ADHD Holidays: Expectations vs. Joy

In the summer of 1982, I found myself in a Jacuzzi at a swimming pool in Mission Viejo, California, at World Game Trials. I’ll never forget a comment I heard from Steve Lundquist, who was ranked number one in the world in the 100-meter breaststroke competition. He said, “First is first and second is last.” At that time, I latched onto that mindset because I wanted to be a great swimmer and believed that’s what would get me there. As time went on and my record improved, I began to find myself more frustrated about my performance. I was improving but was never first. At the end of my swim career, I was upset and depressed about never being first.

Later my mother came to me and commented that was the wrong mindset. She pointed out that most people would have been envious of the fact that actually I had achieved success that others had only dreamed of. I had made consolation finals at World Game Trials, at the US National Championships, and at NCAA competitions. In that moment I began to realize that, yes, I was fortunate and that I could find joy for the rest of my life knowing that I was accomplished, that other people would only aspire to such achievement.

I’m sharing this experience with you because of the holiday season. Corporate America, Hallmark, Walmart, Kmart, Target,, and others prey on your desires by setting somewhat unrealistic expectations for the season, leading everyone to suffer the negative influences of not having enough and wanting more.

Recently in church, listening to a sermon on joy, it struck me to remember that joy comes from being content with what I have, of not needing more, of letting the extras go. I began to realize that’s what the holidays are all about. It’s not about expectations and getting more. It’s about being grateful for just having enough. Very similar to my experience in the hot tub, it wasn’t really about first being first and second being last but, rather, as my mother had pointed out, many would be envious of just making it to second place.

As someone with dyslexia and a learning disability, I could become depressed resenting my lot in life. But this holiday season I’m looking to be content with what I have, to find joy that I get to work in a business that is a calling, have two kids I love, and have friends and others around who love me.

As you enter this holiday season, I encourage you to take the pressure off yourself and realize that people are profiting from selling you on the mindset of expectations and wanting more. There’s nothing wrong with it from their perspective, but it is a very negative feeling and very disappointing for those with ADHD. Rather, I encourage you to focus on the joy of what you do have. Look around you. If you come from more meager means and take exception to this, I would argue that you are here on Earth, you have life, and you can be joyful in that.

Let joy fill your heart, not burn it out with expectations and regrets for what you don’t have. After all, isn’t that the reason for the season?

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