Buridan's Ass

It is easy for ADHDans to get lost in the maze of indecision. Get into the habit of finishing one thing at a time.
Treating ADHD Blog | posted by Bill Mehlman

Buridan's ass refers to the problem of a donkey that, midway between two piles of hay, starves to death from indecision. Apparently old Aristotle anticipated this, as he did almost everything else, although he presented the situation as that of a man who, exactly equidistant from water and food, dies, because he's exactly as hungry as he is thirsty.

We ADHDans frequently find ourselves in similar dilemmas. Actually, we don't find ourselves in these dilemmas so much as lose ourselves in these situations. We set out to do something, but just as we're about to take some positive step, another option pops up, and then another and another. We get lost in this mental crabgrass.

I'm convinced that the answer to this problem is to be brutal with yourself. Disallow ANY options. Once you start something, don't do anything else until you're finished. Make it a habit to complete tasks, and refuse to let yourself indulge in any other activities until you've finished the first one.

Someone out there is screaming, "But that's exactly the problem! I have ADHD! I'm always flitting from one thing to another." I know. But there's still some degree of free will, some extent to which we're in control. I'm not suggesting that if, following who knows what bizarre impulse, you pick up The Critique of Pure Reason, you don't even get up to eat until you've finished. Even the most focused individuals can't accomplish that, if only because they'd starve to death like Buridan's ass.

I'm talking about simple issues. You start to wash the dishes, pay your monthly bills or mow the lawn. Not exactly in a class with reading Kant.

Distractions will come up. Ignore them. Tell yourself that, for right now, this minute, you're going to keep at your task until the dishes are clean, or you've stamped and sealed the envelopes or cleaned and put away the lawnmower.

I'd be the last person to suggest that willpower is the cure for ADHD. But habit is a powerful force, and getting into the habit of finishing one thing at a time just might help.

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