Motivational and inspirational writer, Bryan Hutchinson is the author of several books about life with ADHD including the highly acclaimed, best selling "One Boy′s Struggle: A Memoir" and the author of the hilarious eBook that went viral "10 Things I Hate about ADHD"

6 Life-Changing Reasons You Should Celebrate the Positives of Your ADD

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From Bryan: This is a guest post by Andrea Nordstrom. Andrea is a mental health therapist and the author of the blog The Art of ADD. Be sure to check out her blog and get a copy of The ADD Artist’s Toolkit (free).

Having ADD sucks.

Did I just say that? Hmm, looks like I did.

Not being able to breathe under water also sucks. Why are fish and a limited number of mammals the only sentient beings blessed with the ability to navigate life fully immersed in water? I would love to frolic under the sea for hours without coming up for oxygen.

But I wasn’t born with gills, so I can’t.

I also really hate the fact that I can’t fly. I could get to work a lot quicker if things like traffic and gravity wouldn’t get in my way. The view would be amazing and the commute a heck of a lot more exciting if I could soar above it all, the wind in my sails.

But my bones are too heavy. And then there’s the little matter of having no wings. As fate would have it, I can’t fly either.

Come to think of it, there are a lot of things that suck about being human. Dependency on clothes for dignity and body warmth is quite a hassle. Having wisdom teeth that force their way through your gums like a latecomer onto an over-capacity commuter train, only to be ripped out years later when they never fully emerge – is irritating and pointless. And don’t even get me started on the pain of child birth (or child-rearing, for that matter).

Being human sucks, when you think about it.

But guess what? We don’t. We don’t think about it because we’ll never be anything but human (in this incarnation anyway). So we don’t waste much effort wishing we were birds or fish or any other sort of being because… we are what we are:

Human beings.

While we can’t fly or breathe under water, we are capable of love. We are aware of ourselves and our world, and are capable of innovation to make the things around us better. We can make ourselves better. And we don’t eat our offspring or defecate on unsuspecting passersby (my apologies to those of you who do – I’m not judging, just making a generalization).

The point is that as humans, we accept we have limitations. And though we may stretch our abilities and boundaries to endless lengths, we still have limitations. But we find a way around them.

You and I just happen to be human beings of the ADD variety.

Clearly, certain aspects of having ADD suck. I don’t need to point out which parts – I’m sure you know what sucks for you. But some of it can be pretty good too, when you come to think of it. Ah, but there it is! We don’t often think about it. The sheer obviousness of our limitations makes it so much easier to focus on them rather than the fact that we are capable of so much more.

What’s good about ADD anyway?

I’m glad you asked. It’s about time I got to the point. My first answer to that question is … a lot. Too much, in fact, to get into it here. My suggestion is that a good starting point in discovering the answer to this question would be to get yourself a copy of Bryan’s The Brilliant Reality of ADHD.

How’s that for avoiding the question?

I can be a stubborn, insolent creature who won’t be told what to do unless there is a darn good reason. I suspect I may not be the only one. As such, I am going to ignore the “what” and delve straight into the “why” of the matter. In my experience, long before people will consider shifting their perspective on an issue, they need several good reasons as to why they should even bother.

So let me reframe the question…

Why should you consider having ADD as something positive?

For several reasons and here they are:

1. Looking for the positives helps you improve.

We know the ADD life isn’t an easy one. But no one ever said that “positive” was synonymous with “easy”.  One definition holds the word positive as “tending towards progress or improvement; moving in a beneficial direction”.

ADDers are always in motion – in motion of thought and/or body. When you focus on the positives, you are pushing yourself in the direction of progress, improvement and beneficial direction.

2. Focusing on the negatives is futile.

Some people hold the opinion that seeing ADD as a positive thing is merely a “self-congratulatory delusion (that) makes a mockery of ADHD” (yes – an actual critical comment on one of my blog posts!). All they can see are the negatives.

I understand how easy it is to get trapped in this perspective. Sometimes experience makes it difficult to see anything but the downfalls of ADD, especially when the infrastructure of modern society is built on systems that favour organized, linear and didactic operating styles (aka non-ADD).

But still, when I meet someone who argues incessantly about the curse of ADD, I like to ask them:

How’s that BELIEF working for you?

