Every year more and more adults across the world are being diagnosed with ADHD or “adult onset” ADHD. What was once a behavioral illness reserved for young children who couldn’t sit still in the classroom is growing rapidly among the young adult population in the faced paced modern world that we live in today.
There are many others who have never been diagnosed with ADHD by a doctor and aren’t on any drugs,
Where would you be today financially if you could focus all of your attention into the committed planning and execution of making money instead of haphazardly dishing it out to whatever catches your eye in the present moment? How much have you already lost due to the opportunity cost of all those wasted hours that slip through the cracks on a daily basis? Extrapolate that over the span of years and the result is colossal.
What kind of relationship would you have with the people you cared about if you spent time everyday living in the present moment with them, without your mind being a million miles away?
If you're a student, and you "study" for 8 hours in a distracted state every day, how much better off would your life be if you could had the self control to focus hard for 3 or 4 hours and had the rest of your day to do as you pleased?
Taking control of your attention is a SKILL that you can learn. Once you get used to practicing it consistently on a regular basis, your life as you know it will never be the same again.
Who am I and why should you listen to me?
I'm a guy who at one point in his life who had a very serious inability to concentrate his attention on work for any more than 15 minutes at a time. I lived in a perpetual state of distraction and I knew that this would lead to my ruin if I didn't get it fixed. I tried a variety of different approaches from drugs to "positive thinking" to therapy to spending time on various ADHD forums across the Internet.
I hated my supposed "inability" to concentrate and I honestly felt like I was some mentally diseased person who would never be able to compete with all the other supposedly "superior" people who apparently had a normal functioning brain that I lacked. Thankfully, I didn't give in that belief and I refused to accept that as my reality. When I'm 40 years old and I'm not where I want to be, there is no way I could look at myself in the mirror with a straight face and tell myself "the reason you couldn't rise above everyone else is because you have some kind of mental deficiency". My pride would not allow it. I knew in my heart that my peers who were getting ahead were not mythical beings who could effortlessly get anything they wanted.
I also knew that I was not as deficient as I was making myself out to believe. I was just made to believe that because that was what I was told, and I didn't bother to question the opinions of the doctors and the "experts".
It turns out I actually wasn't as fucked up as I thought I was and chances are, neither are you! Like my past self, more likely than not, you're just ignorant about the true nature of your problem and no one has ever showed you a step by step way of solving it other than to jump on drugs or an empty echo of "just work harder man".
Once you understand the root of the problem, the solution becomes crystal clear.
Over time, I picked up bits and pieces from many different sources and reached a deeper level of understanding of exactly what my problem was. Through trial and error and consistency, I recovered control of my attention span and kicked ADHD to the curb - a task that I had once thought was impossible.
How do I know I've "cured" my ADHD?
Since ADHD is not a physical ailment like arthritis or diabetes, you will know that you've beaten it through a simple analysis of your behavior and the associated symptoms of this disorder. If the symptoms cease to exist and don't hinder the way you live life, then that means you've beaten it. But before we get there, let's start at square one.
How do you know you even have "ADHD" in the first place? Why are you so sure you can't beat it?
Because you filled out a 30 question survey at your doctor's office and he told you you're doomed to deal with it for the rest of your life?
There is no blood test that can identify a person as "ADHD-positive" and no doctor worth his salt will identify a person as having or not having ADHD solely off an MRI scan.
THERE IS NO ABSOLUTE WAY OF DISTINGUISHING SOMEONE WHO HAS ADHD FROM SOMEONE WHO DOESN'T.
The only way of knowing is if you look at their behaviors and symptoms and match it up to a set of criteria.
If their control over their attention span falls below a certain threshold and it is negatively impacting their life, you would say they have an attention disorder.
Which means... it is BEHAVIORALLY - driven. And if that's the case, you absolutely can "cure" it because you have control over your behavior.
For example, any of the following behaviors are red flags and can be used to identify someone with an attention disorder:
- You quickly get "bored" with work and unconsciously make attempts to distract yourself by either daydreaming or by actively engaging your mind in something else.
