When you have ADHD, you hear about your weaknesses all too often. It's so easy to focus on those, because we annoy ourselves so much with them and they attract a lot of unwanted attention! But what are the positives of ADHD, if any. Now you're thinking...
Because we know all too well that it's not "a walk in the park," but it's not all bad either, right? We have strengths too. Perhaps it's time to recognise these.
Not so that we can deny our weaknesses, of course. But so that we can have a more balanced perspective. And when we recognise this, it can help to boost our self esteem, and make it easier for us to transform our weaknesses, without feeling guilty and shameful all the time (which doesn't help us improve anyway)!
So here's my top 10 positives of ADHD to get you thinking...
People With ADHD Are Good Problem Solvers
Because our ADHD brains are literally “wired” differently, that means we see the world differently. We tend to think “outside the box.” We will notice things that others don't. This can lead to us finding novel solutions to problems. We are, in other words, great problem solvers and inventors.
Imagine where we would be if Thomas Edison (who apparently had ADHD) had not invented the lightbulb, amongst many other inventions. People with ADHD also make great entrepreneurs, like Richard Branson of Virgin or David Neeleman CEO of Blue Jet Airways, because we live on the edge, seeking novelty, expansion, and invention.
People with ADHD tend to also be good at seeing the “Big Picture.” Again this helps us think outside the box and notice things that others do not. We find it easier to “connect the dots.” Not only does this help us as entrepreneurs, but it is also a very helpful ability if you want to be a scientist or a counsellor.
People With ADHD Are Creative & Have Strong Imagination
People with ADHD also tend to display strong creativity and imagination. I have noticed a lot of creative types with ADHD, when working as an ADHD Hypnosis specialist, including artists and a lot of writers.
Those with ADHD tend to be late to rise and late to sleep (in other words “night owls”) and being a night owl is also correlated with being creative. Sometimes ADHD is thought of as a “developmental” disorder, and people with ADHD tend to be about 3 years behind in maturity.
People with ADHD appear to be more childlike. Perhaps it is this that gives them access to enhanced imagination and creativity.
People With ADHD Can Be Compassionate
Yes children and adults with ADHD can seem far from compassionate sometimes, but they do also display strong compassion at other times. This is likely related to their sensitivity and ability to really connect with people. This may seem contradictory, but that's one of the things about ADHD – we are very changeable and erratic.
People with ADHD may struggle with self awareness, which may impact upon their ability to empathise or have compassion. But if they develop self awareness (perhaps through psychotherapy, meditation, or anything that promotes self awareness) their compassion can be developed.
This is why many people with ADHD may be drawn to working with other people, including professions such as counselling and psychotherapy.
I have also observed that people with ADHD can be very quick to forgive, perhaps because they tend to live “in the now.” However, that can cause issues with other people, if the person with ADHD tends to “expect” forgiveness quickly.
People With ADHD Have A Great Sense Of Humour
Yes, we can be moody and negative at times. But Children and adults with ADHD can also display a great sense of humour, which can mean they are fun to be around.
Whilst this humour can sometimes be maladaptive, it can also be a great way to overcome setbacks and respond to life's challenges.
Their humour can also be used to help lift other people, or even make them great comedians.
Such examples include Jim Carrey, Whoopie Goldberg, Robin Williams, and the British comedian Rory Bremner, who became the patron of the UK-based ADHD Foundation in 2013.
People With ADHD Show Great Perseverance
Whilst many people with ADHD may tend give up too soon, on the other hand they can at times show great perseverance.
To use a well known example: what did Thomas Edison, the inventor who many believe had ADHD, when he was asked how he felt after he faild at inventing the lightbulb 1000 times, he replied, "I didn't fail 1000 times. The light bulb was an invention with 1000 steps."
To be fair, for us mere mortals with ADHD, we need to factor in the fact that having ADHD can make life more challenging in many ways and we are often likely to experience failure more than most. But sometimes, when someone with ADHD is really passionate about something, nothing can stop them, not even their ADHD!
People With ADHD Are Highly Observant
Well if truth be told, like most things with ADHD, it's often a mixed bag. We can be both lacking in observance, whilst at other times showing acute observational skills.
