How to ADHD "Why SMART Goals Aren't Always Smart"

Posted Wednesday, January 11, 2023 by Sri. Tagged MEMO
EDITING PHASE:gathering info...

Transcript from How to ADHD "Why SMART Goals Aren't Always Smart". I've highlighted the parts that stood out to me.

Hello, Brains. If you haven't heard, my book is done. You can now buy this book everywhere books are sold.

Hello, Brains. Happy New Year.

Whatever it is that you want to accomplish this year, I hope it is something that lights you up inside. I hope it's a big, fiery, ambitious goal, something that is worth battling dragons to achieve.

And I hope that it's not a smart goal. Let me explain.

So effective goals for most people are things that are achievable, things that are realistic. Setting realistic goals is an important part of achieving them for most people. I would argue that is not the case for those who are neurodivergent.

The first time I came across this concept, it was at a panel that I was doing for a convention on autism, I think. There were several people on this panel. I was talking about ADHD. Most people are talking about autism, including a mom and her son.

So there was this autistic man; his mom was there and gave the kind of perspective of what it was like to raise an autistic kid. And he was there to talk about his own personal experience. And it was really cool when he was a kid; he had this really, really specific, ambitious goal. And this goal was to one day grow up and be the accountant for George Lucas.

But instead of doing what most moms would do in this situation and saying, "Okay, honey, let me explain this to you, it's probably not realistic for you to be the accountant for George Lucas specifically. Like being the accountant for a specific person is maybe not the most realistic goal. I don't want you to be disappointed." No, this mom went okay. You want me to account for George Lucas? Great. And she used this as motivational fuel. So when he didn't want to do his math homework, she was like, "Well, if you want to be the accountant for George Lucas, you're going to have to be good at math. So you got to do your math homework." And he would do his math homework. When his grades were struggling, she said, "We've got to get your grades up if you want to be the accountant for George Lucas; you're going to have to be able to go to college and get a degree as an accountant. So if you want to be an accountant for George Lucas, got to get your grades up." She used this as motivational fuel throughout his high school and college career and kept reminding him like, "Hey, this is why you're doing this. This is why you're doing the thing. Not because you're supposed to, not because it's important, not because I'll be disappointed in you if you don't. Not because you're going to get detention, but because you have this specific, ambitious goal that you want to achieve."

She tapped into his desire and his passion and helped him navigate these challenges, and this man speaks up afterward because we're all like, my God, how did this go? How did this turn out right? And he goes, "I did end up becoming an accountant... for Disney. Disney bought Star Wars. So in a way, retroactively, I did become an accountant for George Lucas," and he was so happy and he was so proud of himself. And I was like, Man, that's brilliant. So many of us, I think, try to make our goals be more realistic or tell our children, "Look, honey, that's not realistic. Like, let's help you get to a more realistic goal," but I think because of how much those of us who are neurodivergent struggle, we kind of need these fiery, ambitious, ridiculous goals to fuel us because we're going to run into all the same struggles that we would for a realistic goal. But we're going to need something that feels worth it to motivate us to get through them, to push past these ridiculous obstacles.

If we're going to deal with ridiculous obstacles, which we do in a world that does not account for our neurodiversity, maybe our goals are not going to be neurotypical either. Our goals are going to be ridiculous. Our goals are going to be divergent and out there and weird to some people. And then the ways that we accomplish those goals are going to be equally weird and they're going to be equally Neurodivergent. We often need different types of goals and different types of ways to get to those goals.

I bring this up because it can be really important to understand that a lot of the things that work for an everyday brain are kind of counterintuitive. It's actually helpful to let us dream big. It's helpful to let us have these big, fiery, wild ambitions because that can fuel us through a lot of challenges.

Another thing that I heard once is why smart goals are actually not that effective. And instead maybe what we should be working toward is hard goals. I'll link to that article below. I'm not going to be able to do it justice right now, but these things kind of started percolating in my brain and started helping me realize like maybe why my very realistic goal of graduating community college so that I could go to a university didn't pan out. It wasn't exciting enough, It wasn't motivating enough. It was cool. But like, it was also something that a lot of other people were doing.

Two years ago, I started with a ridiculous goal. I embarked on a journey that I had no idea how I was possibly going to get to the end. I wanted to write a book, but I also wanted it to be part memoir, part how-to you. I wanted to put in one book everything that I had learned over the last seven years about ADHD. That was helpful. But also I wanted to tell my story. I wanted to include the community. I wanted quotes from the community in it because that was really important to me. I wanted to give people the experience that they would have had if they'd been to watch my channel, watch my TEDx talk, hung out in the Discord or in our comment section, hung out with the community and sat down and had coffee with me. And I wanted to do that all in one book. I had no idea what that would look like, but I knew would be super cool, right? I had no idea how to pull this off, but what I knew was what I had gotten out of starting this channel and connecting with this community and learning all the things that I learned. It took me from knowing nothing about how my brain worked other than I get distracted sometimes. And this medication helps me focus to having a full understanding of what my brain is. Challenges are how the world needs it a little bit more difficult than it needs to be to navigate these challenges. Having a full toolbox and a full understanding of how my brain works differently than a neurotypical brain. Having language for that and having this deep sense of like self-compassion and love for myself and for other people in my community. When I started off with just a ton of shame and feeling very alone.

