“I’ve no self-discipline! I have goals. I never get them done. When things get even the least bit difficult or I run into a problem, I just give up.”
“My life is nearly half over. I haven’t been able to accomplish most of the goals I’ve set for myself. I’m as bright as the people I know. Sometimes I wonder if I’m just lazy or I don’t care as much as others about getting important things done.”
Lacking self-control robs you of your free will. This is one of the most tragic consequences of ADHD.
You might think you’re doing what you desire. If you can’t stop your behavior, you miss out on the delay between an event and your response.
That delay is important. This is why. It gives you a chance to think. That delay gives empowers you to choose freely.
Meet Len. He spontaneously took off for Denver with a friend. It felt pretty good — free and easy when he set out.
It didn’t take long for Len to realize that ending up in an unfamiliar city with no friends, no job, and no money was not what he wanted. Had Len taken a moment or two to think it over before acting, he probably wouldn’t have gone.
That’s what I mean by self-control. It’s the ability to choose something other than your initial impulse so you can get something that is better for your long-term welfare and happiness.
You may view self-control as a pretty loaded term.
How many times since you were a child did you hear “Control yourself!”
How many times did you think to yourself that you would if you only had some idea how?
You see, self-control is a process where you can free your will so you can get what you want out of life.
Not just this minute. But in the future.
Here are four facts about self-control.
1. Did you know self-control is a directed action?
What in the world does that mean? It means instead of acting in direct response toward an event, you take action toward your self.
When Len’s friend said he was going to Denver, if Len did not have ADHD, he probably would have stopped and said, “wow, that sounds great to me too!” He would have waited long enough to think about what relocating might actually mean over the longer term.
Self-directed actions are designed to change your subsequent behavior. Len might have decided to nod and say, “Good luck!” or he might have chosen to say “Wow, that sounds great to me too, but maybe I could come out after you tell me whether it’s panning out for you.”
Or..maybe Len would have opted not to take any action in the moment and have recognized a need to think about taking action in the future.
For instance, if moving sounded good but going to Denver right now wouldn’t worked for a variety of reasons, perhaps Len should start thinking about where he might want to relocate in the future.
2. Self-control depends on this. It depends on a preference for larger delayed rewards over smaller, immediate ones.
If you don’t value later consequences, there’s no point to self-control and you won’t use it.
If Len didn’t have ADHD, he might not have to think for more than a second about what he’d rather do – run off to Denver TODAY or plan for a move someplace new over the next year. He’d immediately know that realizing the dream of having a good job and an affordable home in a beautiful new location was more valuable to him in relation of taking off without a plan just to get there right away.
3. Self-control bridges the time between an event, our response, and an outcome.
As an adult with ADHD, Len will have a hard time working toward that relocation goal. Here’s why.
With the outcome so far off, he’s likely to forget about the whole plan and do nothing to prepare. He might set a date for moving but be just as unprepared for it when the time comes as we when taking off on a whim with his friend.
Self-control in Len’s case would mean he’d have to push himself to research other cities, spend time every week on a digital job board, find out how much income he’d need to afford the kind of home he wants…all before reaping the befits to the move.
4. For self-control to occur, we need to understand hindsight and foresight.
For instance, we have to have a fundamental sense of time. There is a past. There is a present. There is a future. To speculate about the future, we have to be to recall our past and evaluate it and look for possible patterns.
This recall is hindsight. Hindsight gives us the ability to think about possible futures, or foresight.
This would prevent Len from taking off for another destination without preparation, as he had when he left for Denver.
What do you think Len should do to prepare for a move to Denver?
Loretta Holmes, MA CMHWC is an ADHD and Anxiety Coach at Bella ADHD Coaching and Bella Anxiety Coaching. Before pursuing a career in coaching, she worked as a special education teacher. Today, she combines her skills in teaching, psychology, and coaching to help humans feel like superheroes. Connect with Loretta at firstname.lastname@example.org