We're Driven by Attention — Not Lacking It

Ready for a creative challenge? Get to know the sparkly flipside of ADHD, and let it energize your life.
Life in the Fast Brain | posted by Kristen Caven

There is really no deficit of attention in ADD. Your attention just doesn’t always go where other people want it to.

— Blogger Kristen Caven

I’ve been paying a lot of attention lately to attention. When it is there, when it is not, how hard it is to summon, how hard it is to turn it off. For example, I can ask Enzo’s Uncle Zoom a question and never get an answer; his ears turn off when he’s attending to something inside his mind. Then there are times I want Enzo’s dad, "Dave," to just let something slide, for goodness sake.

There is really no deficit of attention in ADD. Your attention just doesn’t always go where other people want it to. For years, Uncle Zoom and I have tried to think of other names for ADD; we and others like us are absolutely driven with passion, and have boundless energy when there is something creative pulling us.

Thus, I was thrilled to discover the idea of the Interest-Driven Nervous System (IDNS). This is one characteristic, according to Dr. William Dodson, that every person with ADHD has, no matter what their other symptoms. Unlike the 90% of people who can achieve something if it is important or if there is a reward to be had or a consequence to be suffered, folks wired with an IDNS are only motivated when something really captures or holds their attention. As he puts it (consequences be damned), they are only motivated if something is:

  • Novel,
  • Interesting,
  • Challenging, or
  • Urgent

Or, as I like to think of it, if something is Sparkly, Annoying, Fascinating, or On Fire.

And by golly, if there’s nothing interesting going on, some of us will make something sparkle. Or set something on fire...

If you look at it this way — thank you, Dr. Dodson! — you can see that ADD is not at all about having Attention Deficit, but by being Attention Driven.

When your life really is out of order, ADD is indeed a Disorder. And exclusively following one’s Interests can certainly create Disorder. But here is the key to transformation: seeing ADD as a creative challenge intrinsically harnesses the power of the IDNS. Why? The IDNS thrives on challenge.

So if you accept the creative challenge of understanding your own mind, and work hard to structure your life in support of your strengths (easier said than done, like most things), it is theoretically possible that all challenges can be overcome.

Follow this line of logic, there is then only one thing an IDNS can lead to: an Interest-ing life!

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