If you’re a long-time reader of this blog, you know that I never pass up a chance to write about New Year’s as a time for taking stock of the previous year and making changes for the year to come.
In the past, I’ve talked about my own New Year’s resolutions, and I’ve made an argument in favor of treating the changing of the year as a time for self-congratulation rather than self-improvement. More recently, over on the AllPsych blog, I’ve written about how psychology research can even give us some pointers on how to keep our New Year’s resolutions.
The reason I think ADHDers should be selective about what New Year’s resolutions they make, if they make any at all, is that if you have ADHD, you’ve probably already spent a good portion of your life resolving to do things differently in the future.
You’ve resolved not to procrastinate so much anymore. You’ve resolved to be more organized. You’ve resolved to be more focused and more self-disciplined. You’ve resolved to have better impulse control, to make fewer careless mistakes, to just generally get your life together. In short, you’ve resolved to make your symptoms go away.
And you haven’t kept most of these resolutions. Because, of course, ADHD cannot be willed away. Over time, as you’ve gotten diagnosed and learned more about the disorder, maybe you’ve come to realize that it’s more effective to structure your life in a way that accommodates your symptoms rather than trying to make your symptoms vanish through sheer force of will. But there’s still the temptation of resolving that this time you’ll do things differently, better, more like other people – that everything that’s happened so far has been a big misunderstanding and that you don’t really have to have all those symptoms and that with enough effort you won’t.
Naturally, these resolutions don’t work because resolving not to have ADHD isn’t an effective treatment for ADHD. And when they don’t work, you’re just left feeling more guilty than before.
What this means is that while New Year’s resolutions are great and all, it’s important you aren’t making New Year’s resolutions that reinforce the unhealthy coping mechanism of telling yourself that you can will your ADHD symptoms away.
If you find yourself resolving to do something like “procrastinate less” that essentially sounds like resolving not to have so many ADHD symptoms, stop and ask yourself whether you’re really making a New Year’s resolution that will improve your life or one that’s just setting you up for failure. This doesn’t only apply to New Year’s resolutions, by the way – it’s true any time you find yourself saying that you’re going to do things differently in the future.
So is this blog post a lengthy rationalization for not making any New Year’s resolutions this year? Maybe. But I figured if I was going to go to this much work to rationalize not engaging in any self-improvement for 2018, I’d might as well share my rationalization so you can use it too. Basically, then, if you don’t have any New Year’s resolutions, don’t sweat it. In fact, it might be better that way.
Image: Flickr/M&R Glasgow