"Life is not so much a matter of holding good cards, but sometimes of playing a poor hand well." ¾ Robert Louis Stevenson

What Is ADD?

So you have Attention Deficit Disorder? Let's take a look at what it is. It's neuro-biological and like the book says, you're not lazy, crazy, or stupid. It's hereditary, so a lot of adults are just discovering they have ADD soon after their children's diagnosis is made. The DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual) of the American Psychiatric Association now has a definition for adult ADD. They begin by stating that the three criteria for diagnosis must have been in existence since childhood or age 7 and must have caused constant and debilitating problems for that individual since that age. That's the first good piece of information you can take from your diagnosis to help you move forward. You are strong and you have endurance. Buried under all those years of struggle, are important experiences and much wisdom. You've made it this far, and now you're ready to use what you've learned to go forward, creating new behaviors that will make the day to day challenges of life less of a struggle and more enjoyable.

The three behavioral criteria for attention deficit disorder are: 1) inattention or distractibility, 2) impulsivity and 3) hyperactivity, or as so often displayed in adults, restlessness. Let's take a look at all three.


Inattention (Distractibility)

Adults who have the inability to regulate attention or concentration while performing a task, manifest this in many ways. You may be distracted by external noises such as conversation, music, or the activities of others, or you may find that your own internal thoughts are the primary source of distraction. It could be a combination of both internal and external distractions that limit your concentration. Not all individuals are distracted by noise and you may find that music in the background enables you to concentrate better on what you are reading.

The results of being distracted can be as varied as the distractions themselves. You may get details confused, you may forget appointments, you may need to re-read things several times, or ask to have things repeated. You may start out very organized, but in a very short time be disorganized and unable to finish what it was you started, because you lost track of time. You may jump from one project to the next without completing any of them. You may take several folders out of the file cabinet and never use or put back any of them, or you may take a half a dozen sweaters out of the drawer, only to run out of the house sleeveless. You may take all day to write one simple letter to Aunt Millie at Christmas and find it under a pile of papers next Easter; or worse yet, you mail it, along with your purse and all your credit cards.

Record what distractions and resulting behaviors annoy you most. Think about which two, you'll feel most pleased resolving first, and put a star by them. Example: I get up early to go running every morning and get so distracted, that I never make it out the door.

Please enter your name:
Your E-Mail Address:

Distractions And Resulting Behavior To Be Modified:

In this next section describe what it will be like for you to be focused on the two most important activities starred above. Be very specific about what you will be seeing, hearing and feeling as you incorporate this new behavior into your routine. Describe only what is necessary to stay focused on the activities you choose. Do not describe what distractions you will avoid, as you are well aware of those. Example: I will be very focused on my daily exercise routine. Every morning I will wake up saying, "You can do this. It's good for you and you'll feel great when it's over." I will be grabbing my favorite purple running shorts off the bed post, where I put them the night before, and changing into them first! I will see myself putting on my running shoes and going out the door while my neighbors are still sleeping. I will feel cool and invigorated by the fresh morning air.

Description of how I will be focused On One Important Task At A Time:


Adults who demonstrate impulsivity manifest this characteristic in many ways also. You may seem to act before you think something through, often unaware of the consequences. In conversations, you might interrupt or blurt out an answer to a question that was asked to someone else. You might butt in on another person's activity and or take right over without being asked. Most likely you detest waiting in lines and won't take turns. You may have had problems such as impulse buying or relationships that start off way too fast and end just as quickly. Often, you might jump right into a project without reading the directions and then abandon it half way through, throwing a temper tantrum or hurting yourself because you took a risk without sufficient knowledge about safety. Impulsive adults are often accident prone, abrupt, restless, easily frustrated, impatient, hasty, easily excitable, rigid to new ideas and bored.

Not to despair! These are the same qualities that make ADDers creative, intense, intuitive, exciting, fun and passionate about life. It's what makes you artists, writers, inventors, leaders, actors, scientists, athletes, radio talk show hosts, and more. Albert Einstein and Thomas Edison are just two of many who had ADD. Remember that, "creativity is impulsivity gone right" and unique thinking styles give us the variety that spices our lives.

Below, list how impulsivity interferes or limits you and put a star by the two that will be improved the most by focusing on them first. Example: I often don't complete the errands I need to do, as I impulsively leave long lines, telling myself I'll stop by later, and then I never do.

