A very common issue that crops up for ADHD'ers when trying to manage our behavior is distinguishing between which projects are worth throwing energy into, and which projects aren't.
Obviously, this isn't a problem that afflicts just ADHD'ers. One could argue that most of life is comprised of a series of decisions about what's worth doing. We only have a finite amount of energy and focus, after all. What we choose to do with that focus, ideally, should be determined by our values and goals.
The problems most people run into tend to happen when they throw values at projects that offer short-term gratification at the expense of those values and goals.
The conventional wisdom, and even much psychological or behavioral coaching, holds that this issue-- of investing energy in projects that yield short-term gratification as opposed to those that are consistent with our long-term values and goals-- has a more or less straightforward solution. Become aware that you're making a counterproductive choice... make this your habit.
The way to bust up negative behavior patterns is by doing something different... ... by busting up old patterns.... making different choices? Is easier for some than it is for others.
Specifically, if you happen to have a psychological condition that makes it difficult to direct attention where you want it to go, when you want it to go there making a different choice, as advised can definitely be an enormous task, which no one but you seems to understand.
The world in which we live is constructed on the premise that people generally have control over where their focus goes-- but that just isn't true for ADHD'ers.
For us, the focus game is a bit of a crap shoot. ,,, people around us see us throwing all sorts of energy into all sorts of projects... appear smart and motivated-- but then when our attention gets yanked elsewhere, often quite against our will, ... we look unreliable, uncaring, or disrespectful to those who assume a conscious choice has been made to abandon what we were working on-- and that we could have chosen otherwise if we "cared enough."
Returning to the issue of changing a negative behavior pattern: the act of challenging a negative pattern, let alone doing so consistently, requires forethought, persistence, and tolerance for frustration and discomfort.
For ADHD'ers it takes great effort to do so... Not because we don't care; not because we're lazy; not because we're disrespectful. But because the mechanics of changing direction in our heads is kind of like adjusting the course of the "Titanic" to avoid the iceberg....not so easy.
What can make changing behavior patterns easier for ADHD'ers, who have little conscious control over their attention spans?
1) Routines: Especially self-tracking routines that are tied to events that happen every day. A daily review of your goals when you wake up, when you brush your teeth, when you shower. A daily review of your progress before you go to bed. A self-check at mid day. ADHD'ers need to accept the difficulty stopping to review habit-making and habit-breaking, so rely on outside cues as reminders.
2) Rewards: External carrots and sticks. One of the famous difficulties in changing habits is that it's difficult in the moment to see past immediate gratification and choose for the long-term goal-fulfillment. For ADHD'ers, it can be nearly impossible.... So don't leave the task of remembering to your overloaded brain; keep reminders around you that you can see every day. If you suck at directing your attention, use tools and systems that do the task for you-- and that keep it in your face.
3) Short-term reinforcement for the achievement of short-term goals. We all respond to reinforcement. ... it can conquer attention deficiencies.
...behavioral regulation, to be consistent with our long-term goals, requires establishing and sticking to routines, externalizing our carrots and sticks, and reinforcing small goals....
Posted by Glenn Doyle