I had the pleasure of meeting up with some very lovely ladies with ADHD this week. This was my first time meeting with a group of women who I could share my condition with openly; and while awkward at first ( I’m sure it was because of my worry that our conversation would be wild and overwhelming given the possible conflicting ADHD difficulties we might have ), it turned out to be a very fulfilling experience. Talking to people who understand without an explanation was just the fuel I needed to supercharge my week. I recommend the support of other women when you are trying to figure it all out. I am a huge fan of the healing power of sisterhood .
After introductions and sharing our individual story of our journey with ADHD, we discussed goal setting and the strategies used to stay on top of the goals we set. I was greatly excited, because not only would I be able to share my Push it process (check out the overview here) with people who I knew could benefit from it, I would also be able to learn some new strategies and suggestions on how to improve my own technique so that the ADHD symptoms don’t slow me down! Amongst all of the great ideas and stratagies, I was reminded of one important aspect I had been leaving out of my own attempt at setting up new systems for 2014: the principles of Habit Forming.
A habit is a fixed way of thinking, willing, or feeling acquired through previous repetition of a mental experience (American Journal of Psychology 1903).
It is a popular belief that humans are creatures of habit. Once a habit is formed, there is more space in the mind to learn new things while still getting stuff done. for ADDers, habits and habit forming is exceptionally important due to the way in which our mind is set up to remember (or not remember) information. We need to be on autopilot for many things to get done. I say this because of the common struggle with our working memory; the ability to hold information in your head for the purpose of using it at a later time. This is most often not a strength for someone with ADHD. The best way to combat this issue is to form systems through rituals and habits. For the everyday things like getting dressed, making that morning cup of coffee and even driving (hence the term autopilot), our minds have accommodated for the working memory issues over time. We have already formed good and bad habits without conscious thought. However, it is useful to have some understanding and be conscious of the process of habit forming so as to control and manage new systems you want to put in place.
The ABC’s of Creating Habits
It’s important to acknowledge that behaviors happen in three steps :
1. Antecedents– these are what trigger an actual behavior.
2. Behavior– all actions Could be considered a behavior. However, when you are figuring out how to make or break a habit, it’s critical to pinpoint the correct behavior you need to change or implement.
3. Consequence– this is the result (negative or positive) that you get immediately after the behavior in question.
ABC in Action: (A) stub your toe (b) rub your toe (c) feels better.
There are several ABC sequences that we could focus on, but I will keep it short and simple for this example. After so many times of hitting or bumping your toe on stuff, it has become automatic for us to grab that toe, rub it to make it feel better. We usually don’t think about what we do when this happens. We have learned over time to wince rub and keep it moving. Pinpointing the details surrounding a behavior is a skill that is used to highlight and modify all types of behaviors, and mastering it can aid in an effortless attempt at getting rid of or adding some habits to your everyday routine.
So How Long Will It Take?
I know of a few numbers that have been thrown around…
21 days: this refers to a theory on habituation (getting used to something) and was used by a plastic surgeon in the 1960s who stated that it takes patients 21 days to get used to their new identity. Not the same as incorporating a new behavioral response.
17 days: my husband told me his grandma gave him this number a long time ago, to encourage his habit of making the bed every morning (he makes our bed religiously so I guess it worked for him).
18-254 days: A recent study showed that the range is huge for each individual, and depends on the behavior or habit in question and the persons feelings and motivation to make the change.
I plan to set my check-in dates based on the minimum of 18 days. While 254 days seems like a huge amount of time to expect my ADD brain to attend to something, checking my progress with a set target date in mind gives me the brakes I need to systematically check for progress and assess any necessary tweaks! I’m on day 17, with 2 aspirations in mind since the 1st. of the year. My own official assessment will hopefully prove positive!
Sign up below if you’d like the easy informal assessment sheet similar to the one I will be using. Thanks for all the support via Twitter LinkedIn Facebook and especially my WordPress buddies! As I continue to share my journey, I will make sure to provide more helpful materials.
- Maxwell Malts, Ph.D http://www.attitudedeterminesaction.com/articles/Psycho_Cybernetics_Notes.pdf
- Lally P., Cornelia H. M., Jaarsveld v., Potts H. W. W. & Wardle J. (2010) How are habits formed: Modelling habit formation in the real world. European Journal of Social Psychology. October 2010. 40 (6).