While ADD is a real phenomenon, the idea of it being a curse is nothing more than a belief. “It is neither bad nor good, but thinking that makes it so” (some guy named Shakespeare). Focusing on the negatives won’t make them go away but it will keep you stuck. Building on your strengths will crowd out the effect that the negative aspects have on your life.

Is it a curse that you can’t fly? Maybe – but not if you have other ways of getting to your destination.

3. ADD makes you unique.

 “A work of art is the unique result of a unique temperament.”

~Oscar Wilde. (Click Here to tweet that if you like.)

Normal is boring. Innovation, progress, creativity … all come from seeing and doing things in a different way than they have been done before. The ADD brain is built to be different for a reason. Yes, that is only my opinion. I can’t prove it scientifically, but no one can prove me wrong either.

We experience our environments through movement, get distracted by connections others don’t see, find roads less travelled inspired by unexpected impulses, and intuitively sense the less salient characteristics of any given situation simply because we can’t help but notice it all.

It’s not normal. But it’s not bad either. If there was no “different”, there’d be no Edison, Einstein or Branson.

4. Challenge inspires growth.

“Life’s challenges are not supposed to paralyze you; they’re supposed to help you discover who you are.”

~Bernice Johnson Reagon

No one has ever understood the meaning of life but I happen to think that the endeavour of it is not the pursuit of happiness (that’s just one tangent), but the pursuit of growth. No one and nothing can stop you from growing as a person. You take that ability with you, no matter where you are in life or what your circumstances are.

Having ADD means that every day, often multiple times a day, there are opportunities of growth.

After metamorphosis, a butterfly lives on average 10 days. Seems a bit pointless to go through all that hard work of changing for such a short reward doesn’t it? But what would the world be like without butterflies?

ADD is your challenge. But you, along with your challenges, are important threads in the beautiful tapestry of life.

5. It is what it is.

“If you can’t have the one you love baby, love the one you’re with.”

~Crosby, Stills & Nash)

And if you can’t be the one you want to be baby, be the one you are.

The ADD way is how you are built. ADD isn’t going anywhere. You can rue the fact that you can’t fly, but you have feet made for walking and running and dancing my friend, so why neglect them in search of wings that will never manifest?

Having ADD, like being human, has both good and bad qualities to it. One quality doesn’t nullify the other. Focusing on the positives makes the experience a lot more enjoyable. Being okay with your “negatives” makes the experience much more authentic. And being authentic makes the whole thing a lot more beautiful.

6. Self-acceptance is not only for you, but for others as well.

I happen to believe that as ADDers, we are ambassadors for each other. Accepting my ADD self, as it is, has been extraordinarily helpful for me. But more importantly, it has opened the doors for others in this tribe to accept themselves as they are.

Lead by example. Nothing is better learned through example than self-acceptance. And most of life’s challenges are much easier tackled when you begin from a stance of self-acceptance.

I haven’t given you a lot of “how to’s” here but I hope I have given you some darn good reasons why you should start looking for the positive sides of your ADD.

What positives has ADD brought to your life? Share in the comments.

~Andrea

As you can tell I have opened my blog for guest posts. If you would like to guest post, please do read the guidelines and then feel free to send me your idea. ~Bryan

Photo by macieklew via flickr creative commons.

Rory F. Stern, PsyD October 16, 2012 at 4:16 pm

Bryan – Thanks for bringing Andrea here and allowing her to share such a great, inspirational piece of writing.

Andrea – Wow!

Yes! Yes! Yes! Yes! Yes! Yes!!!!!!

What a great intro. You have captured the essence of an ongoing debate amongst the ADD / ADHD community… Is having this condition a life sentence or an opportunity?

As an advocate for children and families affected by ADHD all over the world, this is such a powerful message that more people need to read. With so much focus and attention (no pun intended) on what people with ADHD seemingly “can’t” do or struggle with, it’s as if we forget about the rest of the Non-ADHD world who also wrestles and struggles with so many things as well.

Are time management challenges unique to people with ADHD?

Do people without ADHD have perfect organization skills?

Are students with ADHD ALL straight A students?

I think we can all answer and agree with a resounding, NO!

Yet why do so many people focus on what we are unable to do or challenged with, and forget about what we are good at doing?

