Thursday, September 12, 2013

Finding Your Passion... when you can't Stay Focused

I suppose it's part of human nature to want to work with something you feel passionate about.

There are lots of different definitions as to what it "means" to be passionate about something... many of which seem to revolve around some version of being "almost obsessed" with what you're doing, and it "never feels like work."

Maybe part of the "problem" here is that people experience "passion" in different ways... and our society has a narrower definition of what passionate is supposed to "look like."

So what's my point? When you tend to "zone out" and "drift off" as I do... it's difficult for others to accept that I am actually "passionate" about what I am doing. Even so, people see my difficulties with staying focused end engaged in what I am doing and then spout "helpful advice" and platitudes like "You just have to find your passion! Someday something will come along and you'll just know it and want to do nothing else!"

To be honest... I feel that way about my writing. And I feel that way about my collectibles business. And I feel that way about helping people. And I feel that way about my beach combing gig. You can go see the "My ADD-ish Work" page for details.

But I'm not focused (aka "passionate") about just one single thing.

What also needs to be pointed out-- which is a product of the "slow cognition" and "low energy nature" of many with inattentive ADD-- is that I am perfectly "capable" of "zoning out" and "going to sleep" on even the things in life I am most passionate about. That doesn't mean I am not passionate about them! I just means I can't hold a fucking train of thought for three minutes!

Sorry, I slipped out of the "G" rating there, for a moment...

Perhaps the real issue here is that people put too much emphasis on appearances. Being passionate about something is supposed to "look" a certain way; to manifest outwardly, in a certain way. But a true passion isn't really about what "others" see... but about what YOU feel. And when you have trouble staying focused for any length of time... you can be as passionate as all get-out, and still not have the near compulsive looking drive non-ADD people manifest outwardly.

And in response-- as a bit of a postscript, really-- to those who think I need to "find a passion," I'd like to pass along the observation (based on 50 years of life) that even if the most interesting thing on the planet is passing before my face, the possibility still exists that I'll go "oh shiny" about something else... or simply "zone out" to another place. That just seems to be part of "the nature of the beast."

Sunday, September 8, 2013

ADD Issues: Getting Defensive about Organization

Sometimes I get a little defensive about my "need" to be very organized.

On occasion, I've even been told that my "systems" border on the OCD-ish. I'll be the first to admit that I probably spend more time "organizing" than the average person. But do I really need to "lighten up" and "stop keeping all those lists" and "just let things unfold... you know, like NORMAL people do?"

To be honest, I get a little defensive, when I hear things like that.

For one, I followed the strategy of "normal people" for years and years... and found my life to be an eternal state of chaos in which things that "needed to be done" never got done and "unimportant things" would get done. It really didn't serve me very well.

About the same time I started using the expression "my train of thought has left the station... but I am still standing here on the platform," I came to the conclusion that the only way for me to be at least marginally functional in life would be to always "write it down" as soon as "it" occurred to me. Back then, I always carried a dayplanner around, and I bought extra "blank paper" pages for my endless lists of "stuff."

Truth be know, I did get more functionally effective at dealing with life. It no longer mattered whether or no my train of thought had "left" because I always "took a picture" of it, before it could leave me.

And people in the business world got very impressed with my ability to "remember" birthdays, anniversaries and other stuff... and that served me well.

The point, here, is that I don't know how to be "functional" in life, if I don't keep notes and lists of everything... because I can't remember what i was thinking, three minutes after I thought it. Sure, I have tried "brain training" programs and software, but it hasn't really "helped" me... not in an "effective" sense, anyway. Even though I test in the 95th percentile in terms of cognitive skills/abilities, it doesn't really help me, in a practical sense. I can focus on a little "cognition test" for a minute, score better than 99% of the population... but then what? I move on. Doing the "brain exercises" hasn't even helped me stay "awake."

So... I NEED my "organizational systems."

If you want to call them a "crutch," I'll accept that. I'm not good with the OCD-ish thing, though. I'm not "obsessed," I'm just trying to function, in life. And I'm using whatever tools I can, to help me do that...

