The ADHD Guide To Setting New Year’s Resolutions

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adhd guide to new years resolutionsDo you want to know the 100% guaranteed way for the ADHD tribe to make New Year’s Resolutions that work?

Seriously, that is the secret.

If you have ADHD, New Year’s Resolutions are almost certainly guaranteed to fail. And that, my friends, is 100% the way it should be. With ADHD, New Year’s Resolutions are a trap. They are the mirage of an oasis in the desert. According to HuffPo only 8% of New Year’s Resolutions are kept – and for us ADHD’ers, that percentage is somewhere around negative 8%.

New Year’s Resolutions usually read like a list of terrible chores – go to the gym, get up early, work harder, do more stuff, get better at this thing that you hate, fix yourself…. Well, you aren’t broken. Don’t start your goal planning from a place of deficit. Your goal is to maximize some part of your life, not fix it. You aren’t broken, let’s call you “pre-optimized”. New Year’s Resolutions are often a way for us to articulate all the ways that we don’t like ourselves. But, for people with ADHD, frameworks that help you achieve goals are much more important than the goals themselves.

But, if you do want to start creating lasting change in your life, here is a framework that will help you create progress towards your goals:

  1. Believe That You Can Do It: Us ADHD’ers carry a lot of can’t around. “I can’t do X” or “I can’t figure out Y”. The first rule of change is believing that you can. If you have read this far, I believe that you can!
  2. Realize That Willpower Is Finite, and You Are Going To Run Out: Most New Year’s Resolutions are quantifiable activities, like “I am going to lose 30 pounds” or “I am going to be exercise 5 days a week”. And those are fine tasks, but for someone with ADHD, we live in a world of now and not nowSo if I decide that my quantified goal is to lose 30 pounds, my ADHD brain will convince me that I can have a 3rd slice of cake now and I will hit my goals by doing things some other time, or not nowYou might kid yourself and think that through willpower, you can stave off the 3rd slice of cake impulse, and you might be right once or twice. But willpower is a limited natural resource. You only have so much to use. It is going to run out, and then it isn’t just one or two slices of cake, you will find yourself looking at an empty cake stand, your lips covered in crumbs and frosting, wondering what the hell just happened. You have willpower – but for ADHD’ers, willpower is more like a puddle than a lake. Your impulsivity drains your reservoir pretty quickly. So use it when you have it, but don’t ever count on it. This is the reason resolutions don’t work – those quantified goals become tasks. You can’t count on your willpower to make you get stuff done. You need something stronger.
  3. Tie Your Goals To Something Important: Since those of us who are gifted with ADHD live in a world where instant gratification is not quite fast enough, keeping your eyes on the prize of a distant goal is really hard. If you want to lose 30 pounds, that is going to take some time. Your ADHD brain is likely to get tired of waiting for 30 pounds to melt off, so you will forget about it or quit. An important ADHD skill is learning how to frame things so that they work for your brain. Instead of thinking about 30 pounds an ounce at a time (OMFG, who can do that?!?!!? That is 480 ounces – that will take FOREVER!), think about WHY you want to lose 30 pounds. Since the 30 pounds is actually one of my goals this year – here is how I am contextualizing it: a) I want to lose 30 pounds to be more healthy; b)I want to be more healthy so that the back nine of my life are as vibrant as they possibly can be; c)I want my 50’s, 60’s, 70’s and beyond to be vibrant because I want to witness the wisdom and beauty of my wife as she grows older, and I want to witness the lives that my children carve for themselves. In this context, regarding the cake, it becomes a pretty easy choice – cake now or my wife’s face in the not now? Because I can visualize her eyes, and can imagine her smiling with pride at our kids as they do the things they will do, it is easy to choose. Regardless of how good the cake is, the gentle creases at the corners of her eyes are much more important. Because I can tie my decision today to an emotional event that is important to me, I don’t have to use any of my willpower to make the choice.
  4. Take A This Hour, This Day, This Week Mindset: This is something I use with my business clients. Once you’ve set your goals, take a moment to think what you can do RIGHT NOW to get you closer to your goal. Us ADHD’ers all have a bias towards action, we are all good at doing now – so use that to your advantage. Try doing something now, or today, or this week to take action towards your goal. If you run out of week and you haven’t taken action (and, it doesn’t really matter what the action is) then you need to re-evaluate your goal and your connection to it. If you aren’t connected to the goal, then it isn’t the right goal for you. Create goals that are important to you – they are easier to hit.
  5. Give Yourself A Break: Old habits and behaviors die hard. It took you a lifetime to create the situations that you want to change. ADHD’ers can be slower to connect actions and results than folks who think differently. And that is OK. If you set a goal, and get off track, it is OK. Just start the process again. It is OK. Just start again. It is OK, just start again. Just start, again. Just start.

It’s all pretty simple when you read it. Believe in yourself, realize the limits of willpower, create an emotional connection to your goal, act now and give yourself a break. It is so freakin’ simple to think about, but so hard to do. I get it. I live it. You can do it. 

And if you’d like to read more about my experience with ADHD – check out my entrepreneurial adventure with ADHD, my reflections on a life with ADHD, or my list of ADHD Resources. And if this kind of planning and thinking could help you in your business life, check out my #TRIPLETHIS business growth platform – we can customize it to your needs.

And as always, If you need me, I’m here.

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