- You find yourself sucked into high novelty entertainment for long periods of time; such as browsing your Twitter/YouTube feed, or surfing the Internet for interesting but ultimately useless information that you will never apply to your life
- You find yourself perpetually "bored" with the mundane, repetitive, consistent nature of the work that is necessary to achieve an end result (getting good grades, making money, working towards XYZ long term goal)
- You feel that ordinary life is too "boring" and will seek to distract yourself with an easily accessible form of entertainment
- You are a multi-tasker and you are constantly complaining about "not having enough time", and enter frenzied states where you try to tackle everything at once, only to end up accomplishing very little
ADHD is somewhat of a modern disorder and it is a byproduct of the environment that you are grown and raised in. People with attention disorders by and large tend to be from first world countries with unlimited access to digital technology and spend the majority of their waking hours interacting with a computer screen in one way or another.
Add in the fact that the number of children that are put on prescription methamphetamine for being energetic and following their childish instinct is growing rapidly every year, its no wonder that we have the widespread epidemic that we do today of a generation of kids who can't focus!
Freedom of choice
If you can't concentrate on tasks for extended periods of time and find yourself getting distracted easily, there is something that you need to come to grips with.
You're not getting distracted because you're mentally deficient. That's just a convenient excuse to absolve yourself of any responsibility. The reason you get distracted is because you want to get distracted!
Why is it that distractions seem to magically vanish when deadlines approach?
When you put off an important project until the last minute and your head is on the chopping block, don't you find it a lot easier to stay on task? Of course you do! Because you're aware that there will be serious penalties for not getting the work done and you choose to stay on task over engaging in mindless distractions.
This goes contrary to the belief that attention disorders are out of your control and the train of thought that your own willpower isn't in charge.
If I locked you in a room and told you I would torture and execute you in the most brutal way possible if you didn't finish a task by the end of the day (and you believed me), how likely are you to get distracted with your Twitter feed?
This gruesome mental exercise proves a point that is crucial to understanding the nature of attention disorders. If it were a true physical brain disorder (such as autism or Alzheimer's), threats of cruel torture wouldn't help your productivity as much because it doesn't remove your physical handicap. The element of choice is absent.
That is NOT the case with attention disorders that affect 99% of people. You are NOT physically handicapped in such a way that you are helpless or powerless to change.
You purposefully distract yourself because you feel that reality is too mundane and "boring". Or maybe its because you couldn't care less for whatever it is you're working on.
When you engage in cheap distractions over and over, you temporarily escape the boring, repetitive work that is the building block for high success in any endeavor.
Why are you "bored" with ordinary life to begin with?
If you eat a healthy clean diet for an extended period of time, you begin to realize that you only need a little bit of sugar or salt to spice up your food. A little bit will go a long way.
If you pig out on junk food on a daily basis, the opposite is true. You need a lot more sugar and salt to get the same amount of satisfaction since you've dulled your taste buds over time and they've gotten accustomed to the high sugar foods you eat on a regular basis.
Your "baseline" for satisfaction is way higher than that of a healthy person. Thus, you need to consume MORE only to end up getting LESS satisfaction out of it.
Remember those shitty pixelated arcade games? In today's world its almost inconceivable that anyone would get addicted to them to the point that they would play them for 12 hours a day. And yet, that's exactly what happened when they were first released to the general public. What happened? Over time, technology grew and the quality of our games grew with it. Now, high definition realistic games with crystal clear audio and interactivity among other players has become the norm. If you grew up playing high definition first person shooters, would you replace it in favor of an old school pixelated single player arcade game with 2 buttons? No way!
The "baseline" of satisfaction for gamers of this era is WAY HIGHER than what it was 20 years ago. 30 years from now, the games of today that are all the rage will be regarded as "primitive trash".
Back when I had an attention disorder, I couldn't find joy in any of the mundane simple pleasures of this world without some form of technology to dilute them.
Always having headphones on when going out.
Flipping through a phone all day long.
They were all so "boring" in one way or another.
A common reply to why adults distract themselves is "I'm bored".
