I don’t make New Year’s resolutions.
I used to when I was young, most often around losing weight: dieting or going to the gym. This was back in the day when you had to join a gym for a year to be able to attend. For two years in a row, I dutifully made my New Year’s resolution to work out, joined the gym, and then after just a few weeks, would be unable to force myself to go back. By the third year, I was ready to face reality, that my motivation to work out at the gym would last just a few weeks, and that without motivation, I simply wouldn’t go.
I didn’t know about my ADD back then. If I knew then what I know now, I would have known that “forcing myself” was a losing proposition. The very word “resolution” involves RESOLVE. When you have to steel yourself with resolve, it is something you don’t really want to do. So genuine motivation probably won’t last long.
With ADHD, our resolutions often fall by the wayside because we forget about them, or we get distracted and don’t follow through. Each of those reasons can be turned around through some strategic thinking of how to be more Intentional.
Instead of resolutions, I work with Intentions. When I ask my ADD / ADHD coaching clients to make an Intention (capital “I”), that means they think through all the factors that will be necessary to be successful in carrying it out. They deliberately set up conditions for success, and remove conditions that are likely to be obstacles. They put the Intention in their calendar for a specific day and time, so they can observe what gets in their way of fulfilling it.
How to create an Intention
Imagine you are late leaving the house every day because you always have to search for your keys. You might make a resolution to keep track of your keys, or even to keep them on a shelf by the door. You've probably made similar promises to yourself in the past, but they've never lasted very long.
Instead, make an INTENTION of following a daily ritual of putting the keys on the shelf. Here's how that would work:
- Give some thought to what might derail that Intention. Most likely, since it is not a habit, you would forget to do it.
- Take simple actions to avoid the derailment. You could put a large visual reminder sign on the wall that you can't help but see as soon as you entered the front door. And just in case you ignored it, a Post-It Note that says “KEYS?” on your bathroom mirror that you would see before going to bed.
- Make a point of deciding that you will put the keys on the hall shelf no matter what, even if you don't feel like it when you think of it.
- Track how you do on the Intention daily. Each day for about two weeks, you could check off in a notebook that you keep for tracking Intentions whether or not you put the keys on the shelf — and if not, what got in the way.
- Adjust your actions if necessary, based on what patterns you see in your Intention notebook.
With this very deliberate Intention of actions that require conscious thought every day, it’s likely that it will quickly become an automatic habit to put the keys on the shelf.
Not ready to give up New Year's resolutions yet? How about making a resolution to create INTENTIONS and tracking them, in order to successfully make the habit changes you desire.