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New Year’s Resolutions the ADHD Way

Updated: Jan 3, 2022

New beginnings are good opportunities to focus on change. And with all the Happy New Year messages, we can’t help but think about goals when a new year rolls in.

In this post, you will learn how to embrace your neuro-wiring and work with your brain so that changes you want to make can be motivating, doable and effective.

What's Challenging for ADHDers about Traditional Goal-Setting

Traditional goal setting is future-focused, whether short term (three months) or long term (three to five years): Lose 15 pounds, finish that thesis, increase yearly income, get that promotion, change careers. The focus of each of these goals is very much on the end-result.

Here’s where ADHD brains struggle with achieving these kind of goals: ADHDers have difficulty “feeling” the future. ADHD expert, Dr. Russel Barkley, often says there are only two “times” for ADHD – NOW or NOT NOW. Focusing too much on the outcome, on that end result we are going to get in the future (health, income, accomplishment) is too vague. A distant goal is in danger of being shoved into the elusive NOT NOW zone, where it can’t help but fade into the background in the face of the myriad of day-to-day distractions that come up. So the goal gets stuck there in the NOT NOW jail.

Why Traditional Goal-Setting is Necessary

Not that the final destination is not important. We do need to grasp the end goal, so that we can identify the actions that have to be taken to get there. What does present-me have to do, in order to achieve that big goal, in order to become that future-me?

This is one of the most important questions that coaching can help you answer. What immediate actions do I need to take in the NOW to get to that future goal? Maybe it’s something like “Take a morning walk”, “Stop eating by 8pm” or “Set up an automatic savings plan.” And then, once that’s been answered, we can go back to the easy-to-grasp NOW.

The NOW Zone

Present-me can achieve something small in the NOW and get a dopamine boost. Present-me can take present action or change present (NOW) behavior. Present-me then gets immediate gratification and the confidence to keep at it, especially when we bring the big picture into the NOW zone by tracking our progress.

Caution - Monster Crossing Ahead!

Just beware of the All-or-Nothing Monster who tries to convince you that if you can’t keep to your new year’s resolutions perfectly, you might as well give up. A resolution is a firm decision to do something. Maybe instead, we should call them New Year’s Steps, or New Year’s Deeds. That way, when you fall off the steps/deeds-horse (and you probably will, because no one is perfect), you can just climb back up and keep going.

Baby Steps

Ever see a baby learn to walk? Does s/he give up the first time s/he falls after taking a step? No way! Its actually very inspiring to watch a baby just keep getting up and trying again. Would you tell that baby after the first fall, “Well then, I guess you can’t walk after all!”

Little by little, a little becomes a lot. A little progress each day is what adds up to a big result. So go ahead and make some doable behavior based New-Year’s Steps, because once you take them, you will never be where you used to be again. What steps do you want to take in 2022? Comment below.

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