The Goldilocks zone for ADHD.

Scientists refer to planets where water is liquid and life could potentially be sustained as being in the Goldilocks zone. As people with ADHD, we have our own Goldilocks zone. As I am pretty sure I mentioned in last weeks post, boredom is our kryptonite. It’s difficult to even explain to neurotypical people how we experience boredom. On a neurochemical level our brain shuts off. Behaviorally that may make it look like we’re not trying, we gave up, we refused to persevere, we’re not interested in achieving our potential, we’re lazy, or generally have some sort of inherent character flaw. Our brains clearly do not respond to a cold lumpy bullet porridge.

On the other hand, how many of us are prone to being overwhelmed, overstimulated, and get freaked out in someway when everything just seems like too much. Much like boredom, this is part of the human condition. I know ADHD people experience boredom on a whole other level. Honestly I’m not sure if our tendency to get overwhelmed and the severity of it is worse than it is with your average human. The reason it’s hard to tell is that getting overwhelmed is the perfect intersection of ADHD and anxiety. So it’s hard to isolate the overwhelm factor as it relates to ADHD as a standalone. Not to mention there are sensory processing issues and executive dysfunction to throw into this delicious stew.

Regardless of whether it’s just ADD or a delightful gumbo of convergent neurodiversities, it’s clear that the ADHD is a major contributing factor. But, again this aspect of how we respond to the world can be tremendously counterintuitive to the untrained eye. Because our brains are particularly wired to activate when we are interested, passionate, or particularly in our element and area of expertise, we will present as being able to manage a tremendous amount of difficult information relatively seamlessly… in some specifics situation’s. We can be a hyper focused, world beating dynamo despite despite sizable challenges which others might find insurmountable. Again, this is when we’re in our element. In other situations where our strengths and interests are not leveraged our threshold for becoming overwhelmed is dramatically lower. And, when we become overwhelmed we also shut down. It’s for different reasons and it can be in different ways. But essentially it’s the same result.

And that’s where the Goldilocks zone comes in. It is so important for us to find places in life where we are challenged, engaged, interested, and maybe even passionate. We need to find our areas of competence and confidence and leverage them with intention and intensity. In the process, we need to be particularly aware of not following a conventional model just because that’s the way other people do it or because we feel it’s expected. Get the word “should” out of your vocabulary.

Of course we also have to be careful of putting ourselves in situations that are just simply too much. We’re wired to deal with a certain amount of chaos and many of us would say that we work at our best when we’re flying by the seat of our pants. But if we did put in positions where there is a substantial emphasis on our weaknesses, we tend to obsess about those weaknesses, perseverate on them and that dominates our consciousness. Plus, there’s only so much you can do to sure up your weaknesses.

Again, I think you could apply this logic to most humans. They are going to be most successful when they’re pushed but not too hard. But it has been my experience that for those of us with ADHD, our Goldilocks zone can be pretty slim. The difference between being understimulated and bored and overwhelmed and stressed can be very small. And can change over time. A job that might’ve been extremely stressful for six months and then really enjoyable for three years might get boring after that. So I would suggest being constantly aware of where you are where you’re going where you want to be. Consider it your mission to be constantly maneuvering yourself to be in that Goldilocks zone for as much of your life as you can be.

Standard disclaimer. As a person with ADHD, I made the decision when I started my blog, that I didn’t want it to be that thing that I avoided out of perfectionism. I made the decision to get my ideas out there with very little filtering and rarely any editing. Adhering to this philosophy means that I may never have put out a perfect blog post. But it also means that I put a really good blog post out most weeks for the last decade. So please continue to bear with me by overlooking awkward phrasing, typos, grammatical quirks, etc. In the meantime, I hope you enjoy the heck out of the contact. P.S. I’m not even gonna read this before I start slapping it on the end of my blog posts. Ha!