Look at small children. You can give them practically anything and their eyes light up with intrigue and curiosity.
Isn't it ironic that in a world of unlimited information and endless novelty of stimuli available at your fingertips, you have to live in a state of boredom?
When you start to break away from your old habits, your perception of the world changes. Things that you once considered mundane or ordinary begin to intrigue you. You become more in touch with yourself and your surroundings. You find deeper meaning in your personal relationships. What will happen if you don't keep up with Twitter drama? Will the world conspire against you for your audacity to have a life outside the Internet? Will you spontaneously explode from not having your regular fill of viral video entertainment?
Digital media addiction is a real thing.
Your brain releases feel-good chemicals in response to the endless stream of stimuli. The wonderful thing about the brain is that is very malleable and you can actually condition it release neuro-chemicals in response to certain stimuli. This is the basis for all habits and addictions, both good and bad.
For example, if you make it a point to flip through a never-ending Twitter feed or YouTube videos for hours on end ever day, your brain will unconsciously be drawn to these activities with every passing day. When you try to stop or go a long time without engaging in these behaviors, it hurts! Your will actually feel the effects of a physical and psychological withdrawal. Keep it up long enough, and your psyche will unconsciously DEMAND that you "check up" on these distractions at regular intervals.
The principles behind my approach:
- Reprogram your mind to work on one task at one time with 100% attention.
- Find your compulsive go-to distractions and make the commitment to cut them out.
Discussing ADHD is somewhat of a controversial topic, because there are a lot of people who will swear up and down that it is a legitimate physical disease like cancer or diabetes. When you have "ADHD", your mind is unable to find fulfillment in whatever its currently focused on, so it jumps around to a nearby distraction.
Getting good at anything requires devoting many hours into repetitive, focused work.
The best wrestlers perfect their technique through repetitive fast paced drilling the move and pinning combinations over and over again day after day. The top level guys rely heavily on a limited number of moves and techniques that work well for themselves. They aren't a "jack of all trades", and
rarely never have complete mastery over every single throw, takedown, and pinning combination. Rather, they rely heavily on a few different moves that they perfect through repetition to secure pins.
People that are highly successful in any business or sport are the best at what they do through continuous repetition, which is often mundane and not particularly fun.
Students that get the highest grades in competitive programs spend more hours every day sitting still and staring at a textbook or a computer screen.
And yet, to them they don't feel like they're dying of boredom when they're focused on their craft.
How you can apply this in real life:
- Not wearing headphones when you're out and about
- Not keeping 20 tabs open with 6 different things going on at once.
- Putting your phone on silent when you sit down to work
- Not browsing through Twitter or email when you're playing with your kids
- Not surfing YouTube while you're watching TV
If you feel really weird or miserable the first couple of weeks, don't give up. You're just going through the withdrawal phase and its completely normal. You'll soon adjust over time. Notice I didn't say you had to cut out all forms of entertainment completely. You can still relax and watch TV or browse the Internet, as long as you plan it out and you focus on it completely while you're doing it.
How I successfully applied this to myself:
- I identified my distractions - checking Twitter, browsing YouTube videos for no reason, constantly checking Tinder/online dating sites, texting people back and forth
- Keeping a journal with my that I carried around all day. Every time I catch myself wandering into multi-tasking or getting caught up in my go-to favorite distractions, I would write down when and why it happened. At the end of the day, I would look over the journal to see how many times I slipped up and my reasoning behind it. As time went on, the amount of times I got distracted in a day significantly decreased down to only a couple hours or so of my day.
After ~2 months, out of an entire day, I was wasting about 2 hours through some form of distraction or another.
22/24 productive hours? I'll take that.
Every night before I go to bed, I spend about 2 or 3 hours to just surf the Internet, watch TV, read Twitter, or do whatever. I also get a lot more enjoyment out of doing it all at once rather than spreading it out in the form of distractions throughout the day.
It's a win - win.
If you're already on ADHD medications and you're trying to get off them, I understand what you're going through. Check out my series on quitting Adderall/Ritalin.