ADHD New Years Resolutions
Updated: Jan 13
Like most other people, I'm terrible with New Years' Resolutions. Not only am I terrible, but I'm so bad at them that I had begun telling people that I just don't do them because I know that I will fail at them anyway. A part of me of course wants to blame this on ADHD, but the reality is that nobody is ever REALLY good at completing their resolutions. That being said, ADHD definitely plays its own role in not following through with my resolutions. Knowing this, I decided that, because I am always looking for ways to improve myself, I would go ahead and create a New Years' Resolution for myself for 2023. So, I started trying to figure out what I wanted to improve upon in my life for the upcoming year by writing down my resolutions on paper.
Dreaming Too Big
One of the biggest pitfalls for those of us with ADHD is that we have a tendency to ONLY see the bigger picture at times instead of seeing all the details of how we get to that final destination. Because of this, goals and tasks often become these giant monsters that are so intimidating that we procrastinate to start on them, if not avoid starting them altogether. My first idea for a resolution was no exception in this matter. I wrote down, "get my ADHD under control", but quickly realized that, like most people with ADHD, getting your ADHD under control, is far too loaded a statement to follow through within just a year's time.
This is something that many of us ADHDers struggle with when it comes to setting goals for ourselves or following through with projects. We often only see the one huge giant project in front of us and quickly become overwhelmed trying to come up with a plan on how we are going to tackle it. One solution to this issue when it comes to projects is for us to break them down into smaller tasks.
I don't know about you all, but for me, even this can be daunting. I mean, if I'm overwhelmed because of the sheer magnitude of a project because I'm already picturing way too many steps to complete, then breaking said project down into all those said steps is only going to make it seem slightly less intimidating because I can now see the number of steps involved as opposed to just ambiguously ginormous. So, instead of trying to figure out this massive amount of logistical navigating to get this list of tasks, we should instead just come up with the first few tasks needed to get started.
So, using my resolution as an example, instead of deciding to just "get my ADHD under control", I would instead just think of the first steps needed to get my ADHD under control. I'm already taking meds and in therapy, so I'm not going to count those steps. So at least now I can have something to work from to come up with a resolution or two.
Don't Let RSD Get in the Way
One thing that sets me back when it comes to making resolutions for myself is the fear that I'm just going to fail. When we grow up not realizing that we have a neurodivergent brain, we tend to start wondering if we are just broken. We develop coping mechanisms over the years to deal with the fact that we are struggling so much and often fail when trying to keep up with everybody else. And, of course, because we don't want people to continue being disappointed in us all the time, we become hyper-aware of our own limitations. This eventually leads to our own anticipation of failure and ultimately Rejection Sensitivity or Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria (RSD).
My own RSD is what caused me to want to stop making these resolutions each year. I had begun telling myself the story that "it doesn't matter what I do; I'm not going to be able to keep it up because of my ADHD." I mean, how many times had I tried to implement some new type of planner into my daily life and it would only last somewhere between two days and two weeks if I was really devoted to the idea? So, I at some point made the decision that "what was the point?"
But this is exactly the type of thinking that prevents us from growing and being the best version of ourselves. After all, no matter how much we want to change and be better, we are never going to grow if we don't take action and make the conscious choice to take that first step. Believe me, I know that this is all easier said than done and I know exactly how sanctimonious this can all sound. But trust me; it took me almost a decade of therapy, countless bouts of severe depression, and a massive amount of self-reflection and soul-searching to even get to the point where I am now – able to actually come up with something that will work.
I know how difficult it is, and yet, it all boils down to what story I am telling myself. It becomes far too easy over the years to convince ourselves that all the people that told us we were lazy, stupid, or weird were right about us. But the reality is, we are some of the hardest working, most determined, and smartest people on the planet. None of those other people know the struggles that we have gone through just to try and keep up in a world that wasn't designed for our brains. It is precisely this reason that makes us even more capable of fulfilling a New Years' resolution. We just have to do it in a way that works FOR us and not AGAINST us.
