"Don't wanna." A Central ADHD Conundrum

Jun. 12th, 2017

I’ve noticed a trend in the coaching topics I’ve been brought by clients. Over and over again they ask “How do I make myself do this thing, even though I really don’t want to?” Or else “How do I pay attention to this, even though it’s so boring?” Even the topics I’ve brought to my coaches have been along the same lines.

The thing is, most of the rest of the world already knows how to do this. They inherently have the ability to do things they don’t want to do. It still isn’t fun for them, but it is possible. With ADHD, these tasks are either impossible -our brains simply refuse to do what we’re asking - or so incredibly difficult as to wreak terrible consequences on us when we force ourselves to do them.

I will never be able to give a universal answer to a problem because there is no solution that will work for everyone. Each time I hear this question “How do I make myself...” in different forms from a client, I listen for those details that will allow me to begin to unravel its unique aspects, to reveal the unique solution.

That being said, I’ve also seen that often there are two approaches to creating action from inaction, with ADHD.

Approach one involves removing barriers. The more steps, obstacles, or impediments between the ADHD individual and their goal, the more difficult it becomes to achieve that goal. And it is not as simple as two steps are twice as hard as one step. It’s more like two steps is twenty times harder than one step. Three steps becomes fifty times harder.

So this first approach is about removing barriers until the action is so easy, we almost can’t say no to it. This takes a lot of creativity and sometimes trial and error to figure out what the steps and obstacles are.

Approach two is to increase the motivation. People with ADHD have a very difficult time connecting future benefits to present actions or discomfort. Even though we are fully aware of the potential rewards for completion and consequences for inaction, that is not enough to get us motivated in the moment.

Gamification is a fantastic way to increase motivation. Making the task inherently rewarding by turning it into a game. Rewards are another favorite motivational aid of mine. I recommend a mixture of small and large rewards. And of course anytime I talk about motivation I must include accountability. Pick someone reliable and ask them to check in with you after a set amount of time. Knowing they will be asking is often very effective for motivating the ADHD brain.

Whatever we use to enable us to do boring or difficult (they can be synonymous) things it is important to remember that we aren’t at fault. It can be incredibly annoying to need systems and strategies to accomplish what others do without thinking, but that is simply the reality. The sooner we accept it and apply our creativity to finding new and better ways, the sooner we can get more done with less pain.

What are you trying to get yourself to do?