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Do you keep quitting things after a while? Do you struggle to stay interested in not big stuff like jobs, business ventures and hobbies?
If that’s you, then you’re not only going to relate to this post, but hopefully it will help you change the way you feel about your tendency to quit things and embrace what I like to call, a “cycle of interest”.
Let’s kick this off with a quote from a fellow adhd’er who was sharing her biggest struggle in her business. She said…
“I have a 4 year cycle of things I love doing. I just hit 4 years in my business and I am over it. Even though this year was my best year ever.”
Sound familiar at all? I can certainly relate.
Why ADHDer’s Quit Things
We have interest drive brains. So when we find something new that sparks our interest and we are hyper focused on it, it feels like it’s the best thing ever… until it’s not.
Because of the unique wiring of our brains, when we are interested in what we’re doing we get tons of dopamine from it. Dopamine helps us with executive function skills because it lights up our prefrontal cortex so when we’re dop’d up, we’re at our best.
But, the minute things start to be a little less interesting, our dopamine starts to wane. As that happens, staying focused on what it is we’re working on gets harder and harder.
Then, at some point, it feels like we’re running through humus and we just want to get as far away from whatever it is we once loved as humanly possible.
So the first point I want make is that you are not a flake or incapable of committing to things, you just have a brain that is wired for novelty.
Busting the Stigma Behind Quitting Things
Now I realize this doesn’t always look good to our neurotypical family and friends. People think it’s normal to have an interest that’s identified at some point in your high school career that you commit yourself to as a lifelong career until you’re ready to retire at the ripe old age of 65
I don’t know about you, but I’d rather poke my eyeballs out than do one thing for my entire life. No thank you!
The good news is that this attitude is changing because technology has accelerated the pace of literally everything.
But this cycle of interest can still get us into trouble. Especially when we invest our time money and resources into doing something that we hope will work out for the long haul, only to find that the juice wasn’t exactly worth the squeeze. I don’t know about you, but my garage can fill up with flash-in-the-pan hobby equipment that quickly looses its luster. It also makes my resume look a little “indecisive” (and that’s putting it kindly).
Sadly, our cycle of interest can lead to a lot of shame and guilt. We start thinking that there’s something wrong with us because we can’t just stick to one thing. It can also hold us back in our career development because every time we change or pivot we have to reinvent ourselves which can mean starting from the bottom yet again as a beginner
I don’t know about you but for a large part of my career I always felt like I was entry level.
How Manage Your Quitter Tendencies
Well, the first thing is to except that it is what it is. When you have an interest driven brain, it’s very likely that you will cycle through many career paths and interests throughout the course of your life and that’s okay! Just remember, we live in a neurotypical world that wasn’t built for us, so we have to tweak it to make it fit us better.
Once you have excepted this reality about yourself, then it becomes a little easier to manage it in the context of career and life. When you know that you’re probably only going to be interested in a hobby, business, or even a line of work for 2 to 4 years for example, then you can start asking yourself some smart questions about whether or not it’s worth pursuing.
Quit Less Often By Making More Intentional Choices
When selecting your next career or interest, think about the ROI of this endeavor. is it some thing that’s going to take years of education, practice and experience to become expert at? Or is it the type of thing that you can develop skills through short, intensive training?
Short, intensive trainings on a subject that interests you can be a great option for some ADHD folks because we’re great at sprints of hyperfocus. However, it can also lead to overwhelm if we don’t have the right structure and support in place.
Another thing to ask yourself is whether or not you can build transferable skills that you can bring forward into future ventures. things like communication skills or project management or content creation can be really helpful as you move from one career to the next.
Work With Your Character Strengths
The one thing I’ve noticed from doing character strength assessments with a lot of ADHD clients is that we tend to have a love of learning as a top strength and persistence is somewhere down at the bottom of the list. This is not surprising given our cycle of interest. It gives us a rush of dopamine to learn new things and that’s what lights us up.
So knowing that, look for careers and job opportunities or businesses that give you a lot of room to grow in an area that you have an insatiable interest in. Going after careers or interests that you’re only marginally interested in, or worse, something you’re NOT interested in is not going to serve you.
Make Peace With Your Preference for Novelty
The last and most important thing I would say about all of this is once you except that this is how your brain is and that you’ll probably cycle through quite a few careers in your lifetime then you can start to make peace with it. Heck, you might even have fun with it, instead of beating yourself up so much. Imagine that!
Becoming more self-aware about your interest cycles also helps you to identify where you are in that cycle, so you can be better prepared for whats next. Are you at the starting point of a new career or interest and feeling thrilled to bits? Or you at the peak, where you think you’re going to start getting bored?
Get Curious About How Long You Can Sustain Your Interest
Do you know how long it takes for you to cycle through an interest or job?Everybody’s a bit difference but it’s generally between two and four years (for jobs – hobbies might be less).
When you know you’re getting close to the end of your interest cycle, you can start to think about that next thing and be smart about it.
What I’ve found useful is to use insightful questions and a few points of self-knowledge to evaluate new businesses, career paths or hobbies before jumping in. This helps to ensure there’s enough balance of risk/reward, sustainable interest, room to grow and overall ROI.
Questions to Ask Before You Take On a New Interest or Job
- On a scale of 1 to 10, how compelling is this idea or line of work?
- Does it align to my values?
- Does it play to my strengths?
- Does it fulfill a need for me? Or does it in some way take away from my needs?
- Is there plenty of room for growth and learning? Most ADHDers have a love of learning as a top strength
- Are there transferable skills that I can take with me when I’m ready to move on?
- Is the juice worth the squeeze financially? IE – will I have tons of student loans from years of med school only to find out I want to be an artist?
- Is the field accommodating to my ADHD? ie, is it creatively stimulating, does it require that I be consistent and timely?
- How likely is it that I’m going to get bored with this in the short term?
- Are there plenty of opportunities to “resparkle-ize” the job or interest if it starts to get a little boring?
Once you’ve answered all these questions to your own satisfaction, you should have a good idea as to whether or not you’re aiming in a good direction with your next big idea.
Of course, once you nail that, also take a moment to acknowledge that whatever it is, you will still probably only commit to it for a set amount of time and that totally fine.
Make Room For Closure + Celebration When You Quit
No matter where you are in your current cycle of interest, give yourself a minute to imagine what completion will look like. This will help you establish a sense of closure when you do get to the end of that experience.
Why is that important?
Having a bunch of closed loop experiences that you don’t have a sense of peace or completion around, can start that shame cycle. We also miss the opportunity to celebrate what we accomplished, how much we learned and how we’ve grown as a person.
So don’t miss the opportunity to give yourself a little celebration of success when you’ve passed the point of interest in whatever you’re doing. You’re not a failure – you’re a divergent superstar who is ready to climb their next mountain of growth.
Need Help Managing Your Cycle of Interest?
Want to create strategies for choosing new endeavors that are so good for you, you may never want to quit again? I help my clients understand their interest cycles, personal strengths, needs and passions so they can make the best possible choices for their future.