Impulsive Responses To Be Modified:

In this next section describe what it will be like for you to be reflective, thoughtful, and patient when responding, using the two examples above that you would like to change first. Once again be as specific and descriptive as you can. Describe what you will be seeing, hearing and feeling as you perform this new behavior. Example: I will be very patient in the line at the grocery store. I will be breathing deep and slow to calm myself, and I will be browsing through a magazine from the rack near by, or talking with the person in front of me in a slow, calm, voice about how busy the store is today. I will be smiling and enjoying the moment as I listen to the music over the loudspeaker, using the time productively, doing a muscle relaxation exercise with my shoulders and neck.

Description Of How I Will Be Patient And Reflective With Appropriate Responses:


Hyperactivity in adults is often expressed as a restlessness or a powerful urge to move around rather than stay in one place and study, work, read, or watch television. Quiet activities may be hard for you to do and talking incessantly while fidgeting or engaging in some kind of excessive ongoing motion such as foot tapping, hair twirling, rocking, or bouncing may be the norm for you. You may find yourself reading, while watching TV with the radio on, as you talk to your mother on the phone. Yet, some of you may find noisy, busy environments intolerable. If you live alone, you may be unaware that you toss and turn and mumble in your sleep. Not all adults with ADD are hyperactive. Of the three core symptoms, this is the one that is least likely to persist in adulthood, especially in women, as we are taught from childhood on to be quieter and less active.

Record below hyperactive behavior you engage in that may be limiting, but be sure to list them only if they are a problem. If you work alone and boogie back and forth across the room between paragraphs of the great American novel you are in the process of writing, you're not "annoying", because there' s no one there to annoy! However, if you laugh at rude jokes making those loud snorting noises, you may want to work on your PC Laughing Skills 101 first. When alone and with good friends, go ahead, have fun, and be zany, that's what friends are for. Save the quiet, polite, stuff for public where it's appreciated. Once again, put a star by the two behaviors you'll be most pleased to modify into productive appropriate activities. Example: At stop lights, I bite my nails without thinking, and then later I'm always angry I ruined them.

Hyperactive "Annoying" Behavior To Be Modified:

In this last section describe what you will be doing, when hyperactivity is no longer in rampant control of every muscle fiber at will. Describe what you will be seeing, hearing, and feeling as you experience this new activity. Once again, there's no need to describe what you won't be doing, such as biting your nails at stop lights, just describe in as much detail, as possible, what will be happening. Example: At each stop light, before my car comes to a halt, I will take a deep breath and relax, by lifting my chin and throwing my shoulders back. I'll smile and think of how proud and satisfied I'll feel walking out of the beauty salon after my first manicure two weeks from tomorrow and how nice it will be to hear my sister say, "Sandy, You're nails are beautiful. Where did you get them done?"

Description Of How I Will Be Calm And Relaxed:

Co-Morbid States

Co-morbid states are conditions that exist simultaneously, and interventions, therapies, and activities to help one condition may, or may not, be of help to improve the other, so additional resources and professional help may need to be sought for improvements and progress to be made. Depression is commonly a co-morbid state with adults, as well as eating disorders, obsessive compulsive disorder, drug abuse, alcoholism, manic-depressive disorder, anxiety and panic disorders, phobias, and seasonal affective disorder (SAD). It is also common for very bright adults with high IQs and ADD to have learning disabilities, such as dyslexia. Speech therapy, vocational training, and other remedial assistance can and should be sought. A list of resources for additional information and assistance is provided at the end of this workbook. Consulting a specialist, or two, to determine how to get your needs met, is a very proactive, responsible, kind, and loving thing to do for yourself, and those who care about you.

If you think you may have accompanying disorders that also need attention, begin by listing who you are going to call to find out more information and get additional assistance. True strength lies in knowing when to ask for help. Use the following to list names and numbers of organizations and people, who you can benefit from, by consulting with. The list may include therapists, psychologists, psychiatrists, support group contacts, clinics, speech therapist, vocational therapists or any other specialists that will meet your needs for self development.

The "I Care About Myself" Resource List:

Discovering Your Strengths

You have come this far and have used a variety of resources, you may or may not even be aware of, that can be developed and strengthened even more. The following is an exercise designed to lessen your struggles and move you forward. It will help you to discover your hidden strengths while maximizing the ones you are already aware of; giving you new perspectives of how to best use your inner resources for further growth.

Perceptual Positioning Exercise

This exercise consists of speaking from three different perceptual positions, as described below, that are further categorized into past, present, and future. Following are instructions for each. Plan on setting aside one full hour to do this exercise.

