By Jeff Copper, MBA, PCC, PCAC, CPCC, ACG – August 28, 2023
ADHD is an issue of self-regulation. As an ADHD and attention coach, I know that many of the tips, tricks, and strategies on the Web don’t typically work for those with ADHD. Often, these tips tell you there is a logic behind using a weakness to overcome a weakness, but this sets you up for failure. And that’s why good ideas or good solutions don’t work in the world of ADHD.
It’s important to understand that moving forward is about being self-aware and gaining insight on the “why” in order to manage ADHD. To me, it’s really more about the process and how to make it easy to self-regulate. Once you realize that ADHD simply comes down to two things, self-regulation and working memory, you can begin to manage it.
To understand why the typical tips and strategies don’t work, please check out my video, “ADHD Tips and Solutions: Why They Don’t Work,” https://youtu.be/QMCstIP0dao. So, my advice to you is to pause, become aware, and manage your ADHD like never before.
Welcome, everybody, to this edition of Attention Talk video. I’m your host, ADHD and Attention Coach Jeff Copper. Today I’m here to have a conversation about why good ideas or good solutions don’t work in the world of ADHD.
Through my years of interviewing on Attention Talk Radio and my many, many videos, actually hundreds of videos on Attention Talk Video, I’ve talked about ADHD as really not a deficit of attention, but really more of a self-regulation issue. At a high level, at the clinician level, self-regulation is defined on directing an action back on yourself to change your behavior, to change the future. It’s a future-directed act.
In the world of coaching, we say, “Pause, ponder before you proceed.” What we’re trying to do is to engage your executive functioning brain. This is the thinking brain right here, okay? This is where ADD is. We need this to get in and override the primitive brain, which is more down around your brain stem. It’s the dopamine-seeking brain stem. It’s the pleasure-seeking brain. This is really, really very effortful.
I have to tell you that there’s a lot of people out there that have well-intended thoughts with regard to this, but I really want to use this video to illuminate what really you should be paying attention to, at least in from my perspective as coach.
I’ve got an article here that is very well-intended and it’s really talking about a healthy lifestyle for people with ADHD. It advocates managing food. We know that you should eat, right? I mean, that’s a foregone conclusion. Because, well, I’m not going to get to the details of it… So we know that taking care of your body is really, really important. But in order to eat well, you need to plan, you need to shop, you need to prepare, and you need to clean up. All of those are repetitive, boring tasks that take a level of planning.
Another thing that we know this, we know that you should exercise. We know that you should stay motivated and you should set goals and you should make a plan.
All sounds really, really good on paper. It’s pretty easy. I’m going to make a goal that I’m going to run a 5K or a marathon. Done! Piece of cake, right? What I’m going to do to prepare for it is, I’m going to go out and I’m going to run a half a mile and I’m going to add a quarter mile to it every day, skipping every seventh day, and I’m going to do that for three weeks before I run my 5K. Got my plan. No big deal, right? It’s manageable, and I got the plan. That’s not the issue though.
People with ADHD, the issue is actually getting out and doing the plan, self-regulating, actually pausing, overriding the urge to watch Netflix or Xbox or Instagram or something and put your shoes on and go outside.
So it’s interesting to me because often these solutions advocate using self-regulation or willpower to override self-regulation. It just doesn’t make really a lot of sense to me, and that’s why I think a lot of the solutions out there are promulgated.
To me, the issue really gets to the core of the issue, and that is how do you make it easy to self-regulate? How do you make it easy to meal plan? How do you make it easy to exercise?
I’ve done a lot of talks with regard to exercise, and usually it’s really more of a social activity or there’s some other kind of brain stimulation like you’re watching a video, you’re reading a book, or you’re in a class, or you’re competing against somebody. Again, there’s a social atmosphere to it or something that’s giving you dopamine. Exercise is really a secondary activity.
I can tell you, myself, I was an internationally-ranked swimmer at one point in time, swam for four hours a day in a team environment. When I graduated from college, I could probably exercise for about a month by myself. That didn’t last very long. Even to this day, I swam on occasion by myself, but for the most part, it’s rare and it’s always done in the company of somebody else.
In other words, what I do is I change my environment to make it easier for me to execute. I like to cook. I do so much better when there’s people with me. If I’m cooking and somebody’s sitting next to me with a glass of wine and having a conversation, it’s so much easier for me to execute my plan and get to my goal.
The point of this video is, we often spend a lot of time thinking about the outcome. To me, it’s really much more about the process. It’s how do you make it easy to self-regulate?
Now, what I’m saying, it sounds really pretty easy, but it’s not that easy to do. Because if it was, you wouldn’t be watching this video and you wouldn’t have a challenge with it, the ability to become aware, to pause, catch yourself, and to make the environment easy for you to actually get into action.
Again, the insight of today is we can make all those things all day long, but if you don’t focus on the environment to make it easy, that’s what the trick is.
ADHD really comes down to two things. One is an issue of self-regulation, and the two is it attacks working memory. If you understand what those two are, and you look at your environment, you can begin to manage it.
I hope that you’ve enjoyed this video and gotten some insight. Please subscribe, I always get this wrong to subscribe button, and leave some comments. I’m anxious to hear what your thoughts are.
Catch us next week for another great edition of Attention Talk Video. Take care.