Lately I have been reading a lot about the strength based approach to managing, coping and, more importantly, striving and thriving with ADHD! It’s a contagious, positive and wonderful new movement and I like to think I have been a small part of helping push this movement into the forefront by writing my blog, my books and eBooks.
David A Crenshaw recently wrote on facebook:
©David A. Crenshaw, 2011, all rights reserved.
I really like his use of ADHD! It’s a new way of looking at ADHD. We can talk about the difficulties, the challenges and the disadvantages of ADHD all day long. We can read about and study what the science tells us and what the statistics show us, but there’s one thing I have noticed, and that is that those who believe in and live by their strengths, whereby one uses what they can do well to their advantage seem to be happier and live more fulfilling lives.
We all have weakness to be sure. However, with ADHD there’s more weakness and challenges than the average, but our hyper- vigilant over-focus on our weaknesses seems to leave us feeling worse, less motivated and to a degree, miserable and unable to desire to strive – and then when we do try to strive it’s with a deep, inner self-doubt that becomes self-sabotaging. How can anyone recognize, much less use their strengths if their focus is continuously on what they can’t do well? Do you know the answer to that question?
Here’s the thing, we can get caught up in all the mistakes we have made, or the things we have said out of turn, or even the past regrets we can’t seem to get over and allow those things to rule over us like some dark, ugly cloud, or, we can turn around and take a look at the things we can do well, yes, they do exist too – perhaps we think very fast, do not waste too much time on decisions, live to live and feel our sensitivities to the maximum. In some cases our ADHD strengths, as some of us choose to see them, bring us to levels of performance, happiness and success beyond what we would do if we didn’t have ADHD.
I know, I know, ADHD is so very bad, it’s worse than the plague… right? No, probably not, it’s a collection of symptoms which are deficiencies to be sure, but I ask you to take a look at anyone you know who focuses solely on their weaknesses and what they ‘can’t do’, even if they don’t have ADHD, and decide if you want to achieve and succeed in the ways that they do, but the problem with that is those you find who do live in their own shadow of imperfections never seem to become successful, happy or even remotely satisfied. I’ve been there and done that (who hasn’t?), but getting out of that mind-trap is what’s vitally important. Just ask yourself which life you prefer and strive for it. It’s gotta start somewhere, right?
If your idol, mentor or role model is caught in the trap of self-defeat and desires that you join him or her in their focus on defeat – how will that help you in your journey for success, happiness and fulfillment? That doesn’t sound much like a role model to me or anyone I would want to follow. I see the devil beckoning and I say: Not today, I am better than that. So are you.
Where’s your focus? My focus is on my love for my wife, my love for my writing, my love for my work and my love for life. And yes, I have ADHD, but that hasn’t stopped me – on the contrary, you are reading this because I have ADHD! It had me in its grips of hopelessness, but it didn’t win, because I found hope and held on as tight as I could (Read One Boy’s Struggle: A Memoir).
Cheers to your strengths, may they be many and may they be your focus! The true key, I believe, is to manage weaknesses the best we can (with help where needed), but not necessarily strive to master them – it’s about giving them minimal power to cause havoc and, instead allow our strengths to blossom and bear fruit in our lives. Professional therapy helped me discover the good things about myself and overcome my self-defeatist mindset. What we focus on the most is usually what we attract and do the most. Here’s a short excerpt from my latest eBook:
When professional therapy is successful people with ADHD learn to see the positives within themselves, to find their strengths, including in places that they may normally not consider strengths, even from their ADHD symptoms or traits. Here’s an example: when I hyper–focus on writing while I should be listening to my wife, that’s damaging to our relationship and is not fair to my wife. However, this doesn’t make hyper–focusing altogether a bad thing, because when I hyper–focus on writing at the right time and in the right place, that’s good and helps me write as much as I do. Professional therapy helped me not only see this difference, but also learn how to develop this difference in my life beneficially. ~ 7 Crucial Tips for Parents and Teachers of Children with ADHD .
We are all much better than we sometimes think we are. We most certainly can be our own worst enemies, and yet, by changing our view, we can become our own greatest supporter, encourager, motivator and best friend. How’s that for a change?
Focusing on strengths doesn’t miraculously cure ADHD, or take away many of its challenges, that’s not the intention, but rather to realize we are not doomed and have qualities about ourselves, even our ADHD, that’s worth more than the sum of any single part and we too can shine and be more than we ever dared dream of because we have started to dream again, but not focused on using our weaknesses to achieve our dreams, but rather, our strengths, our talents and our unquenchable desire to strive and thrive – because I wholeheartedly believe we can!
Here are some tips:
- Manage weaknesses as best as possible; however, not to the point of trying to improve them so much that they steal our entire focus.
- Improving weaknesses to make them strengths is where most people get stuck and dissatisfied in my opinion, better to improve them to the point that they are somewhat manageable.
- Better yet, seek assistance for weaknesses such as with timers, coaches, mentors and professional therapy.
- Learn to say NO to friends, neighbors and family that demand you use your weaknesses better or for their use. For example: if your friend asks you to mow their lawn while they are gone and you know you may forget or your ADD will cause you to remember at the very last possible moment (you know how that is!) then consider declining. Yes, I agree, this will not be seen as neighborly, but it’s better than your friend or neighbor returning to an uncut lawn and then the battle of ‘you promised’, ‘you can’t do anything asked of you’ and many other hurtful comments and reactions starts unnecessarily and was avoidable. Avoid these things by using the power of ‘No!’.
- Write down your strengths –the things you are good at. Seriously take an honest evaluation of what you are good at and write them down. You may be surprised at what you discover. Many of us with ADD refuse to admit to ourselves the things we are good at BECAUSE we are focused so much on what we can’t do well. If you are in therapy ask your therapist to help, or if you have a good positive friend or role model, ask them for help.
- Work to improve your strengths.
- Find ways to use your strengths as substitutes for your weaknesses. For example: back to your friend / neighbor, perhaps mowing lawns is not your cup of tea, but you love pets to the point that you are very good with them and your friend has a pet – then offer to help with the pet and suggest someone else for the lawn.
- There’s always a positive workaround to everything if we look for it, but when we are focused on our weaknesses, what we can’t do well or our constant mistakes and blunders, it is very difficult to see any positive potential workarounds, because we are not encouraged to look for them. What’s worse is that there is added pressure from friends, neighbors and even family members and the spiral continues downwards to work better at thing we already know don’t work.
- Part of what is needed is a change of focus for a change of direction, not necessarily becoming a master of the things we can’t do well and in that is where I believe ADHD becomes a continuous struggle of overriding proportions.
- There are good things about people with ADHD – you me and so many others, but I ask you: who really takes the time to notice those good qualities and benefits inherent in all of us? If your first thought is something like, but I have trouble doing “fill in the blank”, okay granted, that might be true, but you are good at doing “fill in the blank”. One of those blanks was easier to fill in than the other, probably with a multitude of stuff – why was that? Perhaps because one has been proven over and over, whereas the other one hasn’t been given the chance to be focused on and hence flourish? Perhaps.
- Last tip for today, but perhaps the most important: if there are people in your life who constantly bring you down because of your ADHD symptoms and traits or just people in general who may be bullying you to be better in the things you struggle with, sometimes it is best to step away from their influence for a while. It is very difficult to discover and utilize one’s strengths when others may be ceaselessly highlighting your weaknesses as if that’s going to help, but really is just doing exactly what emphasizes and prolongs the difficulties and struggles we deal with. Who can see anything positive when being persistently under attack?
These are just some of my ideas, opinions and thoughts, I hope they help or, at least give you food for thought?