The Trusted Friend Position:

When you are in this position, you will speak as a trusted life long friend, who would never say or do anything that would hurt you in any way. Your trusted friend is supportive and encouraging in just the way you would like a trusted friend to be. Your friend is nurturing, kind, loving, and understanding. He/she has been there through the years, through thick and thin. As you design this perceptual position from which to speak, give it incredible qualities. Make this position the best friend ever, by taking all the best qualities from people you know and admire, and rolling them all into one beautiful person. This person is the safest person ever to have as a friend and you are grateful, for you know this friend has your best interest at heart.

The Neutral Observer Position:

When you are in this position, you will speak as a neutral observer, who knows a little bit about who you are and what you've done, but doesn't know you really well. This position has no vested interested in you or your future. This position just listens to what is being said from the other positions and makes an observation, giving a neutral comment. The only intent of this position is to provide you with useful information.

The Me Position:

When you are in this position, you will speak freely as yourself. You will speak about what you are seeing, hearing and feeling. You will speak from your experiences as they have been shaped by your environment. You will speak honestly, openly, and directly, saying what comes to mind first.

Future Position:

When you are in this position you will speak from the future, as you wish it to be. If your future aspiration is to become organized, then you will be speaking as though this is a "done deal." You will speak as though you have the skills and motivation that it takes to be organized without struggling. If confidence and high self esteem are what you desire, then you will speak from the future position as having obtained and internalized these qualities. When speaking from the future, inattention, impulsivity, and hyperactivity will no longer be causing you "constant and debilitating problems," as you have acquired new behaviors and developed new strategies that are successful.

Present Position:

When you speak from this position, you will be speaking with knowledge of the past and knowledge of what is desired for the future. You do not know what the future holds, only what you know is desired, and what you hope is possible.

Past Position:

When you speak from this position, you will randomly pick a time in the past to speak from. Choose what ever time comes to mind first. It may be adolescence or it may be age three that seems like an appropriate and interesting choice. Once you choose the age from which to speak, do not speak about experiences or learnings beyond that age or let those experiences influence what is being said. Pretend to be only the age you choose and act like that age as you speak. See, hear, and feel things like you would if you were that age again and the clock were turned back.

Step #1. Label nine 3 x 5 cards for the following positions:

These are the different "perceptual positions" from which you will be speaking from during this exercise. You will speak as if you were that person in that period of time, using the appropriate pronouns and verb tenses to reflect the "perceptual position" you are speaking from. Example: When you speak from position #3, or your friend in the future, you might say something like: "_your name_, I've seen you come along way since you were first diagnosed with ADD and although there were times when you thought life would always be a struggle, I knew you had the determination to find strategies that would work for you to make life easier. Just look at your office now and remember what it looked like five years ago. It was a mess then and now you have a filing system you actually use. You've come a long way since you worked out a comfortable game plan that helps you balance your life. You've worked hard, and accomplished a lot, and you make me proud to be your friend!".

Step #2. Lay the cards out on the floor in a square with each card at least 1 ½ to 2 feet apart in the following manner:


Step #3. Begin the exercise by standing in the first perceptual position, following the instructions given below for each new position, in the order that they are listed. As you speak from each position, say as much as you would like, recording only key words that will bring back to you the essence of what was said. If you prefer to make an audio tape of this exercise, you may do so, making a verbal notation of each position before you speak form it. Having the whole exercise transcribed to read later can be very powerful.

Square 1Position #1. Stand in position #1, facing position #2. This position is you in the present, facing your future. State honestly and openly what it is you want. Cut to the chase on this one, keeping it to something that is both theoretically possible and will resolve "a constant and debilitating problem" caused by your ADD. Example: Stating that you want to be 6 inches taller, when you are way past puberty, is out. Stating that you really want to be able to communicate more effectively with your family, friends and co-workers is definitely workable material for this exercise. Other examples would be wanting to be organized and on time. Maybe your most desired outcome is to be as cool as a cucumber under fire. Record below what you would like your future to be like. Describe what it is you will be doing, and how you will be doing it, in as much detail as possible.

What I Want Most:

Square 2Position #2. Stand in position #2, facing position #1. This is you in the future and you are speaking to you in the present about what happened, how it happened, and what it's like now that things are the way you desired them to be. Record the essence of what you say below. Example: "Two years ago, I never would have dreamed it would be so easy to be on time, but I kept trying different strategies and was determined not to give up. Now I have systems in place that are easy to use and a time management plan that keeps me on track. I've learned the fine art of saying no politely. I'm not running around at the last minute always behind schedule. I start and finish projects early. I feel a real sense of accomplishment knowing I can do what I say I'm going to do and get it done when I say it will be done. I'm clearly focused on my goals and can see now how I had to cut back on the amount of things I was trying to do to keep on schedule."