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Inattentive ADD and Meditation-- Parallels

I have been told that many people have a "difficult time" with meditation. They find it difficult not only to sit still, but to "still the mind."

I was introduced to meditation (in the "formal" sense of the word) in the mid-1990s, as part of an enneagram and spiritual non-duality group I belonged to.

For me, the experience was never one of having "issues." Going into a meditative state seemed completely natural to me... sometimes to the point that it seemed like there wasn't any "going into" involved in the process.

I could sit still and "empty my mind" for hours and hours, without any provocation.

I never gave this much thought until the first time someone suggested that I might have ADD. As I have written before, for most of my life I never considered the possibility that ADD was an issue... because I was only familiar with the condition in the context of "distraction and manic/hyperactivity," as I'd experienced it with my ex. Sure, I had a hard time focusing... but (a) I could never relate to "bouncing off the walls" because I've always been a "low energy person" and (b) I rarely had significant issues with a "brain full of swirling thoughts"-- instead, I was just "going to sleep."

Narcolepsy was a consideration... except I didn't go to physical sleep.

But getting back to meditation... for me, it's almost a "natural state." My issue was never about how to "go into" meditation... rather it was about how to not go into meditation. My entire life has sometimes felt like a "meditative state" that I have had a difficult time "coming OUT of."

As I gain more understanding of inattentive ADD, I can see why meditation was always so easy for me... in many ways, it's "equivalent" to a meditative state...

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Cleaning my Desk so I can Do my Work

It is a new month.

So often, I find myself immobilized by the fact that I don't know where to start on the eternal "pile of things" that follows me around... and so, instead of actually starting on something, I "zone out" by deciding that I "can't DO anything" until I have cleaned my desk.

Where to begin has always been an issue for me. It was an issue when I was a kid and had homework in five classes, it's an issue now that I'm an adult with multiple irons in the fire.

I was seldom overwhelmed by the actual work needed to be done for my five classes... I was overwhelmed by figuring out my order of operations.

The irony of that is that I am a really excellent organizer. If you need me to figure out your event using CPM or something else, so you can get everything done on time, and in order... I can do it. Of course, planning your event is a "theory." Figuring out how to get started on my own stuff is the reality involving where the proverbial rubber meets the road.

Much of the time-- when I feel stuck-- I "busy myself" with reorganizing all the "notes to myself" about what I need to get done in the next week, month, year.

It's difficult to simply choose one note, and start work... because what if I missed something more important, that should have been done first?

A lot of needless "wheel spinning" results.

It was my birthday, a couple of days ago. My lovely wife gave me a framed picture of her (she was out of town for the actual day), and I decided I wanted to keep it on my desk...

... which necessitated cleaning off my desk...

... which reminded me that I needed to file a bunch of stuff...

... which reminded me that I had been meaning to design a better "filing system" for certain parts of work...

... which reminded me I needed to move some "other files" from my office to combine with the "better filing system...

... which inspired me to "do it properly" rather than just toss it all in a box "for later."

All I was trying to do was put my wife's picture on my desk. Seven hours later, the photo was on my desk where I wanted it... and I had started a new filing system for my web work (which is great, btw!), a new (better) way to organize my writing ideas, a new (better!) way to keep track of "ongoing projects" for a couple of my web businesses, and my desk actually was a better work space.

However, I didn't get any actual work done.

It made me pause and ponder... and I realized just how much of my life has been spent "getting ready to work" rather than "actually working." I'm sure I have lost untold thousands of hours in that distractionary space.

For years and years, I attributed this simply to "bad time management" and "being a slacker," but the more I learn, the more it seems like a significant part can be traced to how my brain works... and how it seems so incapable of holding onto a thought. "Slackers" typically slack because they want to... for me, there's not that much of a "wanting to" element... I'd much rather be "engaged" in things, but it always feels like I am paddling upstream against a very swift current.