3 Powerful Goal Setting Strategies for the ADHD Brain

Let’s be honest, navigating the goal creation process can be an obstacle course for the ADHD brain.

In some situations, we might struggle to get started – even when it’s something we genuinely want to do.

Other times we have a hard time sticking with our plan when things aren’t happening “fast enough.”

And at times we question whether it’s even worth the discomfort of creating that goal as our brains scream, “what’s the point?!?”  

Can you relate to any of these situations?

If so, you’re in good company. 

What’s more, you’re in the right place.

This week on the I’m Busy Being Awesome podcast, I’m answering direct questions from the busy-awesome community all about setting a goal, taking action, and following through to completion. 

If you have big goals on your mind, you don’t want to miss this episode.

You can listen to the episode below, or stream it on your favorite podcasting app here: 

Prefer to read? No problem! Keep scrolling for the entire podcast transcript.

Listen To The Podcast Here!

In This Episode, You Will Discover How To… 

  • Take action on any goal or project that’s on your mind.
  • Follow through on your goal even when it takes longer than expected.
  • Generate the commitment to stick with your goal even when you step outside of your comfort zone.

Links From The Podcast

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Episode #114: 3 Powerful Goal Setting Strategies for the ADHD Brain (Transcript)

Hello everybody! Welcome to the podcast. I’ve got to tell you, I am really excited to share this episode with you because,  as I mentioned last week – I am answering the first round of Q&A from you listeners.

If you missed last week’s episode all about time blindness, I mentioned that I sent out a request for questions from all of you incredible humans in the I’m Busy Being Awesome community. I’ve received such fantastic responses.

And first of all, I want to thank you. I really appreciate you taking the time to send these questions my way. It’s so powerful for me to hear what’s going on for you. It helps me know how I can best support you through these podcast episodes. Second, it helps us see how many similarities we all have when it comes to living our day-to-day lives.

So often I think it’s easy to slip into thinking “it’s just me. I’m the one with the problem. I must be the only one who struggles with this.” And when we can hear other people who have similar questions or similar challenges, it can not only reinforce this sense of community but also help you know that you are not alone and that we all do have similar questions, they’re just sometimes about different circumstances. 

There is Something Here For You

So, I encourage you to listen carefully to these questions today. Because even if the exact circumstances might not be the same as you. For example, let’s somebody is asking about time management with young children and you don’t have kids or your kids are grown up. I promise you that there’s is something for you in the answer as well. 

Because again, we are all busy awesome humans with brains that need coaching at times. So listen carefully to each question, because there’s a takeaway for you in each one. In fact, sometimes hearing about an obstacle that someone else is facing helps us better understand our own situations because we’re far enough removed. It helps us put our own stumbling blocks into context and have a better understanding of it for ourselves. 

Now with these Q&A, I left them anonymous, and I also combined a few questions that were similar so I could address more questions at once. I wasn’t able to incorporate everyone’s questