Seven Helpful Habits for People with ADHD

Every adult with ADD has special talents. The trick is to uncover them–and use them to achieve important goals.


Cultivating Success in Kids

Kids have less control over their lives than do grownups. They can’t move to a new town or across the country to attend a school that’s better suited to their needs, for example. They can’t even break for recess early because they feel jumpy. But parents can help their children by encouraging them to pursue what they’re passionate about, and, whenever feasible, by making it possible for them to do so.

Parents can also help children stay organized. You may not be able to find anything in the disaster area your daughter calls her room. But as long as she can, she is enough organized. (If the clutter bothers you, have her keep the door closed.)

What if your child starts to have trouble finding things, or never has clean clothes because she doesn’t put her clothes in the hamper? Help her create a system—one that helps her reach her goal (clean laundry), rather than one that aims for something unattainable (perfectly tidy room). This approach may go against your instincts, but don’t worry. She’ll get better over time.


Do you sometimes worry that attention deficit disorder (ADD / ADHD) will hold you back? There’s no need to. Everyone has special interests and abilities that can help them reach their goals. The trick is to identify these often-hidden passions and talents—and put them to work.

In more than two decades as a psychiatrist, I’ve known countless people who have managed to thrive in spite of—and often because of—their ADD. I’m thinking of people like my friend R.L., who parlayed a gift for gab and an ability to stay calm in chaotic environments into a dynamic career as a television anchorman.

Of course, I’ve also met plenty of ADDers whose careers and personal relationships were hijacked by their condition. What explains this “success gap”? Why do some ADDers struggle, while others succeed? I think it’s a matter of habits. That is, successful ADDers tend to be those who have learned to focus on their strengths and who have developed these good habits:

1. Do what you’re good at.

Everyone is good at some things, and not so good at others. Often it’s more productive to focus on improving your strengths rather than on trying to shore up your weak points. And when you must do something you’re not particularly good at? Work with family members, coaches, or tutors to find coping strategies that help you become “good enough.”

2. Keep in touch with your friends.

Good friends are essential for happiness. And friends can provide you with valuable perspective.

3. Ask for advice.

Life is tricky, but there’s no need to go it alone. Figure out whom you trust, and confer with them on a regular basis—and especially when problems arise. Ignore naysayers and finger-waggers.

4. Get enough organized.

You don’t have to be totally organized—perfect files, no clutter. That’s too hard for most ADDers and, in my opinion, nothing but a waste of your time. You only need to be organized enough so that disorganization doesn’t get in your way.

5. Find an outlet for your creativity.

What’s your hobby? Music? Karate? My outlet is writing. Life is always more interesting and fulfilling when I’m engaged in a writing project.

6. Learn to delegate.

If you’re faced with a task or responsibility that you find particularly difficult, ask someone else to do it for you in exchange for doing something for him. And don’t assume that someone else will pick up the slack for you when you don’t get things done. Ask him or her to do so. Asking for help is especially important within the context of marriage; failing to acknowledge that you are leaving the not-so-fun stuff (housekeeping, bill-paying, and so on) to your non-ADD spouse invariably leads to resentment.

7. Stay optimistic.

Everyone has a dark side, and can feel down sometimes. But do your best to make decisions and “run your life” with your positive side.

This article comes from the April/May 2007 issue of ADDitude.

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