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They Say, “Try Harder!”

chain and sprocket
Staying on track?

And … they’re right.

Well, they’re sort of right, but they’re really, really wrong.

They say I should try harder to focus, concentrate, remember things, not be inappropriate. All well and good, except for two little problems …


Well, the first one is really quite obvious, it doesn’t work.

I mean, consider a bicycle with a wonky gear changer that keeps allowing the chain to slip from one sprocket to another. Maybe it’s bent, or the cable and spring are broken.

The issue is obvious

This is damaged equipment. Would you tell the bike to try harder? Would you say, “You’re just not focusing on second gear.”

Would you feel like that was a positive way of helping that bike? Would you feel like your time was being spent in a productive way?

I have to say …

If you think that’s a valid use of your time, perhaps you need to try harder.

And yes, that was said with tongue in cheek, but then again, not really. If you keep doing the same thing, and you don’t have anything else to offer, and what you’re doing is only making a difference while you do it, maybe you really don’t have the solution??!?


And the other problem with telling me or any one of us with ADHD to try harder is that it causes stress.

Yeah, I know, that’s what you were trying to do. You feel like that will help me make progress. But it will not.

In fact …

Whether you believe that I have ADHD or not, whether you believe it exists or not, the scientific evidence points to its reality and our experience tells us bluntly that stress makes it worse, not better.

Stress exacerbates ADHD symptoms. And so, what you do when you tell us to try harder is make ADHD worse, not better.

So when I said they were right?

Yeah, that, well, we do have to try harder. But not in the way you may think.

We don’t have to try harder to be normal.

We have to try harder to …

We have to try harder to accept what happens in our heads, because oddly enough if we accept this, we are less stressed about it.

And when we are less stressed we reduce symptoms.

Our ADHD doesn’t go away

True. It does not. But it has a lot less of an impact on our lives.

And we become more productive, more focused, more competent and capable.

And best of all

Best of all, we become happier, and healthier.

So if you want to help, stop telling us to try harder to focus, to concentrate, to remember. Start telling us to try harder to be happy, to be accepting.

Hell, try a little of that accepting stuff on for yourself. Accept that you might not actually know how to fix us, but that we understand, and it’s okay.

But you might find that if we’re all less stressed … we’re all a little happier.

They Say, “Try Harder!”

Kelly Babcock

I was born in the city of Toronto in 1959, but moved when I was in my fourth year of life. I was raised and educated in a rural setting, growing up in a manner I like to refer to as free range. I live in an area where my family history stretches back 6 or more generations. I was diagnosed with ADHD at the age of 50 and have been both struggling with the new reality and using my discoveries to make my life better. I write two blogs here at Psych Central, one about having ADHD and one that is a daily positive affirmation that acts as an example of finding the good in as much of my life as I possibly can.

Find out more about me on my website: writeofway.

email me at ADHD Man

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APA Reference
Babcock, K. (2017). They Say, “Try Harder!”. Psych Central. Retrieved on May 31, 2020, from


Last updated: 17 Sep 2017
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