Yesterday, in ADHD: What The Now Effect Can Do for You – Part I, I began my conversation with Dr. Elisha Goldstein, author of the recently published The Now Effect. Our conversation continues as we explore how Goldstein’s new book might help those of us struggling to manage our ADHD symptoms.
Here is the conclusion of our discussion.
Zoe: Your chapter, Paying Attention to Your Intention discusses the importance of being aware of our intentions. What do you suggest for the person who, like myself (before my ADHD diagnosis), is aware of their intentions but unaware of why these intentions so often achieve the opposite result of that which we intended?
Elisha: Intentions are just meant to be guides. In the Getting Started section of The Now Effect I introduce a short practice called Breath as an Anchor. In doing this practice the purpose is to pay attention to your breath in a particular way. That’s your intention.
While this is an actual mindfulness practice, it also trains our mind as a metaphor for how to work with our lives. You can have the intention to do something and if you stray, See where you strayed, Touch or note where you strayed, and gently Go back to your intention. If we can train ourselves to do this, we’ll spend a lot less time in self-judgment and be more effective in bringing ourselves back to our intentions.
Zoe: According to Dr. Russell Barkley, noted expert on ADHD, (and other researchers in the field) adults with ADHD live in the “perpetual now.” Our ability to have hindsight and foresight is part of our impairment (as a result of the way our brains are wired). This means we have difficulty learning from the past, and are doomed to repeat our mistakes; and we don’t have good foresight, that is, we don’t plan well (or at all) for the future, which can lead to financial ruin, as one example.
Thus, we live in the “now” almost always. By way of example, living in the moment has caused me to:
– miss appointments
– talk too long on the phone
– forget about everything else I was supposed to do that day
– not plan for the future (e.g. make and keep financial goals)
– focus on an activity that’s fun and stimulating at the expense of tasks that are less so
– stay out too long if I’m having fun during social occasions
Elisha: Mindfulness is not just about being present to the present it’s about being present to the past, present and future. This is how we develop greater perspective. Planning for the future and learning from our past have been critical to our survival as a species. With ADHD this doesn’t come as naturally. However, when we train our brains to drop into the space of awareness between stimulus and response, we literally enhance our abilities to intentionally reflect or plan. This intentional focus on the past or future is all happening right now.
“You’re never going to be perfect, part of this work is about training ourselves to make peace with our imperfections…” ~Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D.
This is what I call spending time with proactive attention. It’s intentionally setting time aside to set up a schedule and reminder system, with your inherent obstacles in mind, to give you a better chance at making the appointments, setting boundaries around phone calls, being aware of tasks for the day, and staying abreast of future goals.
Hyperfocusing is a tendency of people with ADHD and so the training is just to have awareness that that is a habit that you can fall into. It’s not your fault, it happens automatically, but having a nonjudgmental awareness of it, can help you pop out of it and refocus with greater ease.
You’re never going to be perfect, part of this work is about training ourselves to make peace with our imperfections and this often can lead to being more effective.