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A Promising Start

It’s sometimes said that getting started is the hardest part. Well, for those of us with ADHD, it’s often the only part.

Starting things and not finishing them is a classic ADHD behavior. More generally, people with ADHD have a tendency to start strong, then lose steam.

Starting LineI’m talking about the job where you ace the interview, show up to your first week at work ready to accomplish great things, but then watch your productivity take a turn for the lackluster as you settle into your routine.

Or the hobby that you dive into with enthusiasm, but that over time starts to seem overwhelmingly dull.

Or the relationship that thrills you in the early stages but that crashes as soon as the initial excitement wears off.

In pretty much any area of life, people with ADHD have a tendency to tackle the beginning of a new undertaking with zeal, and sometimes even real focus, only to have things gradually fall apart for no apparent reason.

This has to do with how people with ADHD respond to novelty. People with ADHD love the early stages of things because the stimulation of being thrown into a new experience wakes up our brains and focuses our energy.

As the initial jolt of novelty wears off, though, an adjustment in attitude has to take place. At this point, most people would rely on their ability to self-regulate, to delay gratification, and to focus on long-term rewards in order to stay the course.

Except that for people with ADHD, these are precisely the skills we struggle with. Once the energizing effects of the novelty wear off, there’s nothing to take their place. The ADHD brain is especially reliant on stimulation to work at its best, and once an activity stops being stimulating, something has to give.

That’s why people with ADHD can get off to such a promising start with something and then suddenly, bafflingly, frustratingly, totally lose momentum.

So is it possible for someone with ADHD to turn a promising start into a successful conclusion? Yes. The trick is that it has to be an activity (job, hobby, etc.) that continues providing stimulation and reward beyond the initial stages. For example, a job with constant novelty might a good fit for an ADHDer since the initial novelty never wears off!

Finding activities that are constantly rewarding is easier said than done. It’s not always possible to know in advance whether a promising start is going to turn into anything more. Figuring out what will hold your interest is often simply a matter of trial and error. But the good news is that, if you have ADHD, whether or not something is holding your interest will become abundantly clear.

Image: Flickr/tableatny

A Promising Start

Neil Petersen

Neil Petersen writes regularly on education, learning disabilities and technology. He received his B.A. in 2014 and was diagnosed with ADHD at the beginning of his college studies. Neil also works for a music education non-profit and hopes to help create an education system that can better serve students with ADHD.

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APA Reference
Petersen, N. (2018). A Promising Start. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 18, 2019, from


Last updated: 9 Mar 2018
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