“What Should I Do with My Life?” 6 Revealing Questions for Adults with ADHD
Adults with ADHD sometimes blow in the wind — directionless due to difficulties with long-term planning and decision-making. To devise an authentic life plan, ask yourself these questions to reveal your values, strengths, and passions.
What should I do with my life?
I grappled with this question for decades as an adult with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD or ADD). I read self-help books, took personality tests, hired career counselors and a life coach, but I couldn’t connect the dots. Though I am ambitious and driven (drive, after all, is a form of hyperactivity), I was secretly terrified that I wouldn’t live up to my potential. I’d create a plan and get distracted by something brighter and shinier.
I needed a life plan to spark and focus my scattered ADHD brain. You probably need one, too. To that end, I’m sharing the following six questions — ones that I found particularly revealing and helpful as I worked to create a life plan that centers on my values and passions.
ADHD Life Plan Question 1: What Do You Value?
Values are the principles and ideas that drive your personal and professional decisions and influence your relationships. Sometimes we adopt values that are ours alone, but often we adopt the values of our family, friends, or community.
Rachel was raised in a family that rejected science, but when she started examining her values, Rachel realized she loved science. She remembered how good it had felt to look up at the stars for hours. This clarity gave her the confidence to go back to college to study astronomy and stop making decisions based on her parents’ values.
When we live other people’s values, we live other people’s lives — and we wonder why we’re unhappy. This is especially true for adults with ADHD. We know what we should do, but after years of being told that our way is the wrong way, we don’t trust ourselves.
ADHD Life Plan Question 2: What’s Your Life’s Theme?
Your core values drive and make sense of all your other values. Choose one of them as the overall theme for your ADHD life plan. My top value is to challenge the status quo. I’m always attracted to the option that challenges the norm for the better. If I need to make a decision, I ask myself, “Which option shakes things up more?” Since that option will be more aligned with who I am, I know that it will hold my interest longer and bring more satisfaction.
ADHD Life Plan Question 3: What Are Your Strengths?
Many of us can identify our weaknesses, but have trouble listing our strengths. The VIA Character Strengths Survey (viastrengths.org) helps uncover the personality traits that represent the essence of who you are. These traits drive us and give us energy. Values live in our head, but if we don’t act on them, they never evolve into pillars of an ADHD life plan or character strengths. Character strengths integrate who we are and how we act, not just what we think and feel.
Carol was raised to value security. Her parents preached caution, citing her uncle’s failed business as proof. She discovered that caution was not one of her values and became an entrepreneur anyway, using her strengths — creativity, humor, love of learning — in her business. Living her values sparked positive feelings, which further motivated her ADHD brain.
ADHD Life Plan Question 4: What Are Your Superpowers?
When you nurture your natural-born talents, they become your superpowers. What are you better at than most people? If you’re not sure, ask your best friend. Many of us can’t see our superpowers at all.
Alicia was the perfect example. When I talked to her, she described herself as “mediocre.” So I asked her to make a list of the things she had done that made her feel positive emotion. Her list included publishing four novels. She was also on track to complete her psychology degree and made the dean’s list every semester.
When you write down your superpowers, they are harder to ignore.
ADHD Life Plan Question 5: What Are Your Passions?
Everyone needs to recognize their passions, but for those of us with ADHD, it’s imperative. Our brains are wired for interest. What can you do for hours while time flies by? Passions are the things you could do all day.
Katelyn Mabry is the author of the children’s book, Hi, It’s Me! I Have ADHD. As a child, Katelyn knew she was smart, but she struggled in school. Somehow she got into college. The first two years were hard, but in her third year, Katelyn decided to study special education. She wanted to crack her own reading and learning code, so she could help other students avoid what she went through. Katelyn found a passion that gave meaning to her past. She went on to earn a master’s degree and graduated at the top of her class.
ADHD Life Plan Question 6: What Are Your Strongest Passions?
Adults with ADHD have lots of ideas. We keep running them through our brain, but never wind up acting on most of them. Sometimes we act and get pulled in a new direction until something more interesting comes along. Instead, we need to look for the overlap. Ask yourself, where do your values, life theme, signature strengths, superpowers, and strongest passions intersect? This sweet spot is where you connect who you are with what you’re doing.
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