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I know firsthand how challenging it can be to manage ADHD. For years, I struggled with feeling overwhelmed, burned out, and unproductive. But through my own research, training and coaching ADHD adults, I’ve developed an ADHD-specific framework for personal development that has helped me, and my clients, think about their ADHD differently, and truly start to thrive in life.
I’ve broken this framework down into three stages: Self Awareness, Lifestyle design, and Energy Management. Each stage is unique, but they also build on each other, like a flywheel affect. Central to this framework, is you – and the deeper you go with it, the more aligned, authentic and at peace you become.
Sound good? Let’s dive in.
Stage 1: Developing Self Awareness (to Know Thy Self)
Self-awareness, or “meta-cognition” is a crucial executive function that doesn’t fully develop for anyone until their twenties. This is especially true for those with ADHD, who may not fully develop until their late twenties, or beyond. Self-awareness involves thinking about your own thinking. It encompasses all your perceptions, beliefs, assumptions, personal narratives and how you connect behaviors to potential outcomes.
Why is Self Awareness so Important?
The more we develop our self-awareness muscle, the more we can identify thought patterns, behaviors and reactions that hold us back. But more than that, it helps guide our choices toward better outcomes. Bottom line, the more self-aware we are, the more in control of our destiny we can become.
Positivity Psychology suggests that increased self-awareness makes us more resilient (Hippe, 2004), and “improves our ability to empathize with others (Younas, Rasheed, Sundus, & Inayat, 2020). When compassion and empathy rise, so does the higher self. With intentions and purpose, a self-aware human can significantly impact the world around them. Self-aware people tend to show up with self-confidence, self-worth, and high success rates (Duval & Silvia, 2002).”
It is no wonder then, that Socrates claimed …
“To know thyself is the beginning of wisdom.”
How to build Self Awareness?
Building self-awareness can be achieved in many ways. Sometimes it’s helpful to get input and reflections from the people around you, but you have to be prepared for hearing opinions you may not appreciate or agree with. Internal self awareness can be developed through
- a mindfulness practice
- daily prompts to pause and check in with yourself
- ADHD coaching
- Having a process for writing down goals and plans and tracking your progress to see where you get hung up
- Personality tests can be a helpful datapoint
- In my Vision to Action Notion Template, I provide tools for planning, tracking, journaling and several personality assessments.
Stage 2: Lifestyle Design (to Support Thy Self)
The second stage of ADHD personal development is all about lifestyle design, which is about building internal and external structure to accommodate your executive function impairments. This stage is about making better choices based on your self-awareness, saying no to things that no longer serve you, or adopting new habits and systems that support the way you want to do things.
Lifestyle design can touch every area of your life, from your morning routine to how you stock your fridge, to how you spend time with friends. It’s about making choices that are better aligned with who you are and what works for you.
Why is Lifestyle Design so Important?
The world was not built for ADHDers, so we have to bend it in our direction. This is where I believe lifestyle design comes in. The more self-aware we become, the more we can understand what kind of environments we are best in, and which ones aren’t. This also looks like self-advocacy, asking for what you need from others and honoring your own energy and attention limitations when planning your time.
How to Design an ADHD-Friendly Lifestyle?
This will look different for every individual. While many of us look to the internet for “tips, tricks and hacks” on how to manage our ADHD, lifestyle design is most impactful and sustainable when it’s created by you, based on the self-awareness you’ve developed. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try tips and tricks, but if they don’t work for you, don’t let it discourage you. Just try something else.
Stage 3: Energy Management (to Be Thy Self)
The third stage of this framework is all about energy management, which involves regulating your energy levels so that you can focus, be productive, and thrive. Energy management is critical for those with ADHD because we tend to push ourselves too hard, get overwhelmed and burn out quickly.
Regulating your energy involves understanding your triggers and how you respond to them. For example, you may find that you work better in the morning or after a workout. You may also find that you’re more productive when you break your tasks into smaller chunks or when you use a timer to keep you on track.
Energy management also involves understanding how your environment impacts your energy levels. For example, you may find that you’re more focused when you work in a quiet room or when you listen to music. You may also find that you’re more productive when you’re surrounded by natural light or when you work in a clutter-free space.
Why is Energy Management Important?
Energy is all we are. Without it, we’re no longer alive. It’s our most precious resource and it not only controls our ability to do life, it dictates the quality of our lives. If your energy is low, unpredictable or unsustainable, you will most likely struggle in life. However, when your energy is steady, predictable and feels good, you’ll be able to show up every day as your best.
How to Manage Your Energy?
Energy management is the final stage in this personal development framework because it’s where the rubber meets the road and all your efforts to build self-awareness and design your ideal lifestyle are executed. This stage is about monitoring how your feeling day to day and seeing if the changes you’re making are working for you or not.
There’s no right or wrong way to manage your energy, as long as you are paying attention to it, and honoring your own capacity.
Build self-awareness through mindfulness, journaling, and coaching
Building self-awareness is crucial for managing ADHD. Start by practicing mindfulness, journaling, and working with an ADHD coach. Mindfulness can help you be present in the moment, pay attention to your senses, and be aware of your environment. Journaling can help you understand what works for you and what doesn’t. ADHD coaching can help you discover your beliefs, assumptions, and faulty thinking.
Design a lifestyle that works for you
Lifestyle design is about making better choices based on your self-awareness. Make changes that are better aligned with who you are and what works for you. This can touch every area of your life, from your morning routine to how you stock your fridge to how you spend time with friends. Like coaching, lifestyle design is most impactful and sustainable when it’s created by you, based on the self-awareness you’ve developed.
Regulate your energy levels
Energy management involves regulating your energy levels by understanding your triggers and how your environment impacts you. By regulating your energy levels, you can avoid burnout and be more productive.
A Model for ADHD Success
ADHD management is not a one-size-fits-all solution. It’s about understanding your unique challenges and strengths and developing a framework that works for you. However, I hope these stages provide a useful framework for developing yourself and improving your life. If there’s one thing I’d love for you to take away from all of this is that with the right approach, you can thrive with your neurodiverse brain and become the person you were meant to be.
Remember, it’s not about being perfect or fixing yourself. It’s about understanding and accepting yourself, and finding ways to thrive with your unique brain.