By Patricia Lloyd
Most of my life has been one big frantic, nomadic runabout. I know yours has too but mine has been worse.
People define their lives by their career titles and the roles-they-play-in-life-titles. Mother. Father. Daughter. Human Resource Consultant. Fire Fighter. Teacher. I don’t. I can’t. Because I have a hard time choosing one career, one role and sticking with it. Too many distractions. Basically, my life has been defined by distracting circumstances, not career titles or roles in life.
I live in Birmingham, Alabama. Grew up during the 60s and the Civil Rights Movement … which was huge in Birmingham, as you and everybody else in the world know.
I get it. I have had lots of opportunities to make a difference in the world. But I always got stuck trying to decide things and going with it. It’s like an attraction to distraction. Distraction is a magnet for me.
The Civil Rights Movement was ripping Birmingham to shreds and tatters all during my adolescence. I could have been there demonstrating for equal rights, helping change the world to be a better place. I am embarrassed to say I wasn’t. There was a distracting attraction that kept me stuck. I call it the Is-It-Immoral-to-Party-While-the-Civil-Rights-Movement-is-Ripping-Birmingham-to-Shreds-and-Tatters. Rendered me indecisive and immobile.
In college at the University of Alabama, there was the How-Can-I-Meet-a-Football-Player-Fall-in-Love-and-Get-Married Distraction. Never occurred to me that was not a good life and career strategy.
Then there were the I-Might-Have-Married-the-Wrong-Person, My-Boss-is-a-Serious-Nutcase, My-Kids-Don’t-Like-Brussel-Sprouts-So-Does-That-Make-Me-a-Terrible-Mother, and the If-I-Can-Fix-Broken-Earrings-Maybe-I-Can-be-a-Physician’s-Assistant distractions. And those were just some of the distracting circumstances that kept me from moving forward in life and career.
In college, the only thing that intrigued me was the Get-a-Date-With-a-Football-Player distraction attraction. Being in love. Daydreaming. Tons of daydreaming about whatever boy I was obsessed with, reliving the weekend, planning the next. A college education was no competition for my distraction attractions. I retained only distraction. The sheer volume of homework was a sponge that sopped up getting excited about learning anything.
High schools and colleges do not teach strategies for success. And have virtually nothing in the way of success strategies for hunter-gatherers aka the Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disordered nomads. No one ever asked me —no parent, no teacher, no high school or college counselor —“How can you take your ADHD traits and turn them into strengths?” I didn’t connect my ADHD with successful strengths. Or my unique ADHD abilities with a career. Or passions with success in life.
A nomad, frantically running in circles trying to make the jump from where I was to where I should to be, captures the very special chaos of suffering from distraction attraction. Relentlessly distracted, passionate about so many things, yet, lost. Looking for love, life, and career. Settling on crazy. Drowning in dilemmas, suffocating in circumstances, and grabbing at solutions, none of which related to the real problem … how to crush life and career with an ADHD fast brain. Most of the time, it was just swimming in syrup.
ADHDers are distracted quite a lot just as the American Psychiatric Association (APA) describes us in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). As it happens, there are lots of negative descriptors with depressing messages that keep ADHDers stuck. Easily distracted is only one of them. Read all about it and get depressed. Every message actually is a stuck-in-sticky-syrup coated one —impulsive, restless, absentminded, and cannot-sit-down-at-a-desk-all-day are a few of the traits psychiatrists describe in the mental disordered manual … uh … I mean manual of mental disorders … and all of them elevate the negativity of ADHD.
What does an ADHDer do if she’s impulsive and easily distracted? Well, we all know that impulsivity and distractibility cannot live through very much in the way of stress and strain. Watching political ads hatched a great solution. Take out the negative sounding parts and spin them into positives. So far the American Psychiatric Association hasn’t fainted dead away because everything that basically counts is knowing your natural strengths … putting a positive spin on the APA negatively labeled ADHD traits is reframing for a positive and renewed way to see life and career.
When I think of all the subterfuge and behavior-shaping ADHDers have trudged through, I’m thankful I live now, when we don’t have to accept everything an uppity organization that capitalizes names of brain quirks and publishes it as the last word on brain health. Today, there are many great resources to help us be ADHD survivors. ADHDReframed.com is one place that is reshaping the way ADHD is experienced.
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder is close to its fiftieth anniversary on the pages of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) as a brain health issue. In the second edition of the DSM published in 1968, ADHD, charading as hyperkinetic impulse disorder, was first included. In 1980, the American Psychiatric Association (APA) turned hyperkinetic impulse disorder around, breathed new life in it, gave it a new image, and resurrected it to be ADD and ADHD. Today, it is simply known as ADHD.