Why aren’t we talking about that more? Why aren’t we focusing on these factors, and helping people with these challenges?

And by the way, who in the world doesn’t benefit from better organization skills?

Bravo!

Andrea Nordstrom October 17, 2012 at 4:09 am

Hi Rory –

Thanks for your comments, I’m glad that you liked my post. You highlight such an important issue here. The things we struggle with as ADDers are things that everyone struggles with, at least some of the time. Sometimes we’re lead to believe that we are broken because we don’t fall into that 90% category. Funny that we used to think that about lefthanders too.

I think the problem is that we do so often forget what we are good at because we falsely believe that the stuff everyone else is good at is more important. I am thrilled to hear that we have someone so insightful and passionate as you advocating for those affected by ADHD. Thank you so much for sharing your inspiring thoughts!

Paul Kemp October 16, 2012 at 7:00 pm

Thanks, Andrea for a fun and creative reminder of the benefits of living within — or without, if we can get away with it — the constraints of how we each are mentally and physically equipped.

When we see how imperfectly this world is being run by the majority who don’t have the gift of ADD vision, it should remind us how necessary and good it is to have the contributions of those who can see things differently — and remind us how it might be better.

Bravo, indeed!

Andrea Nordstrom October 17, 2012 at 4:13 am

Hi Paul -

What a good point! When we think of our ADD ways as being inept and somehow “less-than”, we would do well to remember that the world is certainly an imperfect place and that just because the majority of people do things in a different way, it doesn’t mean its better. I think we all bring skills to the table, ADD or not. Maybe our skills are a little unconventional but necessary nonetheless.

Thanks for sharing!

Daniel Bustamante October 16, 2012 at 7:55 pm

I’m very new on this web site. Last week’s third dismissal at work this year has forced me to shift my ADHD mode from “denial” to (finally) “acceptance”. If I were homosexual, this very comment would probably represent my “coming out of the closet”. I’m desperate to know more about ADD. Specially how to deal with it in corporate environments (Ex: Would you tell your boss about your condition? and more importantly: Would you talk about this during a job interview?) Anyway, the article is about the “positives of ADD” so let’s focus and talk about it. (me? Focus? hahaha I’ll give it a try). Congrats to the author!.

I don’t think there’s anything good about our inattention. However, impulsivity can be associated to spontaneity which is a positive characteristic. Example: Last minute travel, occasional random spontaneous personals favors to people. Also, we fear the unknown much less than the average person. Now, regarding our hyperactivity, we can be seen as outgoing and opinionated people, which is positive ,too. We have more physical energy which allows us to practice sports more often.

If I were to choose only one positive aspect of ADD, I would say: “Overall learning potential” as opposed to the “learning problems” they say we have. (and this is why I always refused to accept my ADD condition). Hyperactivity can be associated to Impatience and “Being Impatient” has a positive side, too. No matter what kind of work I do, I thrive for efficiency, cleared space, maximum use of resources and increased productivity. If a task needs to be done I want it done NOW. This can be good in many situations. The opposite is true though. Specially, if the task requires involvement of other people.

I TOTALLY relate to the following 3 statements on the article:

1. “Normal is boring.” …which is why Unconventional wisdom is often more interesting and more fun. This creates a natural desire to know more, to know how things work, to be challenged and grow. Curiosity is the key positive word here.

2. “connections others don’t see” If managed properly, our difficulty remaining focused may(should?) also be seen as an opportunity to analyze and explore options, as a moment where we tend to avoid “black-and-white thinking, as a situation where we’re using our ability to remain flexible and Open…which are very positive traits. As a result of the differences in the way “we” and “they” see things, we increase our general Awareness and Consciousness skills. In my eyes, ADD helps a lot in shaping Critical thinking skills.

3. “I can be a stubborn, insolent creature who won’t be told what to do unless there is a darn good reason.” Well, the good thing about this is, stubbornness and determination go together. It’s almost impossible to separate these 2 concepts I think and there’s no human progress on any level without human determination. On the flipside, we tend to be more politically incorrect (at least me). Point 3 is the reason why I might find it hard to live in the USA. (see point 2?. this is an excellent example. But hey that’s another subject. )

Last but not least. I’m starting to think:

1. ADD may help improve writing skills (Hey!. English is not my native language by the way…don’t judge them too hard)
2. We share a common sense of humor. A bit dark/sarcastic. (Anyone dislike the Simpsons? No one. See what I mean?)

