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“20 Rules to Live By: My ADHD Life Guide”

These 20 rules to live by — my ADHD handbook of sorts — were forged out of hardship and heartbreak. I hope they help you, too.

There’s nothing quite like adversity to shape our perceptions and to force self-reflection in hopes of better tomorrows. The past year did just that for me (and for most people still adjusting to pandemic life).

Out of these tough times came a list of rules to live by with ADHD — guidelines that I strive to abide by daily. Though the list was inspired by personal circumstances, I suspect that all folks living with ADHD could benefit from these pointers.

  1. Dance to your own tune and avoid comparing yourself to others, especially neurotypicals. Compare yourself only to past versions of you. Focus on keeping an internal scorecard, not on living to seek the approval of others. Find your own definition of success in this world.
  2. Understand ADHD, its limitations, and its advantages. Study successful people with ADHD, how they have achieved greatness, and what they purposefully avoid. Try not to fixate on the negative aspects of the condition. Accept the hand that you were dealt and focus on playing it through with minimal losses and maximum gains.
  3. Don’t use ADHD as your crutch or reason to be the victim. No one else wants your issue to negatively impact their life, and this way of thinking will only make life worse. Quit complaining.
  4. Beware of time bandits. Beware the dopamine rushes from alcohol, drugs, spending, social media, and other counterproductive time bandits. These quick fixes will likely lead to long-term issues. Learn healthier, more productive ways to self-medicate.
  5. Live frugally and save. ADHD has a sneaky way of causing sudden, unexpected landslides. Even when things are going well, minimize your life. Don’t clutter it up with too many possessions. Err toward simplicity. Try to maximize inflows into a high-quality, tax-efficient, long-hold investment portfolio. Learn about the FIRE movement. Your financial cushion will provide much needed peace of mind, if all else fails.
  6. Stay disciplined. Commit to a daily routine. Try to wake up and go to sleep at around the same time each day. Keep busy to ward off anxiety. Minimize distractions and negative triggers.
  7. Relentlessly pursue well-designed goals. Cut them up into daily actions and habits, and always prioritize them above all else. Never break the chain of completing these daily – no matter what.
  8. Try to do things 100%, not half-way. Strive for mastery. Build self-confidence.
  9. Design your life around skills, abilities, interests, and ADHD limitations. Professionally, don’t overlook entrepreneurship as the potentially safer option. The common neurotypical 9-to-5 path may not be a long-term solution. Stick to passionate endeavors, no matter how difficult it may seem to fit life around them.
  10. Find a reliable ADHD support group. This will be your pressure release valve. Speak, but also listen compassionately and without judgement.
  11. Eat nutritious foods and exercise daily. Find an exercise you enjoy and make sure to do it often. Try to have fun with it. Don’t forget to hydrate.
  12. Be patient with those closest to you. Neurotypical friends and family won’t always understand you, and that’s OK. Learn to say, “I’m sorry” freely, but not unnecessarily.
  13. Be humble. Hyperfocus can lead to some incredible achievements in life, but this does not mean you have all the answers, or any of the answers at all. Try to talk less and do good deeds for the world around you.
  14. Try to not act impulsively, especially with major decisions. Spend ample time thinking through all possibilities and outcomes. Consult with others and be diligent. At the same time, don’t scare yourself into analysis paralysis.
  15. Try to stay tidy. Every item needs a home. One new thing in, one old thing out. Avoid clutter, over-spending, and accumulating. Process at least as much as you hunt.
  16. Compound knowledge. Read daily and try to go to sleep smarter than when you awoke. If you don’t understand something, look it up. Don’t be afraid to explore your interests as long as it does not get into the way of your priorities.
  17. Stay spiritual. No matter your religious or spiritual beliefs, make sure to express gratitude, apologize when you need to, and take time to help others.
  18. Find joy in the moment. Try not to get overwhelmed by overthinking about the potential challenges of the future – they’re probably not as bad as you think. If lost, find comfort in nature. A long walk can do wonders for re-calibrating.
  19. Be your best self. Flush away the ruminations, regrets, and other sunk costs that can clutter life. Instead, focus on becoming better. Don’t keep running back to what doesn’t work, expecting the situation to change. Get excited for change; don’t fear it.
  20. Be grateful, despite inevitable hardships. So what if you’re a little different? It’s still a blessing to have a chance to be here. Now, go live to the fullest.

Rules to Live By: Next Steps

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