What I dreaded most during my school life was always PARENTS’ EVENING! I feared what the teachers would say and the resulting reactions from my parents. I dreaded feeling overcome with disappointment which would only add to what I was already feeling within. And every year, there was a recurring theme…
“Indie is a great student; she listens and is always polite. However, we just feel that she has so much potential that is yet to be fulfilled. So, keep going.”
No suggestions and no help were put forward; just a dissatisfied gaze from teacher after teacher. I mean, what does that even mean? … “Unfulfilled Potential.” I used to sit in my chair and nod, wondering, “what is my potential?” and “how will I ever attain it?.” After all that, there was no hope and no drive; just disappointment.
Before being diagnosed with ADHD, I had never given much thought to how the phrase was used in the ADHD community. So many of us have been led to believe that we are not quite there yet. To the point of realising our true potential. Nobody feels discontented more than we do, but it never seems to slow us down. We keep moving, scraping by like a fish out of water, perpetually stranded.
Dr Russel A. Barkley who is internationally recognized for his work on ADHD discusses ADHD and motivation in a way that resonated with me. He mentions how most individuals have so many unfulfilled objectives as they have ambition but struggle with the sustained motivation and focus needed to carry out the necessary steps to achieve them. That’s exactly it! We are the idea generators, however, putting those ideas into play is a whole different game. It requires the drive that will fuel one’s motivation. However, for individuals with ADHD, it may look like there’s no moving forward and like there’s always this constant feeling of being stuck at a crossroads.
Indie’s Unfulfilled Potential:
When I was a child, I dreamed of becoming a superstar, an army cadet, a teacher and the list goes on. I wanted to be so many things, but I did not pursue any of my ambitions in the end. “Why not?”, you might ask. Well, I definitely could have done anything I put my mind to but the problem was that no matter how much determination I started with, I always ended up running out of steam. I struggled with getting bored and losing interest easily. In hindsight, I enjoyed the process of planning something and disliked the part where I had to start executing it.
The desire and the reality are two different stories, and the desire to pursue my aspirations always seemed far more appealing than the reality of the dream. It wasn’t until I was diagnosed with ADHD that I realized what was happening here. My diagnosis helped me to strip back and see who I was: my qualities, what I valued, and more importantly, what motivated me to get out of bed. My diagnosis helped me to utilize my strengths and finally reach my full potential.
Isaac’s Unfulfilled Potential:
I used to call myself “all the ideas but no gear!”. I always came up with the most extraordinary plans that people thought I was mad. And, I used to think that I’d prove them wrong, however, they ended up always being right. My ideas never worked. Well, in reality, I never reached the point of surrendering to them. Framing my thoughts into ideas was easy but I couldn’t help myself from feeling overwhelmed whenever I thought of executing them and the effort it would necessitate.
I used this to my advantage and became an idea generator at my marketing firm, however, it became a joke that this was who I was. The guy with the ideas but never has any idea on how to implement them. I suppose my potential was hidden under all the ideas.
Izzy’s Unfulfilled Potential:
At school, I was always more of an under-the-radar kind of student. I used to spend hours and hours studying, all of which resulted in me barely passing my exams. Everyone else was able to ace theirs without putting in as much effort and I used to think how? How come I fell short despite all the hours of studying I put in?
I realized that I needed to transform the way I did things only after learning more about myself. Once I utilized systems that worked for me, I was at the front of the race. I reached my potential after years and finally discovered the right strategies that worked for me.
Not reaching your full potential even means feeling like you never quite understand what you deserve despite after hours of work, effort and agony. Goals may seem out of reach. However, there must be a simpler solution; we can’t all just seem to have the same burning passion, drive, and ambition and fail to achieve it? With ADHD being a big part of our lives for so long, it may be hard for us to realize our full potential.
All we have to do is see it, believe it, and then work with it to reach it!
Here are my top I’s to reaching your true potential despite ADHD challenges:
Realize your strengths, your uniqueness, and what makes you: Before a flower can grow, it needs the roots. The fundamentals that help it bloom. What are you naturally good at? What makes you, you? What sets you apart from others and makes you unique? How can you use these qualities to your advantage?
Take a step back and look at things from a different angle: We all have a past and when you have ADHD, thinking back on the years of failed attempts and everyone noticing and nit-picking can be pretty traumatic. But keep in mind that this is not the past. Take a step back to look at who you are today and what you can do to aid your progress. Being in the present is the key. What is different now? What is your reality? What do you have control over right now?
Get to know you, not just the ADHD: Right after a diagnosis, it is not unusual for ADHD to take the limelight. However, ADHD is only a part of us and there’s a lot more to who we are. Realizing what’s you and what’s ADHD can help distinguish the qualities you have and the ADHD challenges that may need systems and workarounds. What do you struggle with in terms of your ADHD? What strengths and qualities can you use to overcome these?
Listen to what others have to say and acknowledge it: Usually, the people in our lives see more than we do. They see the good, the potential and all we sometimes can just see is our past and our ADHD. Listen and start to believe them! I write down comments on my wall to remind myself during moments of doubt! What do others say about me? How can I use that to my advantage? Have I ever noticed it?
Reach out to an ADHD life coach: If you feel like you have potential that’s not been tapped into and are unsure of how to reach it, talk to us or reach out to a coach! Sometimes, all we need is having that one person who simply sees it in us and believes in our abilities. It can make the biggest difference!
Last but not least, just because others can see through your unrealized potential does not imply that this has to be the reality. Fulfilment begins here; try and take the actions necessary to get what you desire as ADHD should not be a barrier to your happiness.
You deserve more, we all do!
Dr Russell Barkley – ADHD Motivation Deficit Disorder: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oTuqqExgX3s