“Do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life”.Confucius
I don’t love that quote.
It not only goes against everything my parents valued (which was hard work at any cost), but it also creates a sense of failure if your job feels like work. And the truth is, I’ve never met anyone who actually has a job that doesn’t feel like a job. No one.
But for your ADHD brain, there’s some element of necessity to this statement. It’s more like “Do what you love and you won’t feel like your career is a string of misfit opportunities and personal failures”.
ADHD’ers simply can’t function if we can’t focus, and working at jobs that don’t fire up our brains can lead to mental torture, failure or both.
So how do ADHD brains find jobs we love?
Tip #1 = Identify what interests you.
For someone with ADHD that might be 472 different things (<- I can relate), but there are always a few that stand out. Typically, it’s the ideas or subjects that you keep circling back to after a cycle of distraction.
It’s also helpful to understand the intersection where your passions, talents and character strengths align. This is generally where you’re going to find sustained interest, rather than a fleeting flash-in-the-pan obsession (yes, we all have these).
Personally, I have a talent for writing, a passion for content creation and hope and optimism are high on my list of character strengths. All of these culminate into the creation of this website and my coaching practice.
Tip #2 – Think about personal struggles you’ve overcome.
Not only do you have intimate knowledge of how hard the struggle can be, but you have the compassion and confidence of having walked through it. That can be weight loss, trouble learning math, starting a small business, doing taxes or organizing a disorganized home. If you’ve lived that problem and solved it, that’s a good place to look for engaging work helping others do the same.
Tip #3 – Look for opportunities that play to your ADHD strengths, not your weaknesses.
We’re surprisingly good in a crisis because intense situations engage our brains. We’re also great at brainstorming, connecting dots and creative work (like blogging!).
We may or may not be great with keeping time, staying focused on repetitive tasks, being consistent, or organized(<-I suck so badly at this!). So look for careers that aren’t overly dependent on these qualities, unless you’re really good at them!
Get to know your ADHD strengths and blindspots
No two ADHD folks are exactly alike. We all have different strengths, weaknesses, interests and curiosities. Getting to know your strengths at work can be super valuable in finding the right work for you. I know that may sound like an obvious step, but often we don’t take the time to truly understand ourselves because we struggle to stay focused on what feels good and what doesn’t.
Our brains are wired to focus on whatever feelings are strongest for us and the reality is, we have a tendency to focus on negative thoughts and memories. This is true for everyone, but especially people with ADHD, when it comes to capturing our attention, bad is stronger than good. In psychology, this is known as the negativity bias and it’s alive and well in all of us.
Because of our negativity bias and our general distractibility, we may not notice when we’re doing work we enjoy or when we receive positive feedback on something we’ve done. That’s why it’s so important to create a practice of daily reflection and make a point to celebrate small wins. Ask yourself at the end of every day – what felt good today? When did I feel most engaged in my work? What felt good to work on today?
Journaling these reflections or using them as prompts for family dinner conversations is a great way to keep these ideas top of mind.
I can’t stress this enough – if you have ADHD, you have to be intentional about looking for your shining moments or they will be lost in the abyss of distracted thoughts. So write them down, reflect on them, and use them as data points for finding your ideal job and best work environment