Living Successfully with ADHD is About Balance

December 29, 2008

As I get the opportunity to tackel another new year in my life I am convinced that healthy living, for those with and without ADHD, is about moderation and balance: eating, exercise, work and play all require an ability to moderate. But moderation doesn’t mean avoiding the peaks of exhilaration or ignoring our superior talents. At times, we simply need to strive to be the best we can be, and then we need to relax enjoy less than perfection.

There is a moderation or balance necessary as we choose whether to focus on using our strengths or developing our weaker attributes.

I once worked with a business owner who had developed a complex piece of medical equipment that was being used “experimentally” in dozens of hospitals. He hadn’t ever submitted the paperwork to the FDA for approval for its manufacture and use as an “approved” device. The owner was a brilliant technician who couldn’t manage his time, set priorities or direct his employees. When I came on board the FDA was on the verge of shutting the whole operation down for want of a detailed and ordered list of manufacturing steps. The owner just couldn’t produce the list; he didn’t think in that kind of sequential way.

Each of us has a constellation of personal attributes, on one end of the spectrum are strengths that lead to successful actions, and on the other end are weaknesses that restrain our success or cause us to regularly stumble. The common wisdom, and what many people challenged by ADHD have consistently heard, is that you need to develop the areas you’re weak in.

There’s truth in that encouragement (or reproach?), but there’s also a misunderstanding of how success seems to work. Getting to sustainable success takes a balanced approach; we need to focus on our strengths and find ways to work around certain core social/professional attributes that we are weak in, like my business owner not being able to set priorities.

We wouldn’t expect a football player to necessarily be a top level engineer or a commercial pilot to also be an exceptional lawyer. Professionals who excel focus on playing to their strengths. There are some skills, however, that are called upon day in and day out and even if we aren’t exceptional in those areas we need to be able to get by. The trick is to develop enough skill to predictably meet your obligations, but to keep a major focus on using your areas of strength to drive you toward success.

A position that requires you to make excellent estimates of time or to work in an unstructured environment, but meet precise goals, may well put unreasonable demands on your weaknesses, whereas a partner who loves keeping an eye on the details may allow you to shift focus to using your strengths.

We can’t always choose which attributes we will need, but we can try to be sure that the majority of demands on us play to our strengths and try to minimize the need for us to struggle with our weaknesses. To not keep that balance may well derail the possibility of success.

I hope your new year brings satisfying successes, insight and growth.

 

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