If you have ADHD, I’m willing to bet that you are thinking one of these three things:
Or, like me, maybe you’ve cycled through all three.
Regardless, they say only about eight percent of people who set resolutions actually stick to them–and if you have ADHD, chances are pretty high that you’re in the other 92%. And thus, we’re back to thought number two–why keep trying the same thing over and over, when you’ve failed so many times before? Isn’t that the definition of insanity, or something?
(Actually, no; that’s a quote often attributed to Albert Einstein, though we don’t know where it really came from. Can you tell I fell into a hyperfocus rabbit-hole while I wrote this?)
If you want to make changes at any time of year, ADHD can be a huge barrier. But there are things you can do to help set and maintain goals long-term. In this post we’ll review some of our favorite tips and strategies for setting and achieving goals–and how ADHD comes into play.
Well, maybe a better topic is why setting and sticking to goals, in general, is so hard when you have ADHD. Here are five big reasons:
I love taking advice from the experts – like this one, from CHADD (Children and Adults with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder), a non-profit funded by the CDC.
CHADD suggests setting a New Year’s theme, rather than a New Year’s resolution. Why?
“Too often we set ‘big changes’ for ourselves, and we don’t take into account the need for novelty, the difficulty of staying with a task once it gets boring, the forgetfulness and inattention that come along with ADHD, and the scheduling changes the resolution might bring to our routines. After a little bit of time, the resolution becomes too much and is left by the wayside.”
According to the article, setting a New Year’s theme has some enticing benefits:
It’s a neat idea to play around with. You could set a new theme each month, for example; you don’t have to stick to a specific date. Or, add some gamification by writing down several theme ideas, and drawing randomly from a box each morning.
Not sure where to get started?
Here are some theme ideas to give you a boost:
Once you decide on a theme (or several!), it may help to think about how you’ll approach it. How will you remember you even decided on it in the first place? When confronted with a theme-related roadblock, how will you handle it? How will committing to this theme impact your life? Take a look at these examples for inspiration.
Motivation: I’d like to focus on having a better work-life balance so that I feel less stressed, and have more time to spend on things I enjoy.
Motivation: I’d like to feel more comfortable in my body and reduce the level of pain I struggle with.
Whether you decide to go traditional with a New Year’s resolution, or break the mold with a New Year’s theme, here are a few ideas to help support your success throughout the year.
The Ferrari analogy really is apt. Our brains need a lot of fuel in order to function properly, and that fuel comes in the form of dopamine. To give your brain what it needs to create that dopa-fuel, Make sure you’re eating regularly, getting quality sleep, drinking plenty of water, and moving your body for about 20 minutes a day (even gentle movement, in several small chunks, is enough–just move).
❗ When we have a lot going on, those self-care things are often first to go out the window–unfortunately, that’s like tossing out the fuel tank to lighten the load when you’re trying to outpace a T-Rex. Maybe you’ll go faster for a few minutes without the extra weight, but in the long-term? You’re dinner.
If you want a smooth ride, you may need to pave some of the potholes. Remove as many barriers as possible, even tiny ones–and don’t shame yourself for doing so! For example, I noticed that I am unlikely to take my meds if I have to go to another room to get a drink. So, I put my meds in a small bin along with a bottle of water.
Sometimes identifying those potholes can be tricky. I encourage you to sit with the task and get curious about any feelings of resistance. Anytime you hear that internal “ugh,” think about even the smallest things you could either add to, or remove from, the equation to make it easier.
If possible, automate things, or find services that can make tasks easier. For example, hire a laundry service. Order groceries from your phone and have them delivered, or do curbside pickup. You’d be surprised at how many services you could potentially have done for you. While many of these will add financial cost–often called the ADHD tax–the amount of stress and time they save may be worth it. Do the math!
For example, I struggle with chronic pain and fatigue. It costs from $10-15 extra to have groceries delivered. It’s free to go get them. But, if I go get them, it may take me a full day to recover the energy lost. If I typically earn $150 per day, but I have to take that day off in order to save $15…well, as they say, it doesn’t add up.
Research shows we’re much more likely to follow through on a task or commitment when we tell someone else about it. You could choose a friend or family member to check in with regularly to share goals with each other, join an accountability group on social media, hire an online ADHD coach, or use accountability services like BEEMINDER or Boss as a Service.
Chances are, your chosen theme or resolution involves a decision or decisions that you’ve struggled to make in the past. And it’s no wonder; with ADHD, the part of the brain responsible for making us think about a decision is a lot slower than the part that acts on impulse.
So, separate the decision-making from the doing whenever possible. A great example is the common wisdom of making a grocery list before you go shopping, or making a habit of letting things sit in the online shopping cart for at least 24 hours before purchase. Make “let me think about it” your New Year’s theme and mantra!
As you embark on your goal-setting odyssey, remember: you're not alone in this race. The road may twist and turn, but adapting your strategy to work with your brain, rather than against it - and nurturing your supercharged Ferrari brain - can turn the race into a journey of triumph over time. Here's to a year of achieving milestones (and outrunning your personal T-Rex).
Let’s Shimmer! ✨