Essentially, according to the APA, all we have going for us, as ADHDers, in addition to easily distracted is this: fails to pay close attention to details, acts impulsively, and talks excessively, to name a few. I do not bring up these negative labels to depress you or convince you ADHD is disastrous, but rather to show you how to spin those negative trait labels into the positives they really are. I don’t mean that I want to redefine ADHD into something it isn’t. I mean … give those labels the same meaning by reframing them … positively.
You cannot sit around … rather run around … like a racehorse … asking others, in particular, employers or potential employers, to place bets on you and discover your greatness and charisma with words like … easily distracted, impulsive, and cannot-sit-at-a-desk-all-day. You’ve got to make yourself more racehorseable all the time so that you’re a better racehorse with more chances for winning. Acts like driven by a motor so say psychiatrists about ADHD. Really? Secretariat, a Triple Crown winner, acted like that too.
Reframing those negative traits will pay off for you. That’s right! You can repackage anything. Repackage, reframe, and spin the negative trait labels slapped on ADHD by psychiatrists and you have your natural, unique ADHD strengths and abilities you can then translate into jobs and careers.
Psychiatrists describe ADHD as failing to pay close attention to details. If you are not detailed oriented, then you are a global thinker. You see the big picture and the whole forest, unlike those straight-line thinkers who only see the one tree in front of them. You are an inductive thinker. Inductive reasoning is a natural cognitive ability. ONET, the free government occupational resource site at https://www.onetonline.org, lists 21 cognitive abilities and connects them to careers. Inductive reasoning is one of those cognitive abilities. At ONET, browse the list of careers requiring inductive thinking and reasoning abilities for your ADHD natural cognitive ability career matches.
ADHDers act impulsively so says the APA. If you are impulsive, you are spontaneous and exuberant about change. You are creative and willing to take risks. Originality, a cognitive ability listed at ONET, describes creative risk-taking. Browse the list of careers for the cognitive ability of originality at ONET to find more career matches to align your ADHD strengths and abilities.
Talks excessively? Yes, well … have you ever known people who withhold information or use the silent treatment as a control tactic? Those are the ones who need to be slapped onto the pages of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual by psychiatrists, not the people who express themselves by talking.
The easily distracted or the attraction to distraction ADHD trait is reframed to simply describe ADHDers as infinitely curious because we have thirsty curiosities. In the workplace, a thirsty curiosity morphs into fluency of ideas, leading to problem solutions. Fluency of ideas is another ADHD related cognitive ability linked to specific careers at ONET.
Call them traits, abilities, strengths, or gifts—everyone has them. They are important, unique personal characteristics that define what we are intrinsically motivated to do easily and naturally. Reframe your American-Psychiatric-Association-Diagnostic-and-Statistical-Manual-of-Mental-Disorders labeled ADHD traits to discover your natural abilities … the ones that will connect you to the right career to totally crush life and career.
We nomads do not have to stay stuck in the Easily-Distracted-Impulsive-Cannot-Stay-Seated-All-Day syrupy swamp of dilemmas. Don’t accept being a blob on the pages of a mental disorder manual, be everything you’re capable of being. You’re so much more than you think. Living life with ADHD is difficult. We are all the things we’ve been talking about here, but now … onward, upward, bet it, do it, get out of your quagmire, meet the newly reframed ADHD traits as strengths and abilities to find the right career.
ADHD Reframed! Totally Crush Life and Career with an ADHD Fast Brain dances you through crushing life and career by reframing all the negative ADHD labels and translating them into cognitive abilities to match up with the right careers at ONET.
Reframing easily distracted will not make the magnetism of distraction vanish or the motor driven racehorse slow down. But with ADHD traits reframed, you will know where to channel those energies into the right career. ADHD strengths and abilities channeled in the right career is like having shock absorbers for the unique energies of ADHD to totally crush life and career. Read ADHD Reframed! to learn more!
Patricia Lloyd, author of ADHD Reframed! Totally Crush Life and Career with an ADHD Fast Brain, has a Ph.D. in educational psychology from the University of Alabama and a certification in ability testing from The Highlands Ability Battery Company. She has directed career and staff development centers and programs, taught psychology, and delivered career training and testing for over 30 years at universities, corporations, and government agencies.
Follow her on Twitter @adhdreframed and at www.adhdreframed.com