover new ways to work with the brain they have, and thrive with ADHD.

Embrace What Makes You Uniquely You

What is your story and how can you rewrite it with an appreciation of who you are? Embrace what makes you uniquely you, for the world needs your passions, your talents, your interests, your energy, and your quirkiness in all its glory!

For more information about the film, go to https://www.normalisntreal.com. You’ll be glad you did!

Adjusting Your Aim

Michael Jordan said, I’ve missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. Twenty six times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”

Michael didn’t give up in the face of failure. He paid attention to what worked and what didn’t work, adjusted his aim and didn’t let the missed shots keep him from trying again.

We need to do the same.

Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck found through research that one’s mindset makes all the difference. With what Dweck calls a “fixed mindset,” people believe that their intelligence and abilities are pretty much carved in stone, unable to be developed. If Michael Jordan had felt that way, he might have stopped trying after the first missed shots.

It takes a leap of faith to keep moving toward one’s goals in the face of failure, especially when one has ADHD. But we can learn to develop what Dweck calls a “growth mindset,” the belief that we can build on our inborn intelligence and talents through dedication and effort. This mindset can help us learn from our mistakes, more easily move toward our goals, and continue to grow and change throughout our lives.

Missteps are part of life whether you have ADHD or not. But it seems that those with ADHD feel each misstep that much more. Instead of beating ourselves up for things not going as they might, we can look at what happened and ask, “What did I learn from this?” It helps to anticipate what might get in the way of our goals as we readjust our plans. And then we can take the next shot with confidence that it will work…or that we can adjust our aim again to get closer to our goal.

Give us a call. We would be delighted to talk with you about how ADHD coaching might help you adjust your aim and move toward your goals with ease.

Wacky Ways to Succeed with ADHD

Sarah and I are very happy to be contributing authors to the ADHD Awareness Book Project’s Wacky Ways to Succeed with ADHD, joining other ADHD coaches and experts from around the world in sharing strategies, stories and tips to help people live well with ADHD.

WackyWays3DWeb

What I love about the idea of the book is the permission to find your own way to circumvent challenges, however “wacky” they might seem to someone else.  It’s an invitation to experiment, play with possibility, and use the creative, out-of-the-box thinking that is so common to people with ADHD.

HONOR YOUR UNIQUENESS

Every person with ADHD has a unique combination of strengths, values, interests, and challenges.  As people pinpoint what is getting in their way, they are one step closer to crafting personalized strategies that can help them work around things that do not come as easily for them.  We learn from what didn’t work and we build on what has worked in the past, tweaking as necessary until we find something that allows our strengths to shine!  And if the strategies stop working after a while, we figure out new ways to work more effectively, focus more easily, and keep starting on projects until they get done.

One person might go to sleep in their workout clothes so that they are much more likely to exercise when they wake up.  Someone else might program the coffee maker to brew at a certain time so they can gently awaken to the smell of coffee ready to be poured.

FIND WHAT WORKS FOR YOU

We can get stuck in the shoulds, thinking “I shouldn’t have to do X, I should do Y.”  But just because someone else does something a certain way doesn’t mean that we have to use the same strategy.  We need to find out own, albeit wacky, ways that work for us.

So experiment a little!  Be creative!  Find your own “wacky” but effective-for-you ways that help you live and flourish with ADHD!

And if we can help you devise personalized strategies that work with your ADHD, feel free to contact us at Info@FocusForEffectiveness.com.

Lead With Your Strengths

You build a life on your talents and strengths – what is good and right about you – not on your weaknesses, however skillfully they might be corrected. – Dr. Edward Hallowell, Delivered From Distraction

Can you name your personal strengths? When asked that question, most people stumble for an answer. A 2001 study in the U.K found that only about 1/3 of the people can identify their own strengthsWe can safely assume that the numbers are greatly reduced for people with ADHD.

It’s frustrating to have one’s ADHD weaknesses and challenges come to mind much more easily than one’s strengths and gifts. It’s no wonder, really, as ADHD challenges seem to be ever present, somehow overshadowing the strengths that we bring to the world.

Advantages of Using Strengths

Despite people’s perhaps natural tendency to orient toward weaknesses, we know through research that people who use their strengths are happier, more confident, have higher levels of self-esteem, have more energy and vitality, experience less stress, are more resilient, are more likely to achieve their goals, perform better – and are more engaged – at work, as well as being more effective at developing themselves and growing as individuals. (A. Linley, J. Willars and R. Biswas-Diener, The Strengths Book)

It Starts With Awareness

To a certain extent, focusing on the negative is a survival technique ~ we need to be aware of the lion that is about to pounce. However, after a lifetime of frequent frustration and challenges, focusing on the negative can become a habit. Fortunately, we can change habits that don’t serve us….and it starts with awareness.

Identify Your Strengths

So how do you move forward?  The first step is to identify your strengths; you can do so by taking the free 15-minute VIA Survey. There’s an adult survey and one for youth ages 10-17. Taking the survey will move you toward recognizing, appreciating and remembering your strengths so you can build on them for more and more success.

