The Key to Forward Movement

Aug. 13th, 2018

I once read a blog post putting forward the opinion that the key to success is obsession. Basically in order to succeed at something difficult you have to be so obsessed with that success that nothing stands in your way. I was thinking about that viewpoint and how it meshes with the life circumstance of mental health challenges. Because on the surface they seem incompatible. It doesn’t matter how obsessed with not being depressed someone is, if their brain has a chemical imbalance, no amount of obsession will “cure” them. So let’s think about this another way...

I agree with the idea that obsession is a key factor in success. Another word might be perseverance. A good metaphor for both is that old saying that the thing you’re looking for is always in the last place you look, because who keeps looking after you’ve found it. If the thing you’re looking for is success, then that will also be in the last place you look. But only so long as the place you stop looking is the place where success is.

No two paths to success look the same, ever, even within the life of a single person. The only thing that remains consistent is the movement. No matter how slow, the movement forward, over, around, and through obstacles, is the thing that will result in a desired outcome. If, for any reason, the movement stops because of an obstacle, that is when success stops coming closer.

This is a pretty simple concept that is nonetheless extremely difficult thing to actually embrace and come to terms with or notice within life, especially for those of us with ADHD or other mental health challenges. And forward movement doesn’t have to be literal, tangible progress. Often the most important parts of change, of progress, are the “fallow” times, when ideas are forming, when brainstorming happens, and when plans are slotting into place. The next most important thing is to know when that is needed and when something else, like fear, is disguising itself as ideas marinating.

When we never stop looking for the next step, the next action, the next path forward, that is when we are succeeding and moving toward greater success. And that involves getting creative. If it were easy, everyone would do it. Any time the statement “can’t, because” happens, the idea is to immediately move to “so how can, because?” And even if it feels like everything has been tried, the path to success lies in finding another way. And another after that. And another after that. Life is about movement, not standing still.

I’ve met many people who would probably tell me they are the exception to this. Their brains, lives, or other circumstances are such that they are helpless and have to wait for success to come to them. It’s not my place to disagree with those people because I’m not experiencing their life or their brain. I would only say that I never heard of anyone having contentment or success handed to them by circumstance or another person. And the probability that any given person is completely unable to influence their life circumstances in any way seems low.

My experience of this is all about expansion. When I realized I likely wouldn’t be able to earn a living in what, for the sake of argument, I’m going to call the “typical workforce”, that meant I had to expand my scope of search for gainful employment beyond the typical. When the typical way people my age handle sleep was interfering with my life, I expanded my view of sleep to something totally different. Any other twenty-somethings you know have a 10PM bedtime? I’m guessing not.

And it was in no way a straight line from “Hm, I can’t work fast food” to “Ah, I know, I’ll be an ADHD coach”. Or “I’m exhausted all the time” to “I’ll now go to bed at 10PM every night, without fail”. There were years of pain between the problem and the solution. And even now that I have the solutions to those two particular problems, am I happy all the time? Of course not. I struggle to get my behind in bed at the right time and building a business is hard and scary stuff.

The bottom line is: if you want something, keep going, no matter what. Ask for help, go a new direction, look for tools, trim anything holding you back, give up something less important, but maintain that forward movement. That is how to achieve success.

What is the key to your forward movement?