I have noticed that some people with ADHD that I work with, are very observant within business. They see opportunities and solutions that others do not.
Meanwhile, when it comes to the interpersonal domain, people with ADHD are great at sensing the undercurrents in a conversation, reading people, and “seeing below the surface” so to speak. This can help them excel in counselling, sales, or creative pursuits.
People With ADHD Have A Super Power Called Hyperfocus
Whilst we often hear about our difficulty focusing, yet again people with ADHD are a contradiction. At other times, especially when we are passionate or interested, our ability to focus for longer periods of time is legendary. We can go into a state called “Hyperfocus” where nothing can stop us from focusing on that one thing.
Yes, people with ADHD have gotten themselves into trouble during this state (forgetting to eat or ignoring other important tasks) but on the other hand some people have put that ability to great use.
One such example is an author who has ADHD himself, Phil Boisserie, who wrote Thriving With ADHD. He literally locked himself away in a room and wrote almost non stop to complete the book within one week, which was successfully accepted for publication and needed minimal editing.
People With ADHD Have Energetic Enthusiasm
It is said that many people with ADHD are “hyperactive.” That sounds like a negative. Certainly we can have too much “energy” at times and disrupt or annoy other people. But that energy is definitely not a bad thing, per se.
If you're an athlete, such as the most successful competitive swimmer of all times, Michael Phelps, or the legendary basketball player Michael Jordan, for example, then that energy comes in very handy. Did you know that up to 20% of athletes are estimated to have ADHD, compared to 4-8% of the general population of adults.
And beyond the physical energy that people with ADHD can tend to display, we mentally display what Lara Honos Webb PhD, author of The Gift of Adult ADHD calls “Energetic Enthusiasm” - being enthusiastic and positive about life and in interactions with other people. Yes this enthusiasm can annoy other people, especially adults, but again perhaps this is because people with ADHD tend to retain a child-like zest and vitality for life.
In my previous profession as a support worker with children who had ADHD and autism, this energetic enthusiasm was perfect at helping me “get down to their level,” and make a stronger connection by being able to enter their reality. It also made it easier for me to keep up with their level of energetic enthusiasm!
People With ADHD Have Strong Ecological Intelligence
Lara Honos-Webb Phd, author of The Gift of ADHD: How To Transform Your Child's Problems Into Strengths, and The Gift of Adult ADHD, has a chapter devoted to the possibility that people with ADHD display high "ecological intelligence".
Ecological intelligence, or what Howard Gardner calls "naturalist intelligence," is defined as a resonance with the natural world. An examplar of this type of intelligence would be someone like Charles Darwin.
This may sound a bit "woo woo" at first, but as Lara Honos Webb Phd points out, "it was one of the most scientifically validated interventions for increasing attention... ...in general and in ADHD specifically."
The idea of nature as medicine has in fact gone mainstream, as evidenced by The National Wildlife Federation's "No Child Left Inside," Richard Louv's book Last Child In The Woods: Saving Our Children From Nature Deficit Disorder (2005), and Daniel Goleman's Ecological Intelligence (2009).
Research studies and everyday experience shows that children tend to learn better in natural environments, but children with ADHD even more so. ADHD children also excell in project based learning settings.
With their interest in the natural world, and their explorative nature, perhaps it's time to recognise that this difference in ADHD people is something to be embraced and seen as a gift, much needed in a world which faces ecological crises.
People With ADHD Are Highly Sensitive
Another cardinal trait of people with ADHD is their high level of sensitivity. Whether that's emotional, interpersonal, or sensory. Sensitivity is often disparaged in our society, and associated with weakness. But sensitivity has a positive side.
In interpersonal terms, this sensitivity can help us to connect more deeply with people and even improve our communication. This mean that many people with ADHD can excel in the fields of coaching, therapy, sales or business, or any professions where working with other people is involved.
It can also be an asset in the fields of art, music, and any other creative endeavour. Whilst sensory sensitivity can cause problems, and sensory integration therapy may be required, it can also enhance our lives in many ways, whether it's a finer sensitivity to sound or colour.
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