If we can be of assistance as you identify and use your strengths in new and different ways, contact us at info@FocusForEffectiveness.com.

What Are Your “Magic Wand” Wishes?

If you had a magic wand, and you could – with one touch of this magic wand – give yourself the strategies, the skills, the insight or the appreciation that would serve you, what would your magic wand wishes be?

As individuals with ADHD have very unique combinations of strengths and challenges, the answers vary from person to person, but typical responses include:

  • focus without constant distraction
  • stop procrastinating and start on things that need to be done
  • actually finish what I start
  • prioritize
  • get organized
  • keep track of things that I have to do
  • keep track of my belongings (phone, keys, glasses, etc.)
  • get to places or get stuff done on time
  • understand and accept my ADHD
  • keep going when things get tough
  • use my gifts rather than being stopped by my ADHD challenges
  • not be ruled by my impulses
  • have more confidence in myself

The magic wand question is a good one to ask yourself.  What do I really want?  What ADHD traits would I like to get a handle on?  What would make me happier and more efficient?  What would allow me to flourish with ADHD?

And then, with a coach, a friend, or your own wise counsel, take a breath and begin planning how to realize those desires.

Don’t try to change everything at once, and recognize that it’s probably best to start small so you can sustain the changes.  Those small successes create a self-reinforcing positive spiral that allow you the momentum to keep adding habits that work for you.

So what are your magic wand wishes?  Feel free to comment below.  And if we can be of assistance in helping you plan how to realize your magic wand wishes, contact us at info@focusforeffectiveness.com.

Too Much of a Good Thing?

Right now I am at the Attention Deficit Disorder Association’s annual conference, THE conference for adults with ADHD. And I am exhausted. And it’s only the second day. I wonder how many other conference attendees are feeling the same way. So many people. So many decisions. So much to think about. Don’t get me wrong – it’s all great, but sometimes situations can be too much of a good thing.

So how do you survive in a too-much environment, even a wonderful too-much environment, with humor and sanity intact?

Below are my notes to myself that I want to post on my conference brochure, my iPhone, and my hotel room mirror ~ to help me remember what my intentions are for these days.

  • Go slow and focus. There are so many sessions I want to go to, so many people I want to talk with, so much information that is rattling around in my brain. I need to remember to sip, not gulp. I will meet lots of cool people, see friends and colleagues, have fascinating conversations, and listen to engaging presentations. But I can only do one thing at a time. So I really need to pay attention to what I am doing now, focusing on who or what is in front of me.
  • Take time for self-care. Find a way to get enough sleep, eat healthily, and exercise.  It’s worth the time to plan for these things because I will get so much more out of the conference if I do. And if I need to miss a speaker to take some time for myself, go for a walk, take a nap, or whatever it is that will help me be at my best, it’s more than okay. (I can always buy the recordings to the sessions.)
  • Give myself permission to be human. Yes, I went down the wrong hallway, lost my key, forgot someone’s name whom I just met. Again. But it’s okay. It really is. Especially at a conference for those with ADHD. If I can’t myself here, where can I be? 
  • Stretch myself. I get overwhelmed with big crowds. So it’s fine to engage in meaningful one-on-one conversations with people because that’s who I am…but I will do myself a favor by getting out of my comfort zone, even a little bit. Seeking out maybe just one person I don’t know and introducing myself. Approaching a group of people and joining in the conversation. Gracefully exiting a conversation to meet/greet other people. The point is to do what feels natural – and then stretch myself, even 5%.
  • Review what I learned to let it sink in. The overwhelm of a conference can get in the way of remembering all the new information. So I need to take the time at the end of the day to write down the names of the people I met, go over my notes of the sessions I attended, and digest it all. Otherwise, it’s all just a blur of names and faces and words.
  • Appreciate. I am so fortunate to be in this situation – listening to and talking with ADHD luminaries, meeting new people who truly “get” ADHD, staying at a lovely venue, learning and laughing and sharing…I need to pause every now and then and drink it in, appreciating the opportunity and savoring it all.

Days filled with good things are wonderful, but they can be overwhelming. It’s helpful to step back a bit and think about your intentions. How can you make the most of the day and the many opportunities for interactions and learning? Setting an intention for what you do – and how you want to do those things – is helpful, especially for those times when the situation has the promise of too much of a good thing.

See You at the ADDA Conference

Roxanne Fouché, Mindy Schwartz Katz and Sarah D. Wright are going to be busy at the Attention Deficit Disorder Association’s 25th Anniversary International Adult AD/HD Conference in Orlando.

On Thursday, July 24th Roxanne, Mindy and Sarah will be speaking at a pre-conference session entitled, “Everything You Ever Wanted to Know about ADHD Coaching* *And didn’t even know to ask!”  

And on Sunday, July 27th Roxanne and Mindy will be presenting “Happiness and ADHD: Create a Flourishing Life with Evidence-Based Strategies.

If you are going to the ADDA Conference, come by and say “Hi!”

