Our high-speed attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADD/ADHD) brains seem incapable, at times, of keeping things simple. We want to buy a new smart phone, so we go online to see what's available, and we get a case of attention-surplus disorder. We dig up so much information that we can't make a decision. We are overwhelmed.
Sometimes our difficulty making decisions extends to the things that should be dealt with now -- like a leaky faucet. We don't know which faucet to buy, so we let the old one drip for months until we have a flood underneath the sink. But decision making doesn't have to be a challenge: Here's how some of my ADD/ADHD clients became more decisive.
Susan, a recently retired government employee, wanted to move back to a small town in North Carolina where her parents and friends live. She knew that it was the right choice, but instead of looking for a place to live, she spent weeks surfing the net for lighting fixtures, kitchen cabinets, flooring. She came to me for help. We discovered two approaches that moved her forward.
Consider Pros and Cons: The first strategy was to talk about the kind of house she wanted to live in. Hearing herself say things aloud made the decision-making process easier, since she was able to rule out options. Renovating an older house or building a new one seemed attractive when Susan thought about it, but lost its appeal when I asked, "How long do you think that will take?" She realized that a condo was a better choice.
Prioritize: The second strategy was to identify what she valued most -- spending time with family and friends and staying active. She decided that having a large living/dining area to entertain company was more important than having three large bedrooms. And she wanted a condo near a bike path or a gym. This thinking narrowed her choices. One condo that she had ruled out now seemed more appealing. She bought it.
Think Long-Term, Big Picture: Terry, a recent graduate who is starting her first job, uses the same strategy in helping her make decisions. Before making any choice, she asks herself, "Which is the healthiest choice I can make for my physical, spiritual, and emotional well-being?" Before she identified self-care as being more important than financial success and professional accomplishment, deciding on anything was stressful. Terry worked late, and regretted missing her yoga class or not spending time with friends. What's more, staying late hurt her performance at the job the next day. She told me, "Making decisions based on what is best for me has helped me get my work done faster and better. Taking care of myself is the way to gain an edge professionally."
Make Choices With Confidence: Tom was clear about what he wanted. But he couldn't move forward because he feared it wasn't the "right" choice. I suggested that he list his fears and ask himself, "What's the worst that could happen?" As we discussed ways to deal with each thing that could go wrong, Tom realized he was smart enough, and emotionally resilient enough, to deal with anything that might occur. This took the fear out of his decision making.
Avoid Acting on Impulse: Because ADHDers make impulsive decisions that sometimes backfire, deciding not to decide is a good choice, too. I sometimes realize several weeks later that many of my "great ideas" aren't worth pursuing. Everything that pops into our heads needn't be attended to. It's important to be able to make decisions, but it's equally important not to make ones that will take us off course.
More on Decision Making
This article appeared in the Summer 2011 issue of ADDitude. SUBSCRIBE TODAY to ensure you don't miss a single issue.