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"

ADHD and the Gift of Being Distracted

I have ADHD. I strive to reframe and rephrase my disadvantages and turn them into advantages. It’s something I try to do as much as possible. ADHD is a serious disorder that affects millions of people. The symptoms cause very serious challenges. Each person develops their own, personal coping skills in order to deal with their symptoms. Many of us, as I was, can easily become overwhelmed and will need very specific, specialized treatment, perhaps even medication. My point of view is part of my coping skills. It’s been working for me and I will tell you why.

Over the years I have learned that I tend to get bored with certain tasks quickly and as a consequence I become easily distracted. To compensate, what I have learned to do is multi-task. That’s part of my answer to distraction. I spend short bursts of time on projects and quickly turn to the next. I don’t stay on any one task for too long unless I become hyper focused on one of them. In that case I have alarms preset in my smart phone (lunch, dinner – you know, the important stuff). I didn’t say it was easy to control my distraction, just that I try to use it to my advantage.

Many of us with ADHD think we have to do everything ourselves and we beat ourselves up for forgetting something, being distracted or juggling too many things at the same time. Even normal people have difficulty doing everything alone. Ask any housewife with a couple kids if she has enough on her plate! We have to find ways to allow ourselves to have assistance and there’s nothing wrong with hiring a coach, having a mentor or seeking therapy and reading helpful books. Doing everything alone can be overwhelming, even getting treatment for ADHD.

It’s interesting to note that I have less difficulty with certain ADHD issues, largely because I have learned not to beat myself up over them, or worry about them incessantly. Doing those two things tend to make the symptoms much worse for me. Oh gosh, indeed!

I have become hyper aware of my abilities and capabilities and, even more importantly, my limitations. With those things in mind I work in those directions that benefit me. Growing up with undiagnosed ADHD I was constantly pressured to improve my weaknesses and somehow be normal, but in doing so, my strengths were over looked and my talents were not nurtured. That’s a shame for so many with ADHD who are so talented, because they are never fully able to explore their talents. They are overwhelmed with modifying their behavior, complying and generally trying to overcome their faults.

As an adult with ADHD, I have taken the opposite approach and work hard on my strengths and find practical types of assistance for my weaknesses. I no longer spend inordinate amounts of time trying to become what I am not. However, I have found by utilizing the proper assistance, working in the areas of my strengths and cultivating a positive mental attitude, I cannot only survive, but also thrive.

I tend to think that too many of us with ADHD have come to believe that we must be something other than what we are, due to all the demands on us to be different. It’s a shame, because I think we lose a lot of our natural talents in the process. And we wonder why we don’t feel good about ourselves and too many of us become depressed. It’s little wonder, really. We all want to improve, but at what point do we take credit for our innate value, talents and other benefits? Too often in our efforts to deal with the symptoms of ADHD, our natural talents become a blur, if not completely forgotten or dismissed.

What’s the point of thriving if I don’t feel good about myself? That’s become most important to me. I perform much better in all areas of my life when I feel good about myself. I tend to think that many of us with ADHD are so used to being in trouble for not being good at this or that, that we come to ignore or even forget what we are good at. I truly believe that if we could just refocus a little on our strengths, talents and what we truly enjoy we would be much better off and feel more satisfied. This doesn’t mean we can ignore our obligations, but it does mean that we sometimes have value that we may ignore or disregard.

My distracted nature previously caused me a lot of heartache and I tried to find ways to fight it, compensate for it and overcome it, even curse it and stomp on it, but it wasn’t until I found ways to make it work for me and view it as a strength that it began to work to my advantage. Do I still have challenges with distraction? Of course, I do.

Interestingly, this process of reframing a disadvantage into an advantage wasn’t really what I would call a fully conscious one, it’s just that when through therapy I started to discover my worth and value that I started to turn in another direction mentally. If someone would have told me prior to therapy that this was possible, I probably would have told them they were out of their mind! Let’s be realistic, after all. Let’s not get my expectations up only to feel hurt and let down later. That’s peculiar really, because when already at the bottom, already feeling hurt and let down, the only way to go, is up.

Ah, the gift of being oblivious to reality. I tend to believe some perceptions of realistic thinking holds more people back than ADHD does. We just had Thanksgiving because someone discovered the world wasn’t flat after all, which wasn’t really realistic thinking, at the time. (Ah, this could be my Thanksgiving message!)

Curiously, the more I appreciate my distracted nature, the less distracted I am. When writing this I got up a few times just to look out the window, poor some coffee and chat with my wonderful wife. I didn’t do those things intentionally; they were impulses I recognize as my ADHD. Instead of beating myself up, I view them this way: I stopped to smell the roses and since it didn’t bother me in the least I was able to appreciate the view from the window (we had snowfall last night), enjoy the tasty coffee and especially savor talking to Joan, and I ultimately got back on track without a hiccup!

By appreciating what I am doing, instead of getting upset (did you see those kittens in the coffee cups!!!), my ADHD symptoms do not pose the potential downward spiral that they used to. Now, that my friends, is what I call an advantage and I accept openly the view out the window of the snow, the delicious coffee and especially the wonderful moment with my wife as precious gifts.

Of course, that’s me and part of my coping skills. Life’s too short as it is; I’ll take the gifts when and where I can, and be thankful for them.