Thank you all,
DB

Andrea Nordstrom October 17, 2012 at 4:19 am

Hey Daniel –

Sorry to hear about your dismissal but by the way you shine through your comments I am sure that it won’t be a long unemployment. I’m glad that you are able to connect your ADD to having positive attributes. If I were to suggest that inattention does have some benefits, I would say that inattention can open the door for creativity. I’m not saying that its always good, but that it can have some benefits.

Whether or not you tell employers about ADHD is really a personal choice – there are pros and cons to it. But certainly coming to a place of acceptance in yourself is the most important part. And a bit of humour doesn’t hurt either!

Thanks for sharing.

Doug Jones October 16, 2012 at 8:51 pm

Enjoyed the post. I grew up before ADD had a name and was always accuse of daydreaming and spacing out. I was 40 before I was actually diagnosed. By then I had accepted me for who I am and I’m happy with that. I’ve. 2 basic modes of operation; I’m either almost completely unfocused or ultra focused to the exclusion of everything else.

Every individual has uniqueness. I’ve learned to embrace mine and enjoy the pleasures while minimizing the faux pas.

Life should be a pleasure.

Thanks again for the post.

Andrea Nordstrom October 17, 2012 at 4:25 am

Thanks for your comment Doug.

Your self acceptance is exactly the kind of example that should be set for other ADDers. I, too, was diagnosed in my late thirties. Perhaps that has aided me in self-acceptance as well. As you get older you naturally burn out on trying to be someone else.

I know that unfocussed & hyperfocussed dichotomy well. A client recently referred to it as the “peaks and valleys” you need to learn to ride – a visual that resonates with me!

All the best to you Doug!

Scott October 17, 2012 at 3:35 am

Thank you Andrea!

I was just diagnosed with ADD last spring. Looking around and talking to friends about it I’m realizing that the visualization skills I have are directly linked to my ADD. I make musical instruments and I’m not sure I would have reached the level I have without this wonderful way of being. Yes, I could use much better organization skills, but I’m beginning to learn about how to use visualization for that too. It’s also a good reason for me to get better exercise habits. I’m thankful for having ADD, but even more thankful for getting a diagnosis and being able to learn how to make it work even better for me.
Scott

Andrea Nordstrom October 17, 2012 at 4:30 am

I love to hear comments like yours Scott!

You sound like you have found the perfect fit for your skills and are using them to your advantage. I’m a visual person too and have found a lot of success in enlisting visualization to get better organized.

What a powerful statement “I’m thankful for having ADD”. Embracing yourself as you are is something most people (even without ADD) struggle with – but it can make all the difference in your life. Well done to you and thanks so much for sharing!

Josephine October 24, 2012 at 3:16 pm

This post was really great. And I think exactly like you it seems. You don’t glorify it but sees that there’s good and bad sides to it. I hope it’s okay that I post a link in my blog to this post? I feel my last post was in the negative zone. Or sorta anyway.

Bryan Hutchinson October 24, 2012 at 10:10 pm

Hi Josephine, you can certainly link to this post and you might also consider linking to Andrea’s website as well. It’s okay to fall into the negative zone, but then there’s a post like this to help pull you back up and out.

BTW all: I personally love this article!!

Bryan

Andrea Nordstrom October 29, 2012 at 5:35 am

Thanks Josephine, like Bryan says – its okay to fall to the negative sometimes – we all do. Its how long we stay there that really counts.

And thank you Bryan!

Greg November 21, 2012 at 11:06 pm

I was just diagnosed with ADD, age 32. While I am still holding down the jobs I have, successfully finished both college and grad school (prestigious, both of them, but I’m not gonna drop names) and have made some progress with my creative work–playwriting, screenwriting, webseries writing–I’m struggling with how much better off I’d be if this had been caught sooner. It’s extremely hard not to look back at the missed opportunities, failure to connect with people, etc. Hollywood is a business where people need to be hitting it big in their late 20s. I’m frustrated and, when I think about it for long enough, angry. I definitely appreciate this post; I’m just not ready to process it yet.

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