Having ADD or AD/HD is not a life sentence for living with chronic disorganization. ADD is OFTEN accompanied by great intelligence, creative personality, and passion that absolutely CAN be channeled into a highly productive lifestyle. It requires effort, okay a LOT of effort, but there are ways to make your life simpler and easier. It IS POSSIBLE to balance structure and planning ahead with creativity, spontaneity, and freedom.
I was diagnosed with ADD last year at 48 years old. Even though I struggled and had to overcome many hurdles and challenges along the way, including my own attachment to clutter and near financial devastation (read How I got out of $25,000 in debt ) I learned to manage my issues and become more organized and now I help others overcome their emotional blocks, build confidence in themselves and learn the skills needed to master their clutter, time management, home office organizing, financial organizing and especially to manage the stress and chaos that often comes with having a ADD or creative personality type!
I still work hard to manage my own challenges, like perfectionism, overcommitting, balancing my work and personal life, and focusing in the midst of the incessant flow of ideas from my brain that nearly crushes me at times.
But in spite of my imperfections, I have learned to set limits, and say no more often so that I can focus and reduce stress. I attribute my ability to go through life with undiagnosed ADD to the fact that I am a whole person and not just someone with ADD. I have developed many other qualities, beliefs and thinking patterns that drive me to overcome my fears and challenges, accept my imperfections and work around them, and acknowledge my strengths and build on them.
Here are a few of the skills and qualities I attribute to having helped me "overcome" the odds and make a decent life for myself. Even though I often feel that I did not live up to my "full potential", I have accomplished a lot..
An incredible thirst for LEARNING. Learning from books, from mentors, teachers, bosses, colleagues, clients, and most of all from my own mistakes and failures.
MOTIVATION - Since my first day at school, my NEED TO ACHIEVE combined with my High NEED FOR ACCEPTANCE and AFFILIATION (see David McLelland's theory of motivation ALSO Maslow's Hiearchy of Needs and Herzberg's Theory of Motivation) was tremendous and maybe even inordinately strong. Because I was different, I felt I needed to achieve near perfection, just to be good enough. I was always being told I was wasting my "potential" but I wanted so badly to become the best I could be and live up to my potential. p.s. the Wikipedia on Motivation is amazing almost like a college course on it.
EMPOWERING BELIEFS - The key words above are "MY POTENTIAL" I have all those teachers, and all the books I read as a kid, to thank, because somehow, I came out believing it was POSSIBLE to be change myself. POSSIBLE to become organized. I believed that when systems didn't work for me, I needed a new system. I believed that when I was told in my report cards and performance reviews that I had to learn to "NOT INTERRUPT", to "WAIT PATIENTLY" to "NOT OVERCOMMIT" to "NOT STRIVE FOR PERFECTION, EXCELLENT IS GOOD ENOUGH" to "REALIZE THAT NOT EVERYONE COULD WORK AT MY PACE" to "TURN DOWN MY INTENSITY" and on and on, I believed it was possible that I could figure out ways to make them stop saying that! And I did, thankfully. Seriously, when I look back my performance reviews when I worked in the corporate world, they read like a classic case study in Adult ADD. Yes, I had many moments of putting myself down and feeling defeated and unworthy. But I bounced back and tried again even harder. My self-esteem was horrible. But my beliefs were empowering me anyway. Choosing to focus on what I did right helped build my CONFIDENCE. (esteem and confidence are VERY different.)
BOUNCING BACK - Turns out that RESILIENCY is one of the saving graces of most "high functioning" ADDers. (I never quite understood that term till I found out I was one.) I have been accused of being made of RUBBER, I'm so resilient! I've been so knocked down along the way, but I simply can't bring myself to stay there. After all, what GOOD would that do? What FUN is that? one of the neat things that most ADD people have in common is that we can be a lot of fun too!
LEARNING TO LISTEN - This might be the hardest thing I ever learned. I would get a top performance review with a MINUS because of the perception that I wasn't a good listener. That I was always thinking about what I was going to say next instead of really listening. I could not stand getting this criticism so it became my mission to making listening a strength. I didn't just want them to stop saying that. I WANTED PRAISE for my listening skills. I thank Steven Covey from the bottom of my heart for changing my life! He helped me learning to really and deeply listen from the heart. I read his book 7 Habits of Highly Effective people 20 times. I integrated it's principles into training programs I was writing. I listened to his tapes over and over again in my car while commuting. And I started changing. I sat on my hands during meetings with the goal of not saying anything until I was directly asked. It was like torture at first, but I learned to keep my mouth shut and ears open. I wrote down everything I was thinking instead of blurting it out. I wrote down what others were saying and reflected it back to them before giving my opinion. And finally, the praise came. It's amazing how fascinating and wonderful people think you are when you find them fascinating and truly listen to them.
TOLERANCE AND COMPASSION - Anyone who has truly suffered a lot in their lives knows exactly what I mean. We forgive others easily. We understand what serious pain is and can let go of the little grievances that are meaningless in the end. We have great empathy, insight and intution. We the friends that are there when you are at your worst and don't judge you for it.
COMPENSATING - Another reason why I was able to go through life with undetected ADD was that I suffered in silence. I was really good at hiding my difficulties. I would do whatever was necessary to compensate and "make up for my weaknesses" such as perfectionism, being late, impulsivity, doing too many things at once, stressing out, etc. I would work ridiculously long hours of overtime. I overprepared for everything. Even though I might be late for work, I would pull all-nighters rather than miss a deadline. I read many self-improvement books, took many countless hours of training, and on and on. Today, I no longer suffer in silence. I compensate in ways that MINIMIZE my suffering and make my life so much easier that it has ever been. I'm so grateful to have learned about ADD and understand the source of my inconsistencies is brain chemistry and that this "problem" is the source of my problems, but also the source of many of my talents.
A LIFE THAT FITS Another key reason I eventually began to thrive was that I quit trying so hard to turn myself inside out to try to fit into a corporate world that was sucking my soul and spirit dry. Instead, I started my own business and created a work life and environment that FIT me. I created a world where my strengths were FAR more valuable and important than my weaknesses. I did big consulting projects and I did them mostly ONE AT A TIME. My hyperfocusing abilities enabled me to turn out one project after another on time and within budget.
Personally I view ADD as a gift, a challenge, and a raw talent just waiting to be harnessed. A way of thinking and being in the world that is different from the majority in this culture. I really don't believe I am "disordered" but I KNOW I am different from most people.
Medications are helpful because they alleviate some of the pain, and allow us to more easily adapt to the "tyranny of the majority". I'm glad that insurance covers the medications, so if they have to call it a disorder in order to do that, I guess we have to put up with it. But really, coaching and therapy are probably the most helpful, because in the end, the medications only make it easier to follow through and act on what you've had to LEARN in order to improve your quality of life. I can only imagine how different my life would have been if I'd had the option of medication and an ADD coach instead of having to spend YEARS AND YEARS trying to change myself without that support.
There are many debates about whether ADD is a disorder or a syndrome or a personality type, but the fact is that many people in the U.S. suffer from some of the traits and behavior patterns associated with ADD. Have you read "CRazyBusy" ? It's so SPOT ON in describing the addictive and distracting nature of our lifestyle and how we can LEARN ways to get over it.
In fact, this whole post was "inspired" by an email I received announcing some really great teleclasses on learning how to thrive with ADD. See how distracted I can get? : )
Get more information at: ADD Classes.
Check out my TOP BOOKS ON THRIVING WITH ADD & ADHD
RELATED POSTS & ARTICLES