Tips For ADHD and Failure

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People with ADHD experience more failure and disappointments than their non-ADHD peers. Repeated failure can be damaging because you create a belief system that says you 'can't’ do certain things. You stop setting goals because you don’t want have another failure and disappoint yourself. Low confidence and self-esteem often come as a result of these failures.

Failure can come from big life events like divorce or bankruptcy or from smaller things that happen in our daily lives.

For example, a poor performance review at work, or a parking ticket. You might find that you fear failure, so you procrastinate or find it difficult to make decisions. This fear might also make you feel nervous and anxious, which in turn, makes your ADHD worse.

Here are 4 suggestions to reframe ‘failure’.

1.     Failure Helps Growth

Traditionally, we are taught that failure is bad and success is good. Failure makes you question your worthiness as a human and your place on earth. Success, on the other hand, validates your self-worth and purpose in life. In his book, Elite Minds, sports psychologist, Stan Beecham says that we need failure for development and growth. When you think of failure this way, it is no longer something bad to be avoided, but instead, something normal; which is helpful.

2.     Success and Failure

Stan Beecham also says, “no one is successful or a failure all the time. Humans are both.” Yet, if you have ADHD, there is a good chance you are remembering your failures and forgetting your successes.

If you decide that you are a 'failure', you may have been supporting that belief with events from your past. Perhaps it was something your previous teacher said, or how you didn’t get a certain grade or achievement. Nevertheless, you could do a mental flip and find evidence that you are successful.

For example, you got every job you have ever had an interview for, and that guy / girl agreed to go on a date with you, etc. Focusing on your successes takes mental effort if you aren't used to doing it.  However, starting to today, rather than focusing on missing the bus or forgetting to hand in a project at work, instead,remember the compliment you got from your boss.

3.     What Could You DDifferently?

When you don't get the result you want, don’t call it a failure. Instead, ask: ‘what could I do differently?’ You can still get the result you want; just at a later date. I recently ran a half marathon. My goal was to run it in under 2 hours. Though when I crossed the finish line, the clock said 2 hours 9 minutes. Rather than labeling the experience a failure, I decided to work out what I needed to do differently next time. That question led me to discover a wealth of knowledge I didn’t know was available. There are a lot of books and podcasts on training and nutrition, which will be with me long after race day. Also, learning all the information has been very enjoyable.

You can apply the same principles to relationships, work, finance, health and any aspect of your life you would like to turn around.


4.     Get Comfortable Failing

Because failure is part of life, why not embrace it rather than fear it? A boss wanted his sales team to make more sales. The more calls each person made, the more sales they would make. However, instead of setting a goal number of sales, he set a goal number of rejections! By welcoming failure, the sales team didn’t let fear of failure get in the way of making sales calls and they made more sales than ever before. Why don’t you set yourself a failure challenge? When you are comfortable with a failure, you are winning.

Stan Beecham, Elite Minds: Creating the Competitive Advantage, Booklogix, 2013

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