With ADHD, sometimes we need to lower the bar.
“Ah, but a man’s reach should exceed his grasp, Or what’s a heaven for?” Robert Browning
This is one of the guiding principles of American life, but like another, “You can be anything you want to be,” it’s false and harmful.
We may believe that setting high goals will challenge us and drive us forward. Maybe that works, sometimes. We do need to set goals. But repeated failures are demoralizing. We need successes. The solution? Lower the bar!
A strategy: Lower the bar!
(Note: All numbers are based on my memory. They may not be exact. Memory and ADHD?)
(Note: This is not about weight. Weight is only used as an example to illustrate the principle.)
(Note: Got that?)
I’ve been concerned with my weight since high school. I wanted to play football and no matter what I did the highest weight I could achieve was 168. I was too small, but I did the best I could. When football season was over, I was no longer working out and I was drinking more beer. I got to 185 by graduation. In college, I suffered the delusion that I was going to play football, and with heavy eating and heavy weightlifting, got to 208. Since college, it’s been a continual battle to keep my weight down.
For years my goal has been to get back to 168. I have set my psychic alarm clock at 179, trying desperately to avoid the dreaded 180. But now we are living in a place abounding in good food and especially good desserts. Multiple desserts. Oh my!
I have breached the 180 a few times but I generally manage to stay below that. I did get to 168 for one day.
If I work really really hard at it and strictly discipline myself, I can lose a pound in a week. That would be 52 pounds in a year. However, I can gain 5 pounds in one night, especially with Mexican food. And holidays are especially hard. Discipline is not one of the strong points with ADHD.
I need successes, not constant failures. Failure is already frequent enough with ADHD.
I plan to change my target goal from 168 to 172. I’ll set my psychic alarm at 176. I’m hoping to maintain between 172 and 176. I will no longer shoot for 168. It ain’t gonna happen.
Our need for success is one reason the strategy of “small steps” works. Instead of failing to complete a project, we complete a small step and the success gives us confidence, morale and energy to proceed to the next small step.
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Vicki and Doug. Doug you are so right in this post. Less eloquent then your Browning, but my mantra: “the perfect is the enemy of the good.” With my struggle with ADHD, I’ve learned to not try and be perfect.
Side topic Vicki, about the tattoo on your hand. I have used different tech for a while to try and help my symptoms. For example, I recently discovered an app called EchoX. It’s really a reminder app. But what it does for me is reminds me to not interrupt people during conversation-which is what I am working on now. It taps me on my wrist, via an Apple Watch, and that reminds me: calm down, listen, don’t interrupt. I think it’s working. Just been using it for a couple weeks. It’s a tech version of a reminder tattoo! But it could be used for anything you are working on.
“a reminder app. But what it does for me is reminds me to not interrupt people during conversation-which is what I am working on now. It taps me on my wrist, via an Apple Watch”,
I don’t know how to do the set apart text thing.
But thanks, Mike for your help reminding me!!! I wear a Watchminder watch already to remind myself to take meds and I could put a message in it to remind me to Keep it Simple!
Good luck Vicki! Yep, we just need to fight perfection a bit. It’s hard, but sometimes one has to accept good enough!
I think there is something profound about this post for me, Doug. Over and over again I seem to make anything I want to do, an art project, a meal, teaching some friends to dye with leaves, WAAAY too complicated, and I stop before I can get going. For example with teaching friends, I sort of had in my mind that I had to make it like a 5 day workshop, giving them in summarized form all the information I knew about the subject. Except I could never get myself to make that summary. If I had approached it just as a day of fun (which it was supposed to be) and just done the setup and not worried about whether they could ever do it again on their own, we might have already had our fun day. As it is, I postponed it to September. So if I adopted the strategy to LOWER THE BAR, it might actually be more realistic in the first place!!!! Thanks!
Except I think I would need a tattoo on my hand so I would remember the strategy when I need it!! And I seem to need it a lot!
On a totally unrelated but kind of funny note, I’m glad to know to whom to attribute the saying, “A man’s reach must exceed his grasp, or what’s a heaven for?” I was half asleep on the couch during a football game when I was in college when I heard that saying, and wrote it down. I’ve remembered it all these years, it struck me so. But I thought Coach Joe Paterno coined it, since he was the one the sportscasters were talking about. I actually at first thought you probably had it wrong!!! But Robert Browning does sound like a more likely author.
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vicki – good insight, that does sound like us, making things bigger and more complicated than necessary.
and you are right, strategies are hard to remember. thats why we need to pick one or two of the most important issues to work on at one time, until the strategy, after many lapses and slips, becomes a habit. even then, we’re likely to eventually drop it for a while before we realize it and pick it up again.
for the less important ones, it helps to make a list of reminders to put on your fridge or mirror and review every few days. of course you need a strategy to remember to look at the list. the fridge or mirror might do it.
thank you for commenting