Brain Health

Move Forward After a Diagnosis By Envisioning Your New Life

Your ADHD diagnosis may have made life seem different and confusing — and it’s normal to need some time to bounce back. But once you have learned to accept ADD as part of who you are, it’s time to follow your dreams. Here’s how to get started.

Ladders to a cloud representing finding success after an ADHD diagnosis
Illustration cartoon ladders to the sky clouds

Part of the grief process for an individual diagnosed with ADHD as an adult is to reshape lost dreams and create a new vision for moving forward now that ADHD — the missing piece — has been discovered.

Here are some exercises and questions I developed to help you do that (excerpted from my book Journeys Through ADDulthood). To begin creating an authentic future for yourself, print or recreate the vision chart at the bottom of the page. Pick one area of the chart and develop an action plan by answering the following questions:

  • What vision of yourself or aspect of your life excites you and speaks to the “real you”?
  • What would you have to do to begin the process of developing that picture?
  • What would be difficult about doing this? What internal barriers might prevent you from taking action?

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  • What personal strengths could you use to help you with this?
  • What new support could you put in place to help you with this?
  • What new external structure could you put in place to help you with this?
  • What is the first small step you can take toward creating this picture? When will you take it?
  • What will you do if you get stuck?

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Here’s what you need to do if you get stuck:

  1. Plan a first step — the smallest first step you can. For instance, call someone for information or look it up online. (A step that may seem small may not actually be small enough if you’re having trouble taking it.)
  1. If that’s more than you’re ready to do, start by looking up the number or even just find the phone book under the pile of stuff.

Next, ask yourself:

  1. What would be hard about taking this first step?
  1. What would prevent me from taking it? Is it the fear of being overwhelmed or of increased pressure?
  1. What would actually happen if I did take this step?
  1. What personal strengths of mine would help me take it?

Tell your plan to one person who can envision your being able to accomplish it. Keep checking in to confide to this person any fears or resistance you may be experiencing. Remember that this individual is not there to judge your performance, but to help you stay focused on the meaning of your quest.

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Where Would You Like to Go?

Write a short description (or make a picture) that captures the true essence of how you would like your life to look in each of these areas.

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  1. I am a 65 year old retired male. I have poor working memory and very poor executive function. After some painful false starts in careers, I landed in Mechanical Design Engineering which proved to be a great fit for me. The projects were challenging, fast paced, usually short termed and fit into my natural talents. I have a very high intellect. I have been one of those whose hyper focus turns on to a new interest or hobby until one day I lose interest then later find a new one. I had always hoped I would find The thing that really fit me one day. With my recent diagnosis, I realize that will not happen. I was lucky to end up with a long time marriage, two lovely grown children, and a career that worked for me.
    I read through the article and look at the chart, I find it to be simplistic. Since it won’t cure me of ADHD, the interests will continue to come and go and though I thoroughly enjoy them while they last, I feel great grief as i realize that I will never find that one thing.

  2. Ted, I don’t understand what your “great grief” is, but it sounds like something that might be readily resolvable. I’d be happy to give you a little time to talk about it. If interested, please contact me through CognitiveTherapyCenter.net and mention “great grief.”
    Sorry, but it’s late and I don’t think I wrote this as well as it could have been.

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