A Powerful Tool For Creating Winning Habits

Most of my ADD clients, and some of my non-ADD clients, complain about their stubborn, hard-to-change habits.  They’re disorganized.  They don’t manage their time well.  They procrastinate.  They don’t set priorities so that the most important things get done on time.  They’ve tried to change these bad habits into good habits through force-of-will, but their will has failed.

Willpower alone usually doesn’t cut it.  The reason it doesn’t is that 95% of our behavior is controlled by programs running in the subconscious mind.  When you use willpower to work against the subconscious mind, you are working against a mighty, powerful force.  No wonder you lose.

Fortunately, there is a way to talk to the subconscious in a language it understands.  The subconscious thinks in images, and you can talk to it by deliberately creating images in your mind.  The subconscious is more receptive when you are alone, away from distractions, and very relaxed.

For example, let’s consider the procrastination habit.  If you’ve been in the habit of procrastinating for a long time, you think of yourself as a “procrastinator.”  Maybe you even berate yourself in your mind or out loud for this habit that creates problems in your life.  Maybe you even talk about it to other people.  Stop focusing on behavior that you don’t want and do what I describe below instead.

Close your eyes.  Get quiet.  Get comfortable, but not so much that you fall asleep.   Relax your body parts, one by one, until you have released all tension.  Recall a time when you were pleased with yourself and feel grateful for that.  The gratitude will put you in a pleasant frame of mind.  Now recall a situation in which you typically procrastinate.  Imagine it, using as many of your senses as possible (sight, hearing, taste, smell, feeling), like you are experiencing it in a movie theater only the screen and the speakers are in your mind.  Now change the picture to black and white and let it slowly fade into the distance until it’s completely gone.

Recall the same situation again, but imagine yourself behaving the way you want to behave.   Imagine it so vividly that it seems real, bringing in as many senses as you can.  Now, what will make this work is adding emotion.  I can’t overemphasize the importance of the emotion.  Feel the way you would feel if the task were already completed, with time to spare, and crossed off the list.  What is the feeling?  Relief?  Happiness?  Joy?  Enjoy the feeling.  Be grateful that you are now procrastination-free.

You might be wondering how you will fit this into an already “stuffed” schedule.   Not to worry.  You can complete this exercise in a few minutes; however, you may need to repeat it multiple times because you are actually building a new pathway of connections in your brain.  Each time you do it, the connections become stronger.  To strengthen the connection even more, take a micro step on the task you’ve been postponing.  Do make it a micro step to avoid setting off a revolt.

Now, let go and hold the expectation that you are well on your way to being procrastination-free.

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Have a weekend filled with wonder!


ADD and Anxiety

I don’t have any statistics about what percentage of people with ADD experience high levels of anxiety.  I do know that, when ADD is present, other things, such as anxiety, are often present as well.  In my own coaching practice, I can say that anxiety is a problem for most of my clients a lot of the time.  In this Friday Focus, I want to provide some strategies for managing anxiety because, if anxiety rises beyond a mild level, it interferes with performance and “quality of life.”

One of the best strategies for reducing anxiety is to stop time-travelling.  Here is an example of time-travelling.  You are at work having a conversation with a colleague.  All of a sudden, your mind travels back to the argument you had with your teenager last night and you regret something you said.  Then your mind travels forward to the wallet-busting repair bill you will have to pay if the sound you noticed in your car this morning  turns out to be anything serious.  Back and forth your mind goes, past to future, future to past.  You spend the whole day regretting the past, worrying about the future, and missing the present.  The regret and the worry do not resolve any problems, but they do take a serious toll on your health, well-being, and productivity.

When you notice your mind wandering back to the past or forward to the future, pull it back gently to what you are doing in the present moment, as you would a straying child.  As you refocus completely on just the present moment, the regret and worry disappear.  Notice the relief you feel.  This requires awareness.  You have to observe and notice when your mind drifts into a different time zone, but, as with anything, you improve with practice.

Another strategy for reducing anxiety is to begin today to tackle the things you have been procrastinating.  Tasks do not disappear because you “put them on hold.”  Each one takes up space in your mind.   A large backlog of uncompleted tasks can result in a surprisingly high level of anxiety.  Make a list of items that are backlogged.  Find someone who will hold you accountable to do a little each day until you polish off the list.  How good it feels when the anxiety meter falls!

Finally, when anxiety is very high, medication is an option.  You can discuss this with a doctor who has experience treating people with moderate to severe anxiety.

There are many things you can do reduce anxiety.  Rate your anxiety on a scale of 1 to 10.  Try any of the above strategies or  a combination of strategies.  Rate your anxiety again.  Notice the difference.  You are not at the mercy of your anxiety.  You have many tools at your disposal for reducing it.