ADHD and Thoughts: The Jigsaw Puzzle in Your Mind

Those with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder have lots of thoughts. Some thoughts go to the puzzle they’re working on in their mind; some thoughts might go to a puzzle they might be working on in the future; and other thoughts they don’t know what to do with In this video, ADHD coach Jeff Copper uses a jigsaw puzzle as a metaphor to help you begin to witness the real challenges of ADHD in putting thoughts together to solve puzzles and problems. It helps explain why many have lots of difficulty letting go of things and struggle with the mental part of their minds. If you would like to be able to see more tangibly what’s happening to manage it, watch this video. []


Welcome everybody to this edition of Attention Talk video. I’m your host, ADHD and attention coach Jeff Copper.

Today I have some insights that I’d like to share in a metaphor to help many of those out there with ADHD. Maybe get a framework about how you think and what life is about. I find that many of our viewers like this type of stuff. I like to describe as… have you ever done a jigsaw puzzle before? I know that I have and when I’m putting together a puzzle, it’s very difficult for me to put it together unless I see a picture of what it’s supposed to look like when it’s over.

Because I take a look at the picture and maybe it’s a country scene and there’s a fire truck and all the whites go for part of the clouds, and the greens might go for the grass or the trees, and the red might go for the firetruck. So having that picture in my mind makes it a little bit easier for me to categorize the pieces in colors and then solve the jigsaw puzzle by doing a little bit of a trial-and-error process by putting it together. Notice that, when you’re doing this, for me the pieces all have to be out. I have to see them on this kind of trial-and-error basis. It’s not like I could visualize them in my mind because I don’t have the working memory for that.

So, in life, I like to describe, imagine if you will, that you’ve got a pile of pieces in front of you and they’re to five different puzzles. There’s one puzzle that you want to put together. So you have all these pieces out there and your job is, you pick up a piece and ask if this goes to my puzzle or not.

And again, I find many with ADHD, particularly if you’re creative, you have a piece and you don’t know if it goes to your puzzle or not, but it might go to a future puzzle. You have a tendency not to let it go. It could be a thought or an insight, a quote, it could be anything like that. Quite frankly, I have a lot of that stuff. I have just puzzle pieces, if you will, of ideas on Attention Talk Videos that I could do.

And needless to say, you have these pieces and it’s difficult because sometimes if you’re not really clear of what the picture of the puzzle is that you’re putting together, not only are you having to find the pieces, but you’re having to filter pieces. Sometimes there are pieces in your pile that don’t belong to this puzzle or any other puzzle that you’re apt to put together, but you don’t know that until down the road. And so, the idea here is you spread them all out visually and you try them one at a time, trial and error as you put the thing together.

Now again from a thinking perspective, realize that you have all these pieces or you have all these ideas. Again, you don’t know what they belong to. Sometimes you keep them because you think it might be a future puzzle. An idea, really, here is that sometimes there’s lots of visual clutter in your world because you have lots of ideas or stuff that’s out. And there’s also the difficulty of putting that puzzle together. Which could be a puzzle, it could be writing a paper, it could be doing a video. And how do you want to put those things together and sequence them?

Quite honestly, it’s a trial-and-error process. You try one piece, then you try another piece until the thing gets together. Sometimes that process can be very long. Many of those with ADHD, they’ll get into it for a while and then they get frustrated and they leave it. But as you begin to picture or witness this you can begin to understand that ideas are like pieces and you have to put them together. If you begin to look at your world and say, “I’ve got these things out,” you can better manage the pieces and you can begin to back up and say, “What are the clues? Maybe I can start grabbing all the white ones together and be able to chunk this down into really smaller pieces.”

I’ve had a few posts recently about how my videos don’t solve the problem, and I will admit that I don’t give a lot of tactical-type things because a lot of times I think you can come up with your own solutions if you have the right mindset and if you understand, and you can see how your mind works.

So this puzzle piece thing is something that I encourage you to use and explore, particularly the pile where you’ve got all kinds of pieces in your pile that might not necessarily go to the puzzle you’re working on, or a puzzle in the future. Again, something to think about.

Hope this gives you pause to ponder. Please subscribe to our channel. We release a video once a week like this, and sometimes with tips. If you want to learn more about me, go to With that, we hope you’ve gained some insight from this video. Take care.


6 thoughts on “ADHD and Thoughts: The Jigsaw Puzzle in Your Mind

  1. I’ve had enough coaches that overwhelm me with ‘strategies’ & ‘solutions’ they think I should use.

    Your coaching stood out for me & still does. It has always seeded towards breakthroughs. You sensed into my thinking, & helped me see perspectives to look around with. They planted the seeds that I could creatively run with.

    Plus, when I create the solutions, they tend to stick better & evolve more vs be forgotten in time. You encouraged me to own responsibility in places I couldn’t always see clearly. You encouraged me to figure out ways to discover what worked best for me. Not easy but way more powerful.

    When I think of my experiences with your coaching, a Chinese proverb always comes to mind:

    “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” 😉

    Hope you are well!!

    1. So very grateful for your post. In simple terms, my mindset (how my mind is set up to think) is not to get your brain to conform to a system but to build a system that conforms to your brain. Yes, it takes effort to figure out what is natural for you, but in the long run, it takes less effort than conforming to systems that are unnatural and awkward. Thanks again for your comment!

  2. Jeff, don’t let that negative-feedback (about not giving hard solutions) get you down. You keep going Right Ahead with your approach of “teaching us how to fish!” Love your stuff and love your heart in what you do! 😀

    1. Kurt, thanks for posting and the words of encouragement. I used to struggle with people making comments about my approach. Then, one day as I was talking to an educator, she commented how many with ADHD are drowning in a sea of strategies. That comment really resonated with me. Also, I’ve learned from experience coaching that consistent success typically comes from more conscious problem-solving instead of tips or tricks. In the end, I’m keeping the faith and, yes, at times the negative comments find their way in, but posts like yours help. Thanks again!

    1. Thanks for your comment. Yeah, it really helps put things into perspective and enables you to remove the emotion a bit to manage with more intent. Thanks again.

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