How to Prioritize

How Unhealthy Expectations Feed Frustration

Nagging words (others’ and your own) do not control you. Stop thinking so much about expectations or what you should do, says this ADHD coach — and start thinking instead about what you can do.

A woman is very observant and employs her keen sense of observation.
A woman is very observant and employs her keen sense of observation.

As adults with ADHD, we sometimes sabotage our best intentions when we compensate for weakness in follow-through by nagging ourselves, or playing back the nagging words of others.

Either way, these negative, energy-draining messages usually begin with “I should have…” or “My mother says I ought to….” It’s best not to “should” on yourself, but if you do, take a moment to examine the facts.

Shoulds and oughts come from a place that does not create incentive. It’s a bit like dragging ourselves to complete a task with a chain around our neck. It’s not going to work.

[Click to Read: ADHD and the Epidemic of Shame]

When we catch ourselves thinking of a should, it may help to pause and ask why we should. If the matter in question is a legal, health, or safety issue (as in, I ought to renew my driver’s license, or I ought to clear the skateboard away from the stairs), once considered, we might jump past “I should” and go right to red alert: Do it now!

If it is “I should send Aunt Emma a thank-you note for the set of dishtowels,” we might ask, “According to whom?” When it comes to social nicety, it’s usually OK to keep it simple. While a card with a handwritten note might be what Miss Manners would suggest, timely follow-through may be better served with an email or phone call.

When we are up to our knees in clutter, “shoulding” on ourselves for letting it get to that point usually makes matters worse by calling up should’s wicked stepmother, shame. Get out of that thinking quickly. Humor always helps: “Yes, and I should also figure how to bring about world peace!”

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