Work With Your Strengths, Values and Passions

In this Venn diagram there are three intersecting circles where your strengths, values and passions might be written.

intersecting circles and flow

In the circle on the bottom are the things you do well – the many strengths that you have, the things that people compliment you on, and the things about yourself that you might feel most proud.

In the circle on the top left are the things that are important to you – your values, the meaning or purpose in your life. It could be love, service, supporting a cause that you feel strongly about – there is no right or wrong here. It’s what drives you.

In the circle on the top right are the things that you love to do – your interests, your passions, and for those with ADHD, sometimes the things that you find yourself doing instead of what you set out to do. These are the things that you would do for free, but hopefully get someone to pay you for.

The place where the circles intersect is where people are most happy, at their best and most successful … and this is where our ADHD challenges don’t show up as readily, if at all.

Think about it: You are doing what you love to do, you are really good at it and it’s important to you. You are happy. You lose track of time. You are rocking it, whatever “it” is. And it feels good. Have you ever been on the field and just zoned in on the ball, perhaps surprising yourself or others about how focused and determined (and successful) you are? Have you ever been visited by your muse when you are doing something creative, and the words or images flow seemingly without effort?

Positive psychologists would call this the state of “flow” but you might call it “being in the zone,”  “totally immersed” or “in the moment.” It’s this place where you are obviously at your best – it’s no coincidence that this is also the place where your “ADHD shadow” is the smallest. You might call this high noon for the ADHD shadow, where the shadow exists, but it isn’t very apparent to yourself – or to others.

So recognizing that we all have our moments of flow, the question is: How can arrange our lives so that we are more engaged, more successful, and happier more of the time? 

Ask yourself:

  • What is important to me?  What do I value most highly?
  • What are my strengths?  What do I do particularly well?
  • What really interests me?  What do I feel passionate about?

The answers to those questions will help you find ways to have more “in the zone” moments where you are at your best … and able to do your best.

And, of course, if we can be of assistance to you as you strive for more of those positive moments, contact us at info@FocusForEffectiveness.com.

The “ADHD Shadow” at High Noon

I call it the “ADHD shadow.”

Our ADHD shadow represents just how visible our ADHD challenges are to ourselves and others. Although it would be nice, our ADHD challenges aren’t just going to magically disappear. They stick to us like a shadow, ever present (even at night – you just have to look harder).

When we need to do something that is complex and has many moving parts, and especially something that we are very reluctant to do – taxes, in my case – our ADHD shadow is apt to be very long and very visible. Why? Because our struggles with particular executive functions (e.g., time management, sustained focus, organization, prioritization, etc.), are that much more apparent in that circumstance. We have a long shadow like one seen in the early morning or late afternoon.

However, when we are doing what we love, what we are good at and what we value, we are “in the zone,” and nothing can stop us. It could be playing on the soccer field, painting a picture, or doing a school/work project that is particularly intriguing. We are totally present, positively hyperfocused, and the things that we typically struggle with just aren’t getting in the way. In those circumstances, we have a short shadow like one you might see at noon.

As Thom Hartmann has proposed, ADHD is more of a context disorder.  ADHD shows up in some contexts much more than others; in those circumstances when we are being asked to demonstrate the very skills that we struggle with, our challenges are more apparent to ourselves and to others.

The trick, then, is to discover (or rediscover) in what contexts or circumstances we are at our best, when our ADHD shadow is at “high noon,” barely noticeable to ourselves or to the outside world.

To help figure that out, you might think about – or write about – a time when you were at your best.  In all likelihood, whatever that circumstance was, you were doing something that you valued, something that you brought energy to and that gave you energy, something that you did well – and you hummed along, showing yourself and the world what you were capable of.

Questions to ponder:

  • What were the circumstances of your being at your best?
  • What were you doing?
  • What was present and what was absent?
  • In what way were your strengths demonstrated?
  • How might you take these lessons and apply them to current situations?

The more you know about yourself and the contexts in which you are at your best, the more easily you can engineer your life to have more of those successful “high noon” moments.

And if we can be of assistance as you work to discover how you can be at your best while working around any ADHD challenges, contact us at info@FocusForEffectiveness.com. We would be delighted to help you shorten that proverbial ADHD shadow and help you flourish with ADHD.

Living Well and Flourishing with ADHD

I received my Certificate in Positive Psychology (CiPP) last weekend, having studied with Dr. Tal Ben-Shahar and Dr. Maria Sirois for 11 months. At the alumni weekend, I had the opportunity to make a presentation with my friend and colleague, Mindy Schwartz Katz, about Positive Psychology and ADHD. Positive psychology is not all smiley faces and half-full glasses. Positive psychology is the scientific study of well-being – basically, the study of what makes life worth living and how people can live well and flourish. And, of course, there is great applicability to the ADHD world, which is what makes this study so exciting.

I am happy to have my Certificate in Positive Psychology in hand, and the CiPP community in my heart. I am feeling blessed to be able to serve the work forward. Thank you Tal Ben-Shahar, Maria Sirois and Megan McDonough for your inspiration!

For more information about how positive psychology strategies can help you live well and flourish with ADHD, contact us at info@FocusForEffectiveness.com.