Six days into 2014, and chances are you are working very hard at keeping your New Year's resolutions. So how are they working for you? I'm guessing that some people are going just fine - no sugar / caffeine / alcohol has passed your lips - while others are already doing the self beat-up because your resolutions have unravelled. Let's pause for a minute and take a look at why this whole process is so difficult.
New Year's resolutions are generally about changing habits, and habits are hard to change. Throw ADHD into the mix, and the process becomes a whole lot harder. Forget that well trotted out phrase about it taking 21 days to establish a new habit, the ADHD version can take a lot longer. First, you need to remember the resolutions that you have made. That might sound silly to some, but believe me, someone with ADHD could be well into their day before they remember that they resolved to exercise that morning (and every morning after that). There is a whole layer of reminder systems that people without ADHD never need to worry about.
Next, there is the boredom factor. Sticking to a New Year’s resolution may become even more challenging for people with ADHD if there is no stimulation attached. For example, nice long walks could effectively improve fitness for some, but they could be torturously boring for people with ADHD, who may need to engage a kick-ass personal trainer, or sign up for an extreme sport. Finding the right strategy is vital when you have ADHD.
Finally, there is the ADHD need for rewards. The ADHD brain has to work much harder to get certain things done – particularly if they are difficult or boring. As a result, there needs to be more motivation. Have a specific, immediate reward planned for when your brain asks: “What’s in it for me?”
Does this all sound like a “Get out of Gaol Free” card? Well it’s not. This merely provides an explanation – supplies some of the reasons why changing habits can be so hard for people with ADHD. I witness people with ADHD making massive changes in their lives all the time, as an ADHD coach. Because I know how challenging the process can be, I am able to guide them through their challenges, and to CELEBRATE their successes with them.
And that’s where self-compassion comes in. People with ADHD don’t forgive themselves for their mistakes, and often spend a lot of time brooding about them. This prevents them from focusing on their goals.
I have a suggestion for next time your New Year’s resolutions hit a bump in the road. Instead of serving yourself a supersized portion of self-criticism, take it off the menu. Replace it with SELF-COMPASSION, and sample it every day, until you get to like the taste. It will help you to achieve your goals. So, practising self-compassion could be the most important New Year’s Resolution you ever make.