Change Your Mind Much? Letterman Can Help

Here's help for the indecisive ADHDer: Draw up your Top 10 reasons for making a decision, and read them when doubt creeps in.
This Is 40... and Beyond | posted by Linda Roggli, PCC

We really want the perfect solution and we're sure one (and only one) exists.

If only she'd watched David Letterman! My ADHD client had changed her mind a dozen times about her new eyeglasses. Sears was cheaper, but the frames were boring. The frames from the doctor's office fit her better; she wanted blue, but they were only available in brown. She'd found the perfect frames online, but they might not be big enough for her first-time bifocals. She needed to be comfortable, so maybe she could live with brown. But her budget was tight. Back to Sears...

It took two months of agonizing scrutiny for my client to choose her frames. She rehashed the same scenarios again and again, arriving at different decisions. She even found another optical shop and added that variable into the mix. In the end, she opted for chic over cheap. Letterman's Top 10 could have saved her sanity.

My brother — an ADHD skeptic, but surely an undiagnosed ADHD clan member — has accommodated his indecision by compiling his own Top 10 reasons for making a decision. He writes down the reasons and keeps the list on his computer. When the inevitable doubt creeps in, he pulls out the list to remind himself of the sound logic of his choice. "I don't have to go back and rethink that decision," he said. "My thinking process is right there in front of me."

Brilliant, simply brilliant. My brother has created his own external working memory. It's our non-working memory that sends us into a frenzied circle dance when we try to make informed choices. We gather far too much information; our ADHD filters are wide open and we welcome all comers instead of discarding unimportant incoming data. We get overwhelmed with all that intoxicating information and have a devil of a time coming to a solution. Actually, we have several good solutions; we really want the perfect solution and we're sure one (and only one) exists.

There's not much we can do about our wide-open filters; we will continue to search for more information than we need. We can stop obsessing over the decisions we've made if we borrow my brother's simple inspiration: "The 10th most important reason I decided to rent an apartment in Illinois is that the hotel rooms are more expensive than paying rent. The 9th most important reason I decided to rent an apartment is that I want to sleep in my own bed..." Get the idea?

The Top 10 approach could even narrow the options. Writing down a progression of possibilities allows us to see where the options overlap. Mind maps are good tools for connecting the dots between ideas. Then when the decision becomes clear, put it in writing and remember to hit “Save.” Your own Top 10 list may save you a lot of agony the next time you are making a decision. It will certainly save you time.

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