So, I somehow wanted to get people from where I was seven years ago to where I am now, and it wasn't just me, though. It was also people in the community who had been to watch my channel or hung out in the community or watch my TEDx talk had gotten a lot of that, too, because they come and talk to me about it, like, "Hey, I understand how my brain works now. I'm able to accept myself, am able to advocate for myself," and I wanted to give that to people and I wanted to do it in a book.

It was a ridiculous goal and I knew it was a ridiculous goal. But I had an editor who said, "Okay, sounds great," and I knew it would be if I could pull it off. I just had no idea what pulling it off even looked like. I had no idea what a book like that would be because I never read a book like that. And by the way, I wanted it to be ADHD friendly, right? Like I wanted all of this information in one book, but I also wanted the layout to be easily digestible, tons of information, but also lots of white space, but also the size of a book, really something that people could put in their bag and carry around with them. Not a textbook like it, like a book, really something that people could put in their bag and carry around with them. Not a textbook like it, like a book you'd pick up at the airport.

There are a ton of people who could have sat me down and been like, "Okay, let's choose one. How about we do a memoir or a how-to, how about we have two versions of this book? You know, there's volume one and volume two so that you don't have to put all of it in the same book." I mean, the information that I was putting in some of these chapters would have needed to be a book on their own. But I was like, no, all of it. All of it is one book.

Instead of trying to help me be more reasonable about this goal, my editor told me, "Great, let's see it. Let's go." That was probably the single most important thing that she could have done for me. And so I kind of want to do that for you right now. Whatever your goal is right now, I hope you do the fiery, ambitious version of it because to be frank, if I had tried to do a more realistic version of it, I would have gotten bored halfway through or sooner. Not that I didn't get bored, but there is still enough of a challenge. There is still this element of impossibility that I kind of needed to see how it turned out. Like I needed to keep going because I was curious. I was like, I have no idea how I'm going to pull this off. I need to see if I can.

If it had been a more realistic goal, I might have gotten frustrated and given up because it's like, okay, cool. If, you know, if this is something that's realistic, if this something that anybody could do, let somebody else do it. But no, I had to choose something that like only I could do. Not that I was sure I could do it, but it had to be this like wildly ambitious, this out there, this impossible goal for me to maintain my interest partially because what I wanted to create seemed like a really cool thing to create. I really wanted this thing to exist. So that was really motivating. But also partially because you can't do this. So many people with ideas, you know, like you tell me I can't do something and I will prove you wrong. And in this case it was me going, I don't know if you could do this, but there is another part of me going, Well, I'm going to prove you wrong.

Instead of having a reasonable goal and then expecting myself to do it in a neurotypical way, I had a really ridiculously ambitious goal. And then I pursued that goal in a very ADHD-friendly way. I added accountability. I put supports in place. I planned my time around the fact that I would need more breaks than most people. So the year that I went to write this book, I actually built in four weeks off where I was not allowed to do anything, not for the channel, not for the book, nothing. I knew that I would push myself and I would hyperfocus and that I would die if I didn't give myself those breaks. So I built in those breaks. I had built in the accountability. I got support because I knew that there were certain areas that are not my strong suit. And I did things that seemed really fun, these romantic ideas of like, I've always wanted to go and write in a cabin in the woods, and that would be really fun. So I invited my research consultant to come and stay at a cabin in the woods, and we got snowed in. That was a whole thing. Some things sound a lot better in your head than they are in real life.

But like, even that, even this idea of going to write in a cabin in the woods in the middle of winter, that alone was exciting enough to me that when we got snowed in and I was like, well, we're going to drag our stuff up. So like, I made a little sled and pulled our groceries a mile up the hill. And then we went to go back to get the car and it was even more snowed in. The next day we ended up needing somebody to tell us up the hill. There were so many, like, obstacles that we ran into, but in a way it just made it more fun, I guess. And because I had this really big goal that I was pursuing that felt worth it, if it was don't know, achievable or realistic, like, I don't think it would have motivated me in the same way because it wouldn't have been worth the amount of struggles.

