ADHD Skills Series: Attitude and Approach
Here is article one from our new series on the ABC’s of “Things that Pills for ADHD Cannot Do for You.” Pills used in the treatment of ADHD can be helpful, and we have seen hundreds of lives changed by using stimulant medications such as Ritalin, or alternative treatments such as Attend. But in these articles we will be discussing skills that need to be learned “on purpose” in addition to pills, in order to be successful at school, at home, or in life.
A – Attitude and Approach
B – Breathing and relaxation
C – Character and Confidence
There are few things in life that we truly have control over, but one thing that we do have control over is our “attitude.” Another is our “approach” to life, to work, to the next task.
For this article, let’s define “attitude” as our state of mind as we live out our lives each day. This includes that experiences that we have had in the past, what we are doing this moment in the present, and what we are looking toward doing in the future.
“So think clearly, and exercise self-control…” St. Peter
Everyone approaches life’s experiences with one of two attitudes about where our “control” or “ability” or the “results of our efforts” comes from: either they come from “within us” or they come from “outside” of us. We call this our “locus (location) of control.”
When individuals have a sense that they control how they will approach each day and how they will prepare for each event, and have a sense that they can control their view of the world and the choices that they make in life, and when they have a sense that their successes or failures are the results of their efforts (or lack thereof), then they can take personal responsibility for their choices, decisions, work effort, and to some extent results.
And these are the people who can, and will, work hard and sacrifice to improve their situation and performance.
However, when individuals live as if they have no control over their approach to each day, or how they will prepare for upcoming events, or when they have the sense that they have no control over the choices that they make or “the way that things turn out,” these are people with no reason to take responsibility for their decisions, work effort, or their results.
And these are the people who will not work to improve their situation and performance. After all, poor performance is not their fault – it is somebody else’s fault. Individuals with an external “locus of control” tend to be less willing to work hard or make sacrifices because “it doesn’t matter how hard I try…” They also tend to be more stressed in life, and perhaps even more depressed.
I have worked with dozens of pitchers at all age levels through the years. I like to tell them that they can only control what they do with their bodies (their mechanics, their release points and arm angles, etc.) when they are on the mound. But once they release the ball, they really cannot control the results of what will happen to the pitch they have just thrown. Though I encourage them to practice hard to seek perfection on every pitch that they throw, they simply have no control over umpires, batters, or fielders.
However, I tell them that I expect them to take responsibility for the results, even though they have no control over what happens after they make the pitch. Why? Because without taking responsibility for the results, a pitcher will just blame the umpire, the fielder, or the baseball gods, for anything that goes wrong. And if he does this, then there is little motivation to come to practice the next day to improve his personal ability and performance.
One must take responsibility in order to make the effort and sacrifices needed to improve performance.
The lesson is the same for children, teens, and adults with ADHD. If someone or something else is the cause of our bad results, then there is no motivation to do the work, or make the necessary sacrifices, to improve either our preparation for success, or our performance. And, as a result, our results will remain the same.
If you keep on doing the same things, you will keep on getting the same results.
For a child with ADHD this means that blaming the teacher, or the test, or the weather, for poor performance in school, is not as good of a strategy or attitude as taking responsibility for the poor performance. If the problem lies outside of us, then there is no reason to improve. If the problem is within us, then the answer is to improve us, through making the necessary sacrifices to improve our skills, knowledge, or performance.
For an adult with ADHD this means that blaming the boss, the co-worker, or the spouse, for poor performance at work or at home, is not as good of a strategy or attitude as taking responsibility for the poor performance. If the problem lies outside of us, then there is no reason to improve. If the problem is within us, then the answer is to improve us, through making the necessary sacrifices to improve our skills, knowledge, or performance.
How can you improve a “bad attitude” and make it a “good attitude?”
First, you have to be honest with yourself and admit that your attitude gives too much control up to forces outside of yourself, and begin to take more personal responsibility for your approach to each day and to your performance each day.
If you want your results to be different, then you have to be different.
Second, try to figure out why it has seemed like a good idea in the past to blame others for your own lack of preparation or poor performance. Take a moment to just experience what it feels like to take personal responsibility for your own life and performance.
Third, welcome the learning of new skills, information, and attitudes. Begin to dedicate yourself to improving your existing skills, knowledge base, and attitudes. Begin to get more excited about your potential to “take life to the next level.”
Fourth, begin to notice others more. Listen to others. Learn from others. Try to understand other people’s opinions or points of view. Learn to be more compassionate and empathetic. Be more generous toward others. Begin the practice of true humility.
Myth: “Practice make perfect.”
Truth: “Only perfect practice makes perfect. Sloppy practice, or practicing the wrong thing, just leads to sloppy performance or mistakes.”
Another Truth: “Under pressure, we do the things that we have practiced the most.” So we have to practice doing the right things, the right way.
Take personal responsibility for your preparation and approach to each day. If it is less than excellent, then work to make your preparation and approach excellent. Plan ahead for the next day. Eat a proper diet. Get plenty of sleep. Exercise or play outside a little bit each day. Do the best that you can for the next twenty minutes.
Take personal responsibility for your performance each day. If it is less than excellent, then work to improve your performance each day until it becomes excellent. Focus for the next twenty minutes on the most important thing, and do it well. Then repeat.
"Things do not change, we change." -- H. D. Thoreau
Your Approach to each day, and to preparing for tomorrow, is completely under your control.
And your Attitude for the next twenty minutes is completely under your control. As is your attitude for the next twenty hours. Both maturity, and a sense of freedom comes when you realize that you have complete control over your attitude and approach to life. Don’t give it away to others. Attitude and Approach.