Learning How To Pay Attention

The misnomer in ADHD is “Attention Deficit”. It is not a deficit of attention, it is a deficit in in being able to put your attention where you want it. It is a matter of executive function, which is to say a deficit in the part of the brain that acts to help us maintain control over what we feel we need to get done. Discipline is one of the greatest difficulties for our faster than normal brains. The real question is how do we overcome the executive function deficit? How do we learn to pay attention? There are many studies showing the effects of a Mindfulness Practice on the physical structure of the brain. The area of the brain behind your forehead is the prefrontal cortex. This is the part of the faster than normal brain that is not the same as someone who is neuro-typical. If you want to increase muscle size and stamina then you will need to go to the gym and put in some work, which isn’t always easy. I will say that beginning my Mindfulness practice, and learning to calm the incessant chatter in my mind was a much easier process than getting results at the gym. It was also much more pleasurable. Within a few weeks I started to notice improvement, not only in attention but in mood. The first step of your Mindfulness journey is learning how to live in the present moment. There are a lot of videos on Mindfulness, but I picked this one because the content is really simple and straight forward. Welcome to your mindful journey. Let me know how this goes for you.

Following Through

“If you always do what you always did, you will always get what you always got.”
— Albert Einstein

Following through on the things I start has been one of the greatest challenges in my life. It is difficult for everyone, but especially difficult for the ADHD brain to persist to the finish line. If it isn’t required to maintain the status quo it often won’t get done. The reality is that goals only get achieved when action is taken. What are some practical things we can do to help ensure we persist in reaching our goals?

  • Once you have a goal take a fifteen minutes or so and write down what achieving that goal will mean for your life. Read and visualize that paragraph every day. Sometimes we get these great ideas, that we don’t think through before we set out. If you can’t recall the excitement that caused you to set the goal it will be difficult to persist.
  • Have an accountability partner. Find someone in your life to share your goal with and help hold you accountable. Make sure the person you choose is not a dream stealer. Some people mean well and want to warn you about all the risks associated with your goals. They may mean well, but they will hold you back if you let them. If you don’t have a person in your life to fill that role find and hire a life coach.
  • View achieving your goal as a Marathon, not a sprint. It is important to realize that any goal worth achieving is going to take time. I have heard it said that people overestimate what they can get done in a day, and underestimate what they can get done in a year. If that is true for everyone then it is certainly true for the ADHD brain.
  • Make your bed. Discipline is going to be required to achieve any worthwhile goal. Start developing “small” daily disciplines like making your bed, or keeping your room clean. After this discipline has become a habit, (30 days) add another “small” discipline. If you add one new small habit every thirty days your growth with be exponential, not additive.
  • What if you get off course? If you get off course, don’t beat yourself up, just get back at it. One of the things that hold many of us back is that we don’t cut ourselves enough slack. Keep in mind you are not a machine. You are a perfectly imperfect human being like everyone else.

Before I wrap this post up I wanted to share an insight that has helped me drastically in achieving more of what I want in life. Nothing frustrates me more than having someone chide me with “just pay attention”, or the famous “try harder”. It is true that paying attention would really go a long way in helping us to achieve our goals. It occurred to me that I never asked the right question when someone told me to “just pay attention”. How? That is the question I never thought to ask. Mindfulness is the answer to that question.