Motivation…where does this elusive, inconsistent, and essential inspiration hide? How can you tap into it and stay motivated with ADHD? What makes the day you decide to put your foot down, or your tennis shoes on, and take action different than all the other days you don’t? How wonderful would it be to know how to consistently follow through and not let the short-term distractions derail your longer-term outcomes?

Motivation is different for everyone and when you have ADHD, the key to this take-action inspiration is knowing your unique source of motivation. Your catalyst, the spark that works for you?  And long-term change? It results from riding the wave of consistent motivation until you build habits, routines, and long-term systems that sustain each day.

One Source of Motivation

As humans, we notice and pay attention to pain and frustration. It’s in our DNA, a response that has kept us alive for thousands of years. It may not always feel good, but negative emotions motivate us more deeply than positive ones.

Examples of negative/frustrating emotions that motivate include not finding an essential household item where it belongs, a store receipt, or a file on the computer.  For me, it feels like I am wasting time….and as one of our most precious commodities, wasting time irritates me. The risk of being frustrated is a great motivator when I don’t want to do something.

What pain points or frustrations do you have?  Do you get frustrated when you feel like you are wasting time like me? Do you get frustrated when you forget to pay a bill and end up paying more with late fees? Does the messiness of your environment interfere with you enjoying your home or work? Are you hard on yourself when you realize you are not doing the things you want to be? What about the frustration of dealing with people who don’t understand ADHD? That tends to be a biggie. The thing is, frustrations don’t go away unless we do something to change them.

Suppose you are noticing frustrations in your life…good! These frustrations might be great ADHD motivators for you. When I notice my frustration with wasting time, it motivates me to take the time to organize. The reward of finding things I need quickly is the reward. I remembered how good it feels not to waste time, and to see a neat home can double as motivation to include tidying up regularly.

Another ADHD Source of Motivation

If frustration is one source of motivation, inspiration at the other end of the spectrum is another great one for people with ADHD. For instance, you see somebody doing something you want to do or try. There is an optimism that motivates you to enjoy that for yourself too. There are times when you see somebody doing something you want to do with your life, it’s encouraging, and you say to yourself, “I can do that” or “I want that for myself.”  This motivation seems to come from hope and confidence to do something, even if it isn’t easy. This source of motivation feels empowering.

Using this inspiration successfully for people with ADHD is similar to leveraging our strengths and ignoring those pesky negative thoughts. Try on the perspective that allows you to use inspiration to practice, explore, try, and work towards a goal. To do what it takes to have that thing or life, we feel possible. And when you follow through, despite mistakes and failures, you’ll smile to yourself, remembering the doubt you used to have.

Life Event Motivation

The driving force behind another type of motivation for people with ADHD is life events. Events that cause a shift, a new perspective, or have us make a difficult choice about the direction we want our life to take. At the time, these life events can be very challenging. Like being fired from a job, a relationship ending, the death of a loved one, or a pandemic.

Ironically, these tough life events often force us to take action and make changes whether we want to or not. These are great examples of why we don’t have to feel motivated to change our lives. Sometimes life will take care of that for us.

Losing a job allows us to consider what we really want to do for work or has us considering the difference we want to make in the world. Having a near-fatal car crash completely changed my oldest son’s life trajectory positively. A pandemic has us considering the resilience that we, as individuals, families, communities, and the world, are capable of during a crisis. These moments don’t need to be extreme. If we are paying attention, many smaller moments in life have seeds of opportunity.

An Unusual Useful Source of Motivation

Early in my career as an ADHD Life Coach, there were many skills I didn’t have yet. So instead of envying others’ knowledge, I watched, learned, and often paid more experienced coaches to teach me what they knew about coaching and business. I was encouraged by their success and used it as inspiration to keep trying myself and become one of those who were successful. Comparison is natural. Harness that energy and use it to stay focused and motivate your accomplishments.

A Source That Never Runs Out

Use that fantastic creative ADHD mind of yours to harness one of the most motivating and effective techniques: visualization. See yourself having the life you want in the future and the steps that will get you there. What do you want your health, relationships, work, and life to mean?

Doing this right now will benefit the ‘future you.’  And yes, you can change your mind if you want! Visualizing yourself in the future in no way limits your choices. If your preferences change, change the vision. Close is good enough. The important thing is to start envisioning it now.

Imagine the life you want. Then, you only need to generate enough motivation to take consistent “turtle steps” to achieve your goals over time.

The motivation for persons with ADHD can come in some surprising ways. Frustration, inspiration, life events, others’ accomplishments, and visualization. Leverage one or use them all. Persons with ADHD can create motivation for themselves, even if, at times, they feel a little uninspired.

What is your favorite way to get yourself motivated with ADHD? I’d love to know. Please add your comments in the section below.

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