ADHD at Work

Find Your Feel and Make It Real

Learn to listen to your own inner voice to decide what’s best for you.

Adult ADHD: Being Happy by Being True to Yourself
Adult ADHD: Being Happy by Being True to Yourself

My brother-in-law, Chris, is a golf pro. He once gave me some advice about golf that encapsulates what we all might do to lead a happier life. “Don’t listen to too much advice. Just do what you need to do to put the ball in the hole. Find your feel and make it real.”

When I asked him what he meant by “feel,” he told me that most golfers keep changing their swings, trying to correct their last bad shot by attempting to imitate a pro they saw on TV or read about in Golf Digest. “This gets them nowhere. What they ought to do is find the swing that fits who they are, then keep practicing that swing in order to make it consistent.”

That advice can help everyone, especially adults who have ADD. We often feel tremendous pressure to conform to some imagined ideal — some vision of perfection imposed by parents and teachers or society — when the way to the best life is to be true to who we are.

Be True to You

From classical antiquity to Shakespeare, the wisest minds have given the same advice: “Know thyself.” “To thine own self be true.” We ignore that advice at our peril. As Samuel Johnson, the 18th-century sage, noted, “The greatest source of human comedy is a person’s trying to be something he cannot possibly be.”

We see people providing such comedy every day. They were told at a performance review that they seem insecure, so they prance about, boasting of their latest accomplishments. Or they went to a motivational retreat and heard a speaker exhorting them to “be all that they can be,” so they bound into work Monday morning like a hound dog hot on the scent of success.

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There is no way of being in this world that guarantees happiness and success more than your own way of being.

Time to Get Real

Instead of listening to everyone else, listen to the quiet voice deep inside that tells you who you are. There is no way of being in this world that guarantees happiness and success more than your unique way of being. To continue the golf analogy: Don’t try to master the golf swing, try to master your golf swing.

Sit down with yourself and say, “Today, I get real.” Before you know it, the world will start to open up for you in ways that it never has before.

Perhaps you’ve been contemplating a new career. Suddenly, everyone around you wants to weigh in about what they think is right for you. But the “right” career is as dicey to prescribe as the “right” spouse. However, there are a few principles that apply to both choices: Pick one you love. Don’t settle. Don’t take whatever is out there because you think you will never find anything better. Adults with ADD tend to sell themselves short. Whether it is in romance or in the choice of a career, lead with your best self and leave the negative behind.

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That is not to say you should heed no advice. Just pick and choose carefully. Listen only to people who know you well and who care about you, people who have your best interests at heart and who are smart.

Living well with ADHD as an adult requires dexterity, but it does not require hypocrisy. Put aside pretense. It takes courage to be real, but in the long run, no way of being is as satisfying. If you look at individuals who are both successful and happy — whether they have ADD or not — you will find people who are flawed, compromised, and inept in certain areas, but who remain true to themselves. They know who they are, and they don’t try to be anyone else.

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