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ADHD: What Are We Good At? 5 Steps to Find Out

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Recently, a woman we’ll call Jane asked me some questions that I think we’ve all asked at one time or another, so I’d like to share my response with all of you.

Jane wrote:

“I was only diagnosed with ADHD at 25. Trying to be something I’m not is the story of my life. My question is: What are we good at? Almost everything requires paperwork and some ability to keep a semblance of organizational skills and professions require the passing of exams…the bane of my life. What are we suited for?”

I remember asking the very same questions not long after my diagnosis. Almost a decade later, I can share the good news: adults with ADHD can do just about anything they put their minds to!

That said, there are five steps we need to take to steer clear of our pre-diagnosis roadblocks.

1) Learn about ADHD and re-assess

“Trying to be something I’m not is the story of my life.”

Before I was diagnosed at 47 (see Jane? At 25, you’re already way ahead of me!) I felt like I was banging my head against a wall trying to fit in where I didn’t.

Trying to be someone I wasn’t led to dead-end jobs, being fired from jobs, dating the wrong people, joining groups I shouldn’t have, and more (you can read all about my misadventures in my recently-published memoir, ADHD According to Zoë).

It’s only after my diagnosis that I realized I had a Lamborghini brain but was trying to drive it like a moped. Ok, make that a Lamborghini without brakes, so it was going to take a bit of work to make it do what I wanted, but it would never be a moped.

2) Put passion first

With the goal of being successful, before we ask What are we good at? Or, What are we suited for? We need to ask, What am I excited about? What are my passions?

It’s critical for someone with ADHD to work in an area that’s meaningful to them. Our brain’s reward system is wired differently than others. Working at something we’re passionate about will give us a much better chance to stay engaged, focused, and committed to the work.

Once we know what we’re really excited about, I remain firmly optimistic that we can find work-arounds for paperwork and organizational challenges.

3) Maximize ADHD treatment and management

Optimizing ADHD treatment is key. Managing ADHD is a lifelong commitment. We need to be consistent with keeping structures and strategies in place that work for us (and we’ll need to tweak them as we go).

4) Don’t go it alone

“…professions require the passing of exams…the bane of my life.”

If you’re currently a student, or thinking about going back to school but like Jane find exam-taking problematic, make sure you look into academic accommodations. As an adult with ADHD, you’re entitled to them, especially for examinations.

Also, look into the possibility of a co-existing learning disability; up to 70% of us have both an LD and ADHD. After my diagnosis it became obvious to me that I’m a very slow reader and might have a learning disability as well as ADHD.

But hey – Steven Spielberg has dyslexia, and his career ain’t too shabby!

5) Knowledge is power

Once you’ve figured out what you’re passionate about and what your strengths are, look for a workplace that’s a good match.

We’re all different, but when an adult with ADHD has found their niche, these qualities are very common: tenacity, leadership skills and charisma, creativity, dedication (hyperfocus comes in handy), a wacky sense of humor, compassion, and (believe it or not) attention to detail – to name a few.

Find a job that uses your strengths but when ADHD-related challenges arise, look for strategies, structures, and workarounds.

There are tons of resources including blogs, books (hint hint), magazines (ADDitude magazine is a great resource), websites, coaches, and more to help you find solutions.

I don’t ask anyone else to jump over the piles on the floor in my office.

Things that work for me are: meditation (increases focus and productivity); yoga (decreases stress and anxiety; increases circulation and blood flow to the brain); having an accountability partner to check in with on a weekly basis (overrides procrastination; increases productivity) and having a “good enough” philosophy (addresses “Almost everything requires paperwork and some ability to keep a semblance of organizational skills”). My management of paperwork and organizational skills are good enough for me, and most important, good enough for me to meet my goals. I don’t ask anyone else to jump over the piles on the floor in my office.

Others have used walking around or taking notes at meetings to help with focus and memory; delegating paperwork; and setting alarms for time-management and transitions. The solutions are endless!

So Jane, I hope this helps, and I hope it helps others too.

Now get out there and go for it everyone. You can do it!

For more inspiration, check out these amazing ADHD women who’ve succeeded in a wide variety of careers, including: actor, computer programmer, human resource specialist, artist, municipal politician, restaurateur, journalist, and more!

Leading Ladies: Seven Successful Women with ADHD – Persevering amid attention deficit, these seven bold women do it their way.

ADHD Women: Female Leaders With Adult ADD/ADHD – These seven ADHD women don’t let their ADHD diagnosis, ADHD symptoms, or the world, hold them back.

Winning Women – After a diagnosis of attention deficit, these six women blazed a path to success and happiness.


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ADHD: What Are We Good At? 5 Steps to Find Out

Zoë Kessler, BA, B.Ed.

Zoë Kessler is an award-winning author, journalist, and speaker specializing in women and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD / ADD).

A frequent contributor to ADDitude Magazine, Kessler has also created video, standup comedy, and guest blogs on ADHD and Marriage covering ADHD-related topics.

Zoë, an internationally recognized ADHD expert, has been interviewed on radio and featured in magazine articles, documentaries, and books on the topic of women and ADHD across North America.

Her newly-released memoir ADHD According to Zoë - The Real Deal on relationships, Finding Your Focus & Finding Your Keys (New Harbinger Publications, 2013) about life with ADHD is now available.

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APA Reference
Kessler, Z. (2014). ADHD: What Are We Good At? 5 Steps to Find Out. Psych Central. Retrieved on February 23, 2020, from


Last updated: 10 Mar 2014
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