I think that's what it comes down to, the amount of struggles people with ADHD have to go through to accomplish even reasonable things is ridiculous. So we almost need this really exciting, ambitious goal to have it be worth the struggles that we go through to get there. But yeah, I went to this cabin in the woods, and I was writing and clearly in over my head my brain has this cool thing where I wake up in the morning and it's been working on a problem all night and it hands me an answer. And night after night it was not really handing me very many good answers. And then one day I wake up and it goes, I need Teresa.

And so I reached out to Teresa Wyler, who had helped me write the TED talk and went, I know that we didn't talk about this, but I think I need your help on this book. I need a writing buddy. And so she's like, Cool, let's do it. And so we had a meeting and sat there and in like an hour or two resolved something that I had been struggling with for weeks, which is how do I write this chapter one? And she's like, Yeah, you're trying to cram two chapters into one chapter. That's your issue. Like, let me help you with the structure. But, you know, she didn't say, "Let's maybe make this a more realistic goal." It was no, let's do it in a realistic way.

My research consultant, my writing buddy, my editor, everybody was like, "Yeah, let's do it. Let's do this ridiculous thing. I hope for more people with ADHD that they have that, that they have people in their corner going, cool, I have no idea how you're going to pull this off, but let's do it. Like, what do you need? You have my sword, because that's what I had for this book. I had people's swords, they had their strengths, I had what they were good at so that I could go and do what at the end felt like battling a freaking dragon. I was so exhausted. I was out of spells, I was out of potions, I was out of everything. And like pretty sure toward the end that I was going to die. But this dragon was worth battling.

And I'm very excited to say that today several writing retreats later two years later I can walk into a bookstore and see my book on a shelf. And it's not just a book, it is the book I set out to write. It is ADHD friendly. It contains everything important that I've learned over the last seven years of my channel. It contains quotes from the community both about their struggles and the tools that they use. It did it. I did this thing that I did not think that I could do, and part of why I did it was because people let me dream big. I came up with a dream so big and so important that it could carry me through to the end. And instead of trying to help me be more realistic, people stepped up to help me accomplish what I was trying to accomplish. Yes, I had to pay them, but I've never accomplished something long-term like this before. I've never accomplished any long-term project before. And to have achieved something this important and this exciting, it's huge. It's really cool. Like my book is out today, this thing that was an idea, this thing that was an ambition, this thing that was frankly ridiculous for me to even dream up to the point where when I asked my editor for comps like comparables, like, "Hey, let's make sure we're on the same page about what kind of book I'm writing," because I needed to see it, right? I thought I needed to see that this thing that I was dreaming up was possible and see kind of the roadmap of how other people got there. She was like, "I think you got this. Like, you clearly have a vision for this. Go for it."

I don't think that what I've created here has been done before, but maybe that's the point. Sometimes we need to be allowed to do things in our own way, in a way that makes sense to us and is exciting to us. And are we going to run into all of the same ADHD obstacles along the way? Yeah, of course we are. I had to use a lot of this book to get me to the finish line. Like not going to lie if I didn't have these tools, if I didn't have this understanding of how my brain worked, I still would have been derailed. But I had the support, I had the accountability, I had the tools, I had the knowledge and information of how my brain worked so that when I ran into struggles, it wasn't "what's wrong with me?" It was, of course, like, of course I got bored. I have ADHD, right? I'm tired of working on this book.

I need to make this novel again somehow. Let's go on another writing retreat. Let's go to a different place every time, going to the cabin in the woods, in the winter, in the snow. That was novel. Once wouldn't work again. Next time, let's go hang out by the ocean. There were a lot of things that I had to do, a lot of obstacles that I needed to navigate and a lot of help that I needed. But it was worth it. It was worth every penny I spent on the help that I needed to get this book done. And it was worth it because I got to do what I set out to do, and I got to prove to myself that I could.

So as you head into this New Year with probably way too ambitious goals, I hope that their goals excite you. I hope they feel impossible because sometimes the impossible goals are the only ones it's possible for us to achieve. And if you need a reminder that it's possible, go buy my book. It's a bit of a trophy to me. Hopefully, the book is a physical reminder to me, to you, to anybody who holds it, that we can do hard things, that things that have never been done before, that we're excited about doing are possible. And in the moment where you're struggling, you can flip open to the chapter about whatever it is you're struggling with. If it's motivation, if it's you're having trouble sleeping, if it's focus, even the wild, ambitious, ridiculous goals that you might think there's no way those are possible to. This is proof of that. You can now buy this book everywhere books are sold.

Thank you to my brain advocates and all my patron brains for providing the financial support that I needed to be able to focus on writing this book and be able to step away a little bit from the channel and back. My attention is on the channel again, the book is done, and it's really thanks to your support that I was able to do this, to hire the support that I needed, and take the risks that I was taking with this book, knowing that I had that stable income that you provide me with. So thank you so much. Like, subscribe, click all the things. Let me know how you like the book now that it's out, and I will see you in the next video. Bye, Brains.