Breaking it Down into Little Steps
After coming to this realization, I decided that the only thing keeping me from succeeding at a New Years' resolution was the scope I was putting on it. I may not know enough about history, but I'm pretty sure there isn't an ADHDer who has ever existed on this earth who has solved 100% of their ADHD issues in a single year. So, I decided that I just need to break it down into managing one aspect of my ADHD at a time instead of trying to manage "all the things." So, for me, it was a matter of figuring out what the biggest obstacles for me have been with regard to my ADHD. One of my biggest hurdles has been remembering to do the daily things like take breaks so I can remember to eat, and other quick things like remembering to check in with my wife during the day so I can be more present instead of off in my ADHDNerdDad world.
So, given that both of those things are basically affected by my time blindness I decided that I would start with that as my point of origin.
It also helped that my wife bought me
this great rotating timer/clock for Christmas. I can keep this at work to make sure I stop and take breaks throughout the day using the Pomodoro technique. But this alone isn't going to help me with all my things so I've set up Google Keep for myself to set reminders and make notes for myself to do certain things like remember to text my wife, remember my doctor's appointment, or pick my son up at a certain time.
Keeping Yourself Accountable
So, now that we have our New Years' resolution, how do we hold ourselves accountable and keep ourselves from just forgetting it exists during that two-day to two-week interval? Since our ADHD time blindness also causes us to have a very short time horizon – which makes it hard to envision what we will be doing in the distant future – it can be hard to picture ourselves keeping up with a habit over time. So, we need to come up with some external reminders and solutions in order to keep that motivation going throughout the year and hopefully create strong habits we can carry with us years into the future. Here are a few things I'm doing to help myself.
Set up daily reminders for yourself: Setting daily reminders on my phone that will bug me every day to keep following my routine will prevent me from forgetting that I have set this goal for myself, and as such, keep it fresh each and every day. This is pretty effective for me, however, some people have a tendency to ignore their alarms and so they need another form of accountability.
Find an Accountability Buddy: This can be just a friend, family member, or coworker that you tell about your resolution and ask them to help remind you about it and check up on you to make sure you are following through with it. Better yet, it can be someone who wants you to do the same for them. This way you are both looking out for each other and since we ADHDers are often better at helping others than we are at helping ourselves, this can also keep us accountable since helping them will also act as a reminder for ourselves. In this way, knowing that someone else is paying attention to whether or not we are following through with our resolution, we will be less likely to fail because we would then have to explain why we stopped, which would mean possibly disappointing someone.
Journal about your progress: Keeping a log of your progress will give you something to look back on as a reminder of how far you've come. It doesn't have to be anything elaborate. Even if it's just a small notepad that you jot down a date and time you do the thing your resolution is about. We all need reminders of where we've been, in order to have a clearer picture of where we are going.
Reward Yourself: If there is one thing that keeps an ADHDer motivated to do anything, it is looking for that sweet sweet dopamine at the end of the day. Dopamine is the reward chemical of the brain. And nothing releases dopamine more than getting a reward for our actions. So it makes sense that rewarding ourselves for our accomplishments would help keep us on track. Obviously, your reward is going to be dependent on you. It can be a one-time thing you look forward to at the end of the year, or it can be something you give yourself every day for doing the thing.
We're Only Human
At the end of the day, it doesn't matter whether we are neurodivergent or neurotypical, each and every person has SOMETHING that they can improve about themselves. Nobody is perfect, and giving ourselves something that we can strive towards can only improve our lives and give us something to hope for. Even if it only comes once a year, I think that having something that gives us motivation to make this year better than the last, is something that all of us can and should get onboard with.
Happy New Year, everybody!
Have a question or comment? Have your own New Years’ Resolution you want to share with me? Let me know in the comments below, or better yet, come join us on our Discord Server. We would love to hear from you!