How to Excel With ADHD

Laurenz Kleinheider/Unsplash

Source: Laurenz Kleinheider/Unsplash

Many people with ADHD resign themselves to feeling inadequate, assuming they always have to work twice as hard as people with neurotypical brains. But restating that story is a game changer. Shifting your focus from your struggles to what makes your brain unique can reveal strengths you never realized. It can mean the difference between working with yourself instead of working against yourself.

Step one: Understand yourself

If you’ve always viewed your ADHD as a deficit, why should you ever celebrate your strengths? But break that narrative and take an objective look at yourself. Take a personality assessment like the free Typefinder personality test, based on Myers-Briggs. Imagine you are reading something about a friend or acquaintance. Instead of labeling yourself shy, consider how your reserved thoughtfulness helps you form deep and meaningful connections. Instead of calling yourself careless with details, consider how your focus on big ideas has led to creative solutions. Appreciate the different dimensions of your personality. Think about what you naturally excelled at in school, the hobbies you love now or loved when you were younger, and the things that bring you joy. Shift your focus from your weaknesses to your strengths.

Step Two: Take care of yourself

Years of feeling inadequate can lead to a constant sense of urgency. When you feel like you’re always behind, it seems impossible to slow down. But slowing down is indeed essential for the ADHD brain. It counteracts impulsiveness, forces you to pause, and gives you time to process. Giving yourself permission to rest and allowing your brain to go offline will improve your ability to focus again. Self-care isn’t just about doing nice things for yourself every now and then, it’s really allowing yourself to do what you love and entering a state of flow. Scheduling this time into your day will also help eliminate distraction and procrastination. When you know you have time for your favorite hobby, you’re less likely to be tempted by it during the workday. Building true self-care into your life requires setting boundaries, prioritizing yourself, and giving yourself time and space to just be, which can be difficult for people with ADHD. But the reward will be an increased ability to self-regulate, motivate, and focus.

Step three: Use your strengths

Now that you understand what makes you unique and the importance of honoring and nurturing yourself, consider how you can use your strengths on a daily basis. Are you an extrovert who spends most of the day in front of the computer? Perhaps you can build more meetings or collaboration into your role. Are you naturally creative but go about your day by established protocols? Check for problem-solving or brainstorming opportunities. Ask yourself how you could bring more of your natural inclinations into your current life. And if something feels like a constant burden, think of ways you could do it less every day.

While it probably feels unnatural to focus on your strengths, it can be the key to a more relaxed life. Research has shown that people with ADHD are exceptionally good at thinking divergently, which often leads to creative new ideas and innovations. Use that and the other qualities that make you who you are. Give yourself permission to explore your strengths without shame. Changing your story in this way may be key to shining with ADHD.

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