Your fear could make an ADHD mishap more likely to happen
Have you ever tried really hard NOT to think of something? The more you try, the more the unwanted thought stays in your brain.
Thoughts are actually energy, and they attract similar energy. So when you focus on keeping a negative thing from happening — even though your desire is to avoid it — you may make it more likely to happen.
As ADD / ADHD Adults, we can think of lots of ways to screw up. You probably have your own special fears, left over from childhood memories of embarrassments. You might show up late, say the wrong thing, not have the necessary papers with you, forget to follow up.
But if you focus on NOT following these negative ADHD tendencies, the most you can hope for is a neutral outcome.
And a whole lifetime of neutral “blah” experiences is not very inspiring!
Unfortunately, too many ADD / ADHD Adults have become so accustomed to their intentions going wrong that they have accepted screwing up as their destiny. So they continue to muddle through, allowing their resignation or anxiety to attract failure instead of behaving in a way that would bring success.
Here’s an example of how someone was able to turn that picture around.
How to replace fear with confident action
Derek, a young attorney in a large law firm, had been reprimanded for being disorganized and late to meetings. Derek began having anxiety before meetings, terribly fearful of his ADHD disorganization showing, afraid someone would see his messy briefcase and notice that he was the last one in the room.
For most junior lawyers, attending a meeting with a senior partner would be considered a chance to gain visibility in the firm. But the most Derek hoped for was to get through the meeting without screwing up.
Instead of using the opportunity to shine, all Derek’s energy was directed towards not being noticed and avoiding making a poor impression.
In coaching Derek, I asked him to imagine the most positive outcomes that he could experience in a meeting that was scheduled for the next day. He wrote down three desired results in positive terms:
Derek’s Desired Results:
- He would arrive to the meeting on time and unstressed.
- His briefcase would be neat and would contain all the necessary documents and materials.
- He would be able to summarize the key points of his research, briefly and articulately.
Instead of worrying about screwing up, Derek focused on what he could do to make sure the three positive points happened. This was Derek’s new checklist of small steps to take before meetings.
Derek’s Pre-Meeting Actions:
- The night before a meeting, type up a “cheat sheet” of the key points of my research to refer to.
- Clean out my briefcase and make a checklist of everything I need to take into the meeting.
- Set a timer for 10 minutes before I have to leave for the meeting. Take time to check the briefcase, spruce up my appearance and walk to the meeting room with confidence.
By focusing on these positive steps, Derek felt prepared and looked like he belonged. While he didn’t have control over what might occur, he could feel confident about his own contribution. And that made it more likely that he would speak up and make a positive impression.
Derek’s ritual habit before meetings has become one of preparation instead of rumination. When he does something that doesn’t go well, instead of agonizing over it, he considers how he would change that behavior next time.
That’s how screw ups become learning experiences.
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