Coach Me If I Fall…

Yes! You should get a coach! Or two! Or three!
Life in the Fast Brain | posted by Kristen Caven

The ADHD mind needs an adrenaline rush to be productive.

—Dr. Greg Devore

I got the greatest letter from a reader the other day:

I read your articles on ADDitudemag.com and what you wrote REALLY resonated with me. My question is did you find a solution or help to manage life (especially your business)? I feel like I need help of some kind–a business coach or an ADD coach–something. But don't have a way to choose one from all the MILLIONS of options.

This is such a great question, and one so central to my life, that I felt it deserved an entire blog post. Or two. Or twelve. But let’s start with one, let me try to drill down to the crunchy center of this question: Do I need a coach?

Looking back over the years, I realize that I have always worked best when I have some sort of coaching going on, by any other name. In college it was a weekly meeting with my adviser. At certain points in my adult life, it’s been a mentor, a writing partner, a class, a therapist, or a healer of some sort or another—the key being someone who would pay attention to what was going on with ME on a regular basis and thus get me to pay attention to myself. Sometimes it was working through a book that resonated with me. The best help I ever got, though, was a coach I found through SCORE who specialized in artists.

I found Martha Zlatar (ArtMatch) serendipitously—someone at my church was raving about how she really understood the nature of the art business. When I met her, she explained to me that artists are unlike other business people in that they really need to feel emotionally connected to the work they do. (Does that ring any bells? Like the ADHD Interest-Driven Mind?)

Over the years, Martha has helped me break down the many swirling tasks in my life. My actions got more powerful when I learned how to direct my attention with more intention. She’s helped and encouraged me come up with systems that work for me—like my “Me Mondays” and “Finance Fridays” checklists.

Having a coach has been incredibly helpful in the accomplishing-things department. However, there are challenges and impulses that come with ADD that can undermine good goal-setting and achievement; it helps to understand what they are. For me, my strength is also my weakness.

The ADHD mind, says Kaiser’s Dr. Greg Devore, needs an adrenaline rush to be productive, which is why we add extra stress to our lives. A neurotypical person, when they have too much on their plate, will say no thanks to a new opportunity or impulse, and take things off of their calendar. When I have too much on my plate, however, I tend to take on more. I recently realized that keeping “too busy” helps me get things done. The stress of having at least two more things on my to-do list than I actually have the bandwidth for creates the pressure my brain needs in order to feel motivated. And even though I fail at some things, I can accomplish so much more than other mortals.

Another thing I now know about myself is that I have to switch things up. I used to feel bad that I couldn’t sustain a system I’d a) paid good money for or b) loved a year ago. But once I realized I need novelty in order to keep my attention, I was able to build creativity into my self-management systems. (For example, I now keep a Google calendar AND a notebook where I doodle around my to-do lists.)

Arianne Benefit, the coach who wrote about the creative temperament and ADHD understands this tension, identifying the “sweet spot” that gets you into the flow. (Hint: it’s between your comfort zone and the danger zone.) She can help her (Agilizen) clients figure out where their strengths are. And working from your strengths is always the way to success.

Whether you hire someone (follow your intuition and don’t over-think it; pick someone, get what you can, and switch to someone else if it doesn’t work), get help from a family member or friend (find a book or online system to guide you), or co-coach a colleague—I say go for us! Coaching is essential to those of us blessed with extra-distractibility. Our minds are powerful things—and good coaches remind us that we’re the boss of them!

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