I had a great session with my coach last week. I was feeling some guilt about a situation in my life. (Specifically, about not wanting to spend every possible waking moment with my son.) His answer to guilt blew me away and I wanted to share it with y’all.

Jerry observed that guilt is usually a result of our breaking our own rules. We all have core beliefs, standards, values, whatever you want to call them. It is less common that we trample those. But we often make up/ assume rules that may or may not truly serve those core values. Then adopt these rules as fact. I’m sure some rules are great, but the more I’ve explored this, the more I realize how many of them get us in to trouble.

For example, the issue I was discussing with my coach: I felt guilty about not picking up my little man (4.5 yrs old) from preschool the minute I could. Even if I don’t have a client my last slot of the day, I often do office work or take the opportunity to wind down with a few minute of and old Star Trek TNG. (They play like 3 a day on BBC America! I love my DVR!) So, the value there is that I take being a dad very seriously. I am an active, loving, affectionate, supportive 1/2 of my son’s parenting team. I have my strengths and weaknesses and make my mistakes, but on balance, I’m the dad that I want to be. That’s who I am and what is important to me. Incidentally, I had a very good role model in my own father.

Unfortunately, I had unwittingly attached “rules” to how I fulfill my core value of being a great dad. I had decided that in order to be a great dad, I had to love being with my son all the time and needed to desperately grab every minute I could with him. Upon further examination… NOT TRUE.

I love my son immensely. But, being a dad is F*#$ing exhausting, as you other parents know. And, it is particularly challenging as an ADHD’er. I like to think of myself as pretty together, but it still takes a ton of effort to be me. (I think I’ll leave that point there and try to do a whole post on the challenges of being and ADHD parent soon.) The thing is that I know I need down time. I sometimes need a half an hour to come down from my work day before I am really able to be the Dad that I want to be. So, sometimes, being with the little man a little less makes me a better dad!

Not to mention, I’ve managed to love other people without this guilt. I love my wife. That doesn’t mean I need to want to spend 24 hours a day with her. We love spending time together, but have other friends and separate activities. I don’t feel guilty about that.

This wasn’t supposed to be about my particular issue. I just wanted to use that as an example. What I would hope is the takeaway here is that I had a rule that didn’t work. It didn’t work because it didn’t make sense. Sure, on the surface it did, but it didn’t stand up to further scrutiny. And, really, was counterproductive to what my core value was on this topic.

We create unhelpful rules in many ways. As with my example, they might come from our own personal values and goals. They can also come from the cardinal ADHD sin of comparing ourselves to other or to some abstract ideal. So, when you are experiencing guilt, I suggest you take a long hard look at where the guilt is coming from. If you are breaking your own rules, there is a reason. Be open to the option that it’s not you, it’s the rule.

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