Making lasting change
Andrew: We lack positive ADHD role models in the UK compared to the US. Richard Branson is often listed but I’ve never seen the proof. We seldom if ever hear stories of ADHD people who have turned their problems around, or been successful. Perhaps it’s because of a fear of a prejudiced reaction at work or home. As an experienced coach, do you see many cases where with ADHD diagnosis and coaching, people experience significant life improvements and outcomes?
David: Oh yes, thousands of clients in my experience feel alone. Many of them come into coaching feeling very hopeless. Way back, we made a video called “Me, my ADD Coach and I”. In the video were four gentlemen, all diagnosed with ADHD and none of them really understood their ADHD, which is very typical.
Research shows us even when people are diagnosed with ADHD most of them still don’t understand how their ADHD manifests.
These were people that couldn’t get through their Masters programme, couldn’t run a business. One of them was a social worker that wanted to be a filmmaker and another was a filmmaker. All of them are doing really well now. They struggled with their ADHD but the struggle was more of an awareness of how it got in their way. What’s very interesting, almost 10 years after filming, all four of these clients are doing exceptionally well.
Each felt they were broken
I can confidently say that each one of them felt like they were broken, every one of them. They had been told that they were not good enough. They were told that they couldn’t do the things they really wanted to pursue. They were told that they would never amount to much. They were told all these negative things.
Of course none of it was true and they all proved it in their own unique way!
As coaches we know that every human being is unique and possesses trillions of different ways of processing and doing things. As coaches, we’ve got to encourage them to find some of those ways that work so they can observe there’s nothing wrong with them.
At the Academy, we don’t even look at ADHD as a disorder. We look at it and embrace it as a unique brain wiring and so eventually do our clients.
Words create worlds
It took a while, but what we started to do in this video was present what each one of these individuals was struggling with and experiencing in their lives. Each one of them had a dominant pattern of negative language and thinking they were unaware of. They really did not know.
They blamed all their problems on their ADHD but they didn’t understand it or how it manifested…
They didn’t understand the power of their language and how powerful it was because words create worlds. All of them were very negative and hopeless. Some of them were very depressed, which was caused by their beliefs and thoughts. All of them had one or more condition, which is very typical.
ADHD often leads to other conditions, whether it is bipolar, anxiety or depression, and more. Medically it makes a difference but from a coaching perspective we still treat them the same way. We still empower them to understand that if they’re bipolar and ADHD that’s their brain wiring.
Now they have to ask the question, do they want to be stuck in the manic stage or do they wish to use it as a clue to help them do something that will get them unstuck and to do something fulfilling, can I exercise, can I do a presentation, can I write?
Of course we don’t use the language of the disorder we talk about what is getting in their way and what they already do well.
All four participants in our video began to develop a “strengths” mindset. One of them was a social worker who decided to become a filmmaker. He has since produced some independent films that have won awards.
Michael, who I met 10 years ago at a conference, loved coaching so much he went and got his Masters in social work, and also became a coach. He is now doing significant coaching research for the Academy. So what do all four of them have in common? They were hopeless and in a short period of time they became hopeful because we began to make them aware of their “knowings” of what they did well.
We encouraged them to change the pattern of their focus from what wasn’t working, to what was working. We said
“don’t let what you can’t do” get in the way of “what you can do”.
They just weren’t aware of what they could do.