What I Did To Get What I Wanted, And What It's Like Now:

Square 3Position #1. Stand in position #1 facing position #2. This is you in the present facing toward you in the future and hearing what was said about accomplishing your desires. What does it feel like to hear what was just said? Comment from the present about what the future you just said. Example: "I'm glad to hear it will be so easy. Right now nothing seems easy, but I haven't learned how to say no politely, yet. That one may require a bit of practice, as it sure doesn't come natural yet."


Square 4Position #3. Stand in position #3 facing position #1. This is your trusted friend in the future who has seen you get what you want, and has been there every step of the way supporting you. Comment with whatever comes to mind first and take notes on it below. Example: "__your name__, I never once doubted you could do it. I know how hard you tried and how many times you got frustrated along the way, but you stuck with it until you found what worked. It's good to see you so happy and It's good to know you'll be on time!"

Supportive Comment From Friend In The Future:

Square 5Position #1. Stand in position #1, facing position #3. Comment on what it was like to hear what your friend in the future had to say.


Square 6Position #4. Stand in position #4, facing position #1. This is the neutral observer in the future who has seen your accomplishments and heard everything that has been said so far in this exercise and will make a comment from the future that will give you useful information. Example: "I was totally unaware that being organized and on time was something so important to you and was surprised to see the change. I always thought that you just didn't care, and that if you did, it would be easy for you to do something about it. You are more determined than I ever knew."

Useful Information From Neutral Observer In The Future:

Square 7Position #1. Stand in position #1, facing position #4. Comment on what it was like to hear what the neutral observer from the future had to say.


Square 8Position #5. Stand in position #5, facing position #1. This is the neutral observer in the present who has seen your accomplishments from the past and knows what you desire for the future and will make a comment that will give you useful information.

Useful Information From Neutral Observer In The Present:

Square 9Position #1. Stand in position #1, facing position #5. Comment on what it was like to hear what the neutral observer in the present had to say.


Square 10Position #6. Stand in position #6, facing position #1. This is your trusted friend in the present who has seen your accomplishments and knows your desires for the future. This friend has been there every step of the way supporting and encouraging you and has something to say.

Supportive Comment From Friend In The Present:

Square 11Position #1. Stand in position #1, facing position #6. Comment on what it was like to hear what your friend had to say.


Square 12Position #7. Stand in position #7, facing position #1. This is the trusted friend in the past, who has known you since birth. Choose a time in the past from which to speak for positions #7, #8 and #9. This friend does not know anything beyond the time chosen from which to speak from. Comment as the trusted friend with what ever comes to mind first. Example: "I know you're scared about going to college __your name__, but you'll do just fine. You've made it this far. You know I'll still be your friend no matter what happens. Remember how your mom stuck up for you in Mrs. Baldwin's class? She won't force you to finish if you really end up hating it. Your dad might be ripped if you drop out, but he'll get over it, just like the time we got caught skipping school. You'll be OK."

Supportive Comment From Friend In The Past:

Square 13Position #1. Stand in position#1, facing position #7. Comment on what it was like to hear what your friend had to say from the past.


Square 14Position #8. Stand in position #8, facing position #1. This is the neutral observer in the past, who has known of you and your accomplishments since birth and does not know of anything beyond the time chosen for this part of the exercise. Comment as the neutral observer from the past giving useful information.

Useful Information From The Neutral Observer In The Past:

Square 15Position #1. Stand in position #1, facing position #8. Comment on what it was like to hear what the neutral observer from the past had to say.


Square 16Position #9. Stand in position #9, facing position #1. This is you in the past, facing the future. Comment from this position.

My Comments From The Past:

Square 17Position #1. Stand in position #1, facing position #9. Comment on what it was like to hear yourself speak from the past.


Step #4. Now that you have completed speaking from each perceptual position and responded to that position, step off the grid and decide if there is anything else that you would like to say from any of the positions. If so, go to that position and speak from it, recording comments and responses below.

Additional Comments And Responses:

Step #5. Now that you have completed the exercise and have experienced all the perceptual positions, look back over your notes and record below what you have learned from this exercise. How best can you use the information gained from this procedure to help you grow and cope with the day to day challenges of ADD? What new insights and perspectives do you have about your accomplishments and your abilities? Which strengths have helped you the most? In what new ways can you use those strengths? What's been easy, and what's been hard, and how can you make the hard things easy?

New Perceptions And Learnings:

Coaching Interaction Number 1

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