The ADHD Swing Thing

If you want to accomplish something, the more impediments you can remove by constant, intelligently planned practice, the quicker you'll achieve proficiency.
Treating ADHD Blog | posted by Bill Mehlman
Bill Mehlman blogs about treating adult ADHD for

I mentioned the other day that my tai chi teacher keeps exhorting us to be patient, and not to think about what we're doing in class so much as to free the mind to let the body learn. I'd like to offer some support for this position.

1. Anyone who can touch-type should be able to relate to this. Once you've achieved a reasonable degree of mastery of the QWERTY keyboard, you'll notice that you can type away, concentrating on what you want to say rather than how to type it. The instant your brain switches back to doing "Umm, lemme see here, the ampersand is shift-7" or "Hit the hyphen with the ring finger of the right hand, not the pinky" you're almost certainly going to have to pause and rearrange those synapses.

2. Same deal for musical instruments. If your head is wondering where C sharp is, or how to finger it, you know damn well that the other part of the brain, the one that wants to improvise on the melody of "Take the 'A' Train," may as well take a short snooze.

3. A classic: watch someone who's learning to play golf. The golf swing is a very complicated sequence of movements involving pretty much every muscle of the body from neck to feet. If someone tells a beginner, "If you do nothing else, keep that right elbow tucked in," and if the duffer takes that advice, it's dollars to doughnuts that he's going to screw up his swing for a while.

You need to work on one thing at a time, but when you get around to taking a full swing, you shouldn't be thinking about much more, in my humble, 24-handicap opinion, than keeping your eye on the ball.

4. An area in which I've had some success: languages. The tipping point, to use a currently voguish phrase, in speaking/reading/writing a foreign language occurs when you stop translating in your head, and think/read/speak directly in the secondary language. Your brain can speak French but if it's going to think in English and translate, not only will your French be halting, it will probably be bad French.

The connection here with ADHD is, in case I've been unclear, that if you want to accomplish something, the more impediments you can remove by constant, intelligently planned practice, the quicker you'll achieve proficiency.

In other words, are you interested in developing a picture-perfect golf swing, or playing golf well? Not at all the same thing, and the first doesn't necessarily lead to the second.

Mixing my examples, allow me to quote the epitome of stylishness, Duke Ellington: "It don't mean a thing if it ain't got that swing." In golf or jazz or anything else. Don't get bogged down in the small stuff. Keep your eyes on, and devote your practice to, the final result.

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