It doesn’t matter whether you are making resolutions for the New Year or deciding in July to make some positive changes in your life: If you have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), follow-through might be a problem. You may not have any difficulty in coming up with a list of behaviors and attitudes you want to change, but inattention, distraction, and your tendency to become easily bored probably get in the way of staying motivated and keeping up with the changes.
If ADHD tendencies are standing in your path to success, talk to someone about treatment. ADHD symptoms show up differently and there isn’t a one-size-fits-all treatment. For many people, medications help improve focus and follow-through. But if medication isn’t for you, cognitive behavioral therapy or working with an ADHD coach might help. Treating your ADHD first will improve your chances of success.
Overcoming mental obstacles
For many people, it is the inner critic that stops positive change in its tracks. You might be telling yourself: “I can’t do this,” or “No matter how many times I try to change, it never works,” or “I’ll never follow through; why bother trying?” Past failed attempts might be influencing your chances for future success. Your inner critic is probably your worst enemy.
In order to quiet down this voice, pay attention to it. Listen to what you tell yourself. Write down your negative thoughts. The following are some tips for changing your thoughts:
Pay attention to all-encompassing words, such as always or never. It’s rare that anything happens either never or always. Rewrite these statements using “sometimes” instead, for example, instead of telling yourself: “I never follow-through,” change to “Sometimes I don’t follow through.” Changing this one word can change how you think of the situation; it changes from one of no hope to something that is a possibility. You might want to list times you have succeeded in the past, even if those are few and far between.
Write down negative thoughts. Immediately reword it to be more positive and accurate. For example, you might think: “I always lose things. There isn’t any reason to try to change. It isn’t going to work.” Write down: “I usually lose things. It is frustrating, but a new approach might help.”
Talk to your inner critic. Some people find it helpful to give their inner voice a name and speak directly to it, reminding him or her of times you have succeeded or reasons why you can succeed. For example, suppose your inner voice, Tom, is telling you that you can’t make friends. You might respond with: “Tom, that just isn’t true. I do have a hard time making friends, but I have had many friends in my life, so it can’t be true that I can’t make friends. It’s more accurate to say I find it difficult to make friends.”
Make a plan
Choose one thing about your life you want to change. Trying to make numerous changes at one time often becomes overwhelming and increases the chance of failure. Instead focus on one small change; once you have mastered that change, move on to the next item on your list.
Put it in writing. Writing it down helps solidify the idea in your mind. Write down your overall goal, the steps to reach the goal, and the reasons you want to make the change.
Decide why this change matters to you. This serves as your motivation. You want to make sure the reasoning is personal, for example, wanting to be more organized because your neighbor is super organized or your sister always complains that you aren’t organized isn’t good motivation. Instead, decide on a change that will benefit you personally and make your life easier or happier.
List all the steps needed to reach your goal. Just as breaking down a task makes it easier to complete, breaking down a goal into steps makes it easier to achieve. Don’t rush the process; focus on one step at a time.
Consider ways you can make it easier to reach your goal. Are there changes you can make in your environment to increase the odds of success? For example, if your goal is to get out of the house on time each morning, can you create a launching pad where you gather up everything you need the night before? You might even want to write a checklist to post at your launching pad so you can quickly check to see if you have everything ready.
Start slow. If you make one small change at a time, it can quickly add up to a major change. For example, if you want to start eating healthy, trading in one junk food each day for an apple or a bowl of grapes might help. Once you feel comfortable with that change, you can add one more small change in your diet.
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Eileen Bailey is a freelance health writer. She is the author of What Went Right: Reframe Your Thinking for a Happier Now, Idiot’s Guide to Adult ADHD, Idiot’s Guide to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Essential Guide to Overcoming Obsessive Love, and Essential Guide to Asperger’s Syndrome. She can be found on Twitter @eileenmbailey and on Facebook at eileenmbailey.