I had ADD before it ever became a thing. As I stared out the class window back in my school days, little did I know that as many as 11% of children in the US would one day be diagnosed with this attention deficit disorder. This was also before I really understood how my mind actually works.
I didn’t understand why I couldn’t follow most conversations that I was having. It was beyond me as to why I was constantly late or unorganized despite my best intentions.
People got mad at me and I got mad at myself. People thought I was either careless or dumb, which made me believe that I was careless and dumb.
I guess you could say that school, with its structured learning and standardized tests and constant routine, wasn’t my thing. If this article was a letter to my 17-year old self I would be compelled to share some amazing life lessons that I have since experienced with ADD that has totally changed my perspective about seeing it as a limitation.
I learned that the best way to handle a bad situation in life is to turn a negative into a positive. This is what has worked for me and now I want to share the same with you to help you understand that you are not alone. The way to handle this “disorder” is not to try to make yourself fit in, but to do the very opposite – stand out!
Yes, I have ADD. There’s no shame in admitting this. We need to embrace it. Here are some amazing benefits about this fascinating “disorder” we share together.
1. We will be one of the most compassionate people that you will ever meet.
ADD tends to make us over-do certain things – and being compassionate is no exception. If compassion means caring for the well-being of others than we have it in spades. We have this innate ability to empathize and truly feel when a friend is in need.
Although we can be socially awkward at first, when we finally make a connection you can bet that it will be a bond like no other. We know what rejection means, and we know what intolerance feels like. Our ADD helps us to embody this. In turn, your problem becomes our problem.
2. We can be a little scatterbrained but we are highly creative.
Growing research suggests that there is a link between creativity and ADD. The idea is that while “normal” minds filter out distractions, the ADD mind is able to somehow connect random thoughts that may have otherwise not been connected, thus forming new creative ideas. People often see us as scatterbrained because we have trouble focusing on a particular topic.
We are busy looking out the window while everyone else is learning multiplication tables. One famous daydreamer was Albert Einstein who said,“When I examine myself and my methods of thought, I come to the conclusion that the gift of fantasy has meant more to me than my talent for absorbing positive knowledge.”
3. We don’t always finish what we start, but when we do its because we are highly driven to succeed.
Whether its chores as a kid or work assignments as adults, we’re not good at completing tasks that are boring to us. On the flip-side, we hyper-focus on the tasks that are meaningful to us and put forth tremendous energy in tackling them head on. If there is a cause that we are passionate about you can bet that we will do whatever it takes to get the word out.
4. We have a quirky sense of humor that will never leave you in want for a smile.
I didn’t always follow the rules in school and sometimes that ended-up making me the unofficial class clown. The thing about humor is that it takes a good understanding of people and unconventional connections to come up with the funniest combinations. Although I no longer qualify as a class clown, when all else fails it’s my sense of humor that keeps me going.
5. We see everyday as a new challenge, so problem solving comes naturally to us.
We love trying to figure out how to fit square pegs into round holes. In other words, perhaps it’s a bit of stubbornness but we have a hard time seeing many things as impossible. In fact, the bigger the challenge, the more motivated we are to come up with a solution.
6. We get resilient when the going gets tough.
We may have our special challenges with ADD, but that doesn’t mean we give up easily. Actually, we are known for being stubborn sometimes, to the point to where we keep going and persevering despite social stigmas or lack of popularity. Resilience is not about trying to same thing over and over with no outcome. Rather, it’s about coming up with new ways of thinking to approach challenges with a fresh perspective.
7. We are idea machines that constantly look for new ways of doing things.
Sometimes we can be like an idea machine. What I mean is, we consistently come up with unconventional ideas. There is no magic formula to this. Ideas are just finding patterns that emerge and connecting the dots. For example, Sir Richard Branson who is known to have symptoms of ADD, randomly came up with the idea of Virgin Airlines during a trip to Puerto Rico. He was stranded because the flight was overbooked, but he desperately needed to get to the British Virgin Islands. He was desperate for a solution. Luckily, with ADD, he had an idea machine in his brain.
The story is quite creative. He had an idea that no one else had at the time. As Richard explains: “I had a beautiful lady waiting for me in BVI and I hired a plane and borrowed a blackboard and as a joke I wrote Virgin Airlines on the top of the blackboard, $39 one way to BVI. I went out round all the passengers who had been bumped and I filled up my first plane.”
8. We have a unique perspective that goes against the grain, yet makes us stand out in the crowd.
We tend to see things from a unique perspective, taking in lessons learned from our many frustrations, challenges, shortcomings, and inspirations. Mixed together, this forms a primordial stew of seeing things from a different angle and an original point of view. What made us get singled-out in grade school is the same thing that has shaped us into some very unique adults.
ADD is not a curable disorder, but it is a treatable one. When you use it to focus on your strengths instead of your weaknesses you will find yourself in quite a different world – a world of creativity, innovation, and warmth like you have never known before. Come fly with us.
Featured photo credit: Image by Alexander Shustov via images.unsplash.com