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ADHD goal setting is hard. It requires a lot of details, future planning, and time estimating which all require executive function – something that ‘we’re typically short on. But hard doesn’t mean impossible and I’ve never met an ADHDer who can’t do hard things – myself included.
Today I’m sharing a blog post that I wrote about 7 years ago, long before my diagnosis. I came across it recently and it reminded me that my entire life has been a journey of trying to figure out why I’m easily distracted, fail to follow through so often, and take on way too much (even now!).
I share this post today because the insights are so incredibly relevant to ADHD, and I think you might resonate with both my struggles and my solutions.
So, with that, I’ll take you down a mental rabbit hole I experienced 7 years ago as a fitness coach and creator. The reasons why I wanted to give up on my entrepreneurial aspirations, and how I kept myself from quitting.
I hope it helps you find inspiration to keep doing what’s in your heart.
July 27, 2015 (From TheFitHabit.com – my other website)
There’s a reason why we give up on our goals. I write this from a place of absolute knowing. It’s my Achilles Heal in life, and the reason so many things have failed to transpire. Fortunately, I have habits, practices and enough self-awareness to catch myself when I start to fall down the rabbit hole of sabotaging my best efforts and with a little insight, you do the same.
The Reason I give up on my goals may sound familiar to you
The last blog post I wrote was in early July. About three weeks ago now. This is unusual for me as I try to be consistent with my content production process, but lately I’ve struggled with a lot of self-doubts. I’ve doubted if I’m good enough, if anyone is listening or if I’m just wasting my time and energy posting week after week, year after year.
This sort of thought process soon spirals into comparison browsing on Instagram, then more self-doubt and ultimately more procrastination. I begin to wonder if I’m truly helping anyone or if my lack of chiseled abs makes me a fraudulent fitness and nutrition expert. Then two more weeks go by without any creative work on my part and the further I get from my practice of consistent output, the more disconnected I become from my work in general.
Sound familiar at all?
You may not have career or creative self-doubt, but if you’ve ever tried to make lifestyle changes that have taken too long provide results, you’ve probably found yourself spiraling down the same path of self-destruction.
We all do it.
Why I almost gave up on my goals
Fortunately, I have tools that bring me back from the brink of giving up on my personal passions and goals that will work in any situation, and it’s so simple. This afternoon my head and heart were snapped back into place by a podcast discussion I was listening to while pushing my shopping car through trader joes.
I’ve been getting to intense about my creative work and lately, I’ve begun to rely it validate me as a person. It’s should come as no surprise that I stopped having fun. I was no longer in it for the passion of showing others how easy and effortless being healthy and fit can be, and somehow it became a job. A bad one at that.
Some time ago I made a personal decision not to coach full time because I never wanted this to happen. I never wanted to take my work so seriously or depend on it so much that I started to resent it and pull away or even stop personally identifying myself as a fit and active person.
But in the course of life, that’s exactly what happened. It’s not the first time I’ve pulled myself out of this rut, and I’m quite sure it’s not going to be the last.
So here’s a little perspective on how to pull yourself out of any rut. These rules are universal, so it doesn’t matter what’s holding you back. It matters more that you can notice the pattern happening, so you can stop it.
How to Stop Giving Up on Your Goals
Make sure your goals are worth pursuing
This might sound ridiculously obvious, but the truth is, humans make goals based on what they see around them. As the saying goes – “you are the result of the 5 people you hang out with” (Jim Rohn) and the goals you set are influenced by them as well. As a result of this, our goals are limited to what we’re exposed to and they are often externally driven. We might desire these things, but if we’re not emotionally aligned to them, we’re far more likely to ditch them when the going gets tough.
The best goals you can set for yourself are intrinsically motivated, meaning they are based on your values or sense of honor and duty (which is very different than a “should” goal”). So before you set your goals, spend some time understanding what you value and what would be most meaningful for you. You will be far less likely to give up on goals that have a strong why.
Make your goals clear and actionable
If you give yourself vague goals like getting healthier or becoming rich, I can almost guarantee they will go nowhere. There’s no concreteness to these goals because they’re undefinable and lack specific action. The clearer you can be with your goals and desired outcomes, the easier it will be to operationalize them into actionable steps. This is a particularly challenging step for ADHDers because our brains aren’t wired for long term planning, but with a little external support from a coach for mentor, we can get there.
Keep an arsenal of mentors on standby that lift you up and remind you that your goals are possible.
In my case, that was listening to a podcast by Amanda over at the Wellpreneur. Her guest today reminded me to ask myself what I was “in this” for, and you know what? For me, it was never about notoriety or money. It was about expressing myself, being helpful to others, and being accountable to my own evolution as a fitness professional.
For you, that might be following the lives of others who are similar to you in many ways, and yet ahead of you in the ways you’re hoping to grow. If that’s a weight loss journey, be careful not to be influenced by people so far ahead of you that you end up feeling discouraged (yep, I’ve done this). Curate the people you follow in social media, carefully. Even the most fabulous people can make you feel bad about where you are in your journey. Edit mindfully.
Stop taking your progress so damn seriously.
Beware of being overly invested in the pursuit of your goals. Very often when we force results that aren’t ready to materialize, we can become so frustrated that we give up on the process altogether.
All or nothing approaches to personal growth rarely turn out well. Slow and steady always wins the race. If you’re an intense person (like I can be), this is hard to find balance with, but truly the biggest goals are reached with consistency over intensity.
Make the process easy and fun!
I love writing, but I’ve realized that when I start following the latest gurus and make unnecessary changes to my creative process, I start down this resentment path that always leads to apathy and procrastination. While I do look for ways to improve myself and my connection to my audience, I have to stay mindful of what works for me and what makes my writing feel like a chore rather than an authentic expression. I also have to keep the process uncomplicated and easy to execute or else I won’t follow through!
I’m a research junkie, and I’m constantly coming across new people to follow in the wellness and content marketing industries. It’s hard not signing up for everything and trying out the endless approaches to staying healthy or productive in my work.
As I mentioned, having an arsenal of carefully curated mentors is important, but that can quickly become overwhelming, especially in the health and fitness space where there are so many approaches that completely contradict one another (hello vegan vs paleo). A strong sense of self-knowing is key when evaluating the latest and greatest shiny cure-all strategy.
Diet and nutrition protocols are no different than business strategies – they may work for some, but not for others. No matter how many credentials an expert has, only you truly know what’s best for you, so follow your intuition before you follow anyone else advice (that goes for mine, too).
Accept where you are right now.
This rule is more of a spiritual perspective, but even the non-woo woo’s among us can appreciate that life is what it is right now at this moment. Reality is here and now, and not six months down the road when you’ve accomplished all your goals.
Even if you’re unhappy with where you are right now, try to find compassion for yourself and know that your current goals are only a small drop in the bucket of life.
If you think 20lbs is all that’s between you and happiness, then you’re going to be wildly disappointed when you realize the prize is an elusion. Once you reach your goal weight, you’ll have new expectations and more reason to delay gratification for the next shiny object.
What holds you back from happiness now, be it loneliness, sadness, overwhelm or stress will hold you back even when those 20lbs are gone.
Mange your expectations
I see this so often in my clients – they have such high expectations for their goals and when after 2 weeks of working their tail off and not seeing results, they are so disappointed that they quit. Not only does this not get them to their desired results, but they also pick up the identity of being a quitter who doesn’t follow through on their goals. This is such a self-defeating way to see yourself and it’s completely unnecessary.
Instead, if you can accept that change and transformation is hard but it’s also worth the struggle and effort, you can start to anticipate bumpy periods and plan how you will get through them. Ironically, when you expect things to be super hard and you do it anyway, you’ll most likely come through the other side realizing it wasn’t as hard as you thought it would be, and the negative cognitive bias will literally evaporate.
Looking back at these lessons that have been hard learned more than once, I can safely say I’ve reached the other side of my own self-doubt. Surely it will come again, but when it does, I’ll have this post to refer to and hopefully it will help you address your own areas of personal struggle as well.
Tell me if you’ve gone through this process personally. What snapped you out of your self-sabotaging behavior?