Adults with ADHD are often enthusiastic, open-hearted, and optimistic. They love new ideas, they have a keen eye for groundbreaking, cutting edge developments in their field. They recognize good opportunities, and they see the potential in books and people and programs. But they may take on more than they can chew, even more than anyone could chew.

It’s important, then, to know how to set limits. To be realistic about how much time there is in a day - and to be realistic about their own ADHD-specific limitations with that time.

If you are an adult with ADHD, before you say “yes” to a new opportunity or relationship or commitment, think seriously about this new commitment:

  • Does it connect to your core values?
  • Does it play into your strengths?
  • Is this something you will easily be able to work into your current schedule?

If you are sure this new relationship or additional commitment is a good idea, and plays to your strengths, then consider which current commitment or activity you will need to drop in order to make room for this new opportunity.

If you are a bit of a caregiver, then you and everyone around you will benefit from your service. And whatever you have to offer, the world will be willing to accept - and ask for 20% more. So set limits on your service, as well as on any new commitment.

Recognizing boundaries means placing a priority on your own sleep, your own nutrition, your own spiritual practices, and your own physical exercise. If a new relationship or commitment or obligation will cut into one of these basic important functions, you might need to say no, as painful as that is.

Respecting boundaries means setting a bedtime which you honor faithfully. It means building into your schedule time to shop, maybe once or twice a week, for fresh healthy food to support your brain. It means literally building into your schedule at what time - and where - you will exercise. And what, exactly, kind of exercise will you pursue? And what equipment or clothing will you need to have with you, before you leave the house in the morning, in order to make sure you get in that exercise?

Setting and maintaining boundaries requires that the adult or teenager with ADHD be crystal clear about the ways in which motivation and passion show up in their lives. In their body. What, exactly, does “motivation” feel like for them? And does this new opportunity connect directly to that passion? Almost certainly, this new opportunity would connect with somebody’s passion, but is it part of your mission, part of the “reason you are here in the planet?”

And finally, recognize that if you do the painful work of saying no to an opportunity or relationship or commitment right now, it frees you up to say yes to something even better which might be just around the corner!


About the Author

David D. Nowell, Ph.D.

David D. Nowell, Ph.D., is a neuropsychologist interested in motivation, focus, and fully-engaged living.

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