My Fellow Distractoids,
Do you have a “Big Picture” of life?
Distractoids live almost solely in the moment, their chaotic, disjointed lives shaped by passivity, reactivity, and impulsivity. Masters of Distraction have learned to see what they want the Big Picture of their future to look like, which they proactively pursue and create through conscious decisions.
Remember when you were a kid and some adult would ask you some version of, “So, where do you see yourself in ten years?” or “What do you want to do with your life.” When confronted with such a query, I would stammer some kind of made-up BS answer. But my “thought bubble” was more like, “What the hell are you talking about? That question does not compute.” Sound familiar?
The ADHD brain is great at locking onto areas of immediate interest and making connections between seemingly unrelated things. It seems to “see” or consider everything all at once, without hierarchy or categorization. These attributes help explain why the ADHD brain is supremely creative and why ADDers are unique individualists. But there is a cost.
“I don’t even know who I am. I can’t figure out what to do with my life. How do I know where to start? Why does nothing I do ever add up? I’ve wasted so much time. I’ve wasted my potential.” These laments testify to the monumentally frustrating condition of living life without workable and consistent guiding principles, direction, and purpose: being at a loss to explain how I got where I am today, and having no insight into where I am going tomorrow.
By contrast, non-ADHD brains range over past and future with stronger powers of hindsight and foresight and a more natural ability to learn from past mistakes, develop a life-plan, and prioritize actions by importance in the pursuit of future goals. The ability to pursue goals and priorities over time is one of the hallmarks of a brain with solid Executive Function.
But here’s the good news. ADDers are not doomed to flounder around or sink in the quicksand of existence. We can consciously do what the brains of others seem to do with much less effort or intention. Here are some techniques for discovering a Big Picture and exercising your free will to decide more consciously who you would like to become and what you want your life to be.
I understand that doing these exercises thoughtfully and fully is no small task. For now, just read through to get a broad sense of what I am talking about. I will address some of these in more detail in subsequent posts …
— Examine your life to come to the best current understanding possible of your most intense interests and greatest strengths and talents. Ask family and friends what they think.
— Look at the environments you thrive in and the kind of people you most like to live and work with. How would you describe your “tribe?”
— Make a list of things that you find are the most fun to do.
— Make a list of times in the past when you did something — large or small — that gave you a sense of personal fulfillment and satisfaction. If you won the National Spelling Bee but hated every second of it, that does not go on the list. Inner fulfillment is the focus, not outward achievement, though many fulfilling events have both attributes.
— Look at Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, or something similar. Which of your needs are being fulfilled? Which are not? How will they be in the future?
— Make a list of the standards of behavior you believe in and that you would like to embrace to help guide you in life. An example: to treat others as I want to be treated.
— Ask your Future Self what you need to know now in order to create your ideal life.
— Imagine you are dying or dead. How do you want to be remembered? What would you want people to say about you as a family member, friend, member of the community, and citizen?
— Write out what you would do if you had the power to change the world any way you desired.
— Use all this information to write a personal mission statement or statement of purpose.
— Finally, pick a point in the future and write about your ideal life in the present tense — as if you are already living it. Visualize it in detail. If you like, make it ideal in the extreme. Be bold. Go ahead and exaggerate. Now, working back to the present, consider what it will take to “live into” or live towards your ideal reality in the future. What are the milestones along the way, and where do they fall in time? What’s the most important step you can make today and tomorrow?
One of the hardest things about ADHD is the way it interferes with how our best intentions translate into sustained actions that add up to a coherent life. Having a vision of an ideal life to shoot for helps us out of the trap — the quicksand — of incoherent, easily frustrated actions.