Self Esteem

How to Be an ADHD Warrior

Whether it’s building your own fan club or taking time to gain a little perspective, these tips will help you find success and happiness despite an ADHD diagnosis.

Live a happy and fullfilling life. Grind and make sparks
Live a happy and fullfilling life. Grind and make sparks

Adults with ADHD should strive to be resilient. I’m talking about finding the warrior within all of us.

Whether we know it or not, the warrior developed over years of fighting for our identities in school — surrounded by families who fought side by side with us — and in our struggles in the workplace and society. In the end, this is who we are.

But often, in the face of surviving in school, on the job, or in a relationship, we forget how to forge our own path, and even how to rock the boat at times – like the little kid who will not sit at his desk but demands an explanation of why he should.

Living a life less ordinary is about being a warrior and telling “them” to screw their gold stars and formulaic identities. It would be ironic, wouldn’t it, if I attempted to tell you how to do this? I can’t. In fact, I wouldn’t even dare. But here are some things to think about to help develop the warrior who is living inside of you.

Define success.

You own your definition of success. Define what it means to you, not others, to be successful in life.

Get a fan club.

Find people in your life who can celebrate your successes with you. Sometimes the best people to do this are those who have been there since the very beginning. When something good happens to you — a promotion, a raise, or just a pat on the back from the boss — e-mail your fan club or call them on the phone to share the news and bask in their adulation.

Survive setbacks.

Setbacks suck. No further analysis necessary. Worse still, they are a fact of life and can usher in fears and doubts about your abilities. When setbacks come rolling in — and they will, if you’re rocking the boat — relax, take a deep breath, and know that they are the inevitable byproduct of working hard and taking risks. If you never experience setbacks, you’re not trying hard enough. (See “Putting a Setback Behind You,” below.)

Embrace struggle and risk.

These are the two big ones adults with ADHD were taught to shy away from, but, in fact, they are key to becoming empowered individuals. Too many people equate happiness with perfection, and, so, try to avoid struggle. And risk brings up the fear of failure. But there is meaning in the struggle, and only by taking risks will you grow and find success.

Don’t fear failure.

We grow up fearing the big “F-word.” When we get Fs, we do not get the gold stars, right? But the irony is that, without risking failure, we will never achieve anything that is truly ours. Committing yourself to living a life on your own terms and pursuing your own goals and definition of success are risky. Know in the back of your mind that the resilient part of yourself is strong, and your identity is independent of your performance or success. When looked at in this light, and without fear, failure simply becomes an exciting but meaningless game of poker.

One last piece of advice: Taking back the self from the institutions we’re part of is a lifelong struggle, but it’s also a life lesson. The schools we attend, the careers we pursue, and the relationships we engage in impose values on us. Being a warrior in everything you do is one way to change your life while staying true to yourself.


Putting a Setback Behind You

Get perspective. Think about prior successes, talk with someone about the problem, look to other areas of your life where you have done well.

Do something. Ask for help in figuring out how to handle the setback next time.

Suit up and show up. Don’t hide your head in the sand after a setback. Continue showing up and doing your best.

Get refreshed. Exercise, meditate, take a walk.


This article is excerpted from Learning Outside the Lines, by Jonathan Mooney and David Cole. All rights reserved. Published by Fireside, Rockefeller Center, 1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY, 10020.

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