Monday, February 08, 2010
Identify Your Strengths and Make Them Stronger**
By David Giwerc, MCC, Founder and President, ADD Coach Academy
We live in a performance-oriented world. It’s also a world where too much emphasis is placed on identifying a person’s weaknesses and then focusing on improving the performance of those weaknesses. This negative focus can take its toll on a person’s innate strengths, which may be downplayed or overlooked in the quest for “improvement.”
For adults, kids and families with ADHD, however, the effort involved in focusing our attention on our weaker areas of performance only exacerbates the challenges of ADHD. If we’re constantly expected to focus on our performance challenges, we’re setting ourselves up for frustration, anxiety, and even immobilization – all of which inevitably lead to poor self-esteem.
Although this preposterous “weakness” philosophy dominates our world, it does not serve adults with ADHD well. Based on over a decade of coaching professionals, executives, entrepreneurs, small business owners, filmmakers and parents with ADHD, I have consistently observed just the opposite:
People with ADHD improve their chances for success, as they define it, by focusing on their natural talents – the ones that consistently yield excellent performance – and then by developing a plan to make those talents even stronger.
Our brains work by means of electrical stimulation. We stimulate our brains by the dominant thoughts we are paying attention to, at any given moment. I don’t know about you, but starting off my day by having to pay attention to what I don’t do well definitely does not stimulate my brain. A project that relates to my areas of weakness will not generate enough interest for me to sustain my attention with projects related to improving my weaknesses
Understanding the power of what we pay attention to and how it impacts ADHD is critical to explaining the negative false perceptions that are created about ADHD.
For example, when I was a child, teachers would wonder, “Why is it that David can do his math assignment so well and so enthusiastically, but when he has to do a simple English reading and writing assignment, he won’t even take the first step toward completing it? He finds every reason for not doing it and the more we ask him, the more he resists. He’s just being lazy and does not want to do it.”
Negative labeling, using words ng words such as: “being lazy,” unwilling, spoiled” that accompanies a misperceived lack of performance is simply ignorance of how the ADHD brain works.
My own personal experience, and that of the hundred’s of clients I’ve coached, has taught me how difficult it is for someone with ADHD to will him- or herself to focus on a boring task, subject or project, especially one that is associated with improving a weakness.
When I choose to start my day using my strengths to do an interesting task; it has historically resulted in a positive outcome. Strengths-based pursuits energize me and make me feel more fulfilled. They create a powerful feeling of accomplishment and raise my self-esteem. They also empowers me to take on additional assignments, including ones that are less desirable but need to be completed.
In most academic, family and business situations, well-intentioned efforts to improve an ADHD individual’s weakness, may instead lead to unsuccessful experiences that create negative patterns of thinking. A constant focus on areas of difficulty may actually block a person, with ADHD, from being able to take any action.
When you repeatedly receive the message that your efforts are not “good enough,” to meet the established standards of performance, those bad feelings tend to spill over. You begin to associate a negative perception of your performance, in one area, with other areas as well.
If you have ADHD and want to maximize your energy and your focus, then it’s essential for you to: 1) Identify both your strengths and your areas of interest and 2) Prioritize and integrate them into your life.
Identifying your areas of interest is the key to being able to successfully pay attention. The greater your ability to pay attention, the greater your chances of creating a foundation of success you can then replicate in other areas of your life.
To determine your strengths and your interests, first identify the tasks, goals, and/or activities that you consistently enjoy doing and are usually able to complete.
Remember, ADHD is a challenge of boredom and disinterest: The more that either of these elements is, the less likely you are to complete it.
Once you’ve identified the things you do well and enjoy doing, ask yourself:
1. What is it about this topic, goal, or task that’s interesting to me?
2. When I’m focusing on this subject, what are the things I consistently do – the steps I always take – that enable me to complete this task or project?
After answering these questions, jot down a simple bulleted list of the steps. Then take your list and create a reminder, for yourself, by making a colorful visual map; or an audio recording listing the steps.
When you know what it is that enables you to succeed in one area, you can then follow those “steps to success” in areas of challenge as well. By identifying your strengths and your interests, you’ll uncover the clues to a system for organizing your life. This system will facilitate both sustained focus and consistent action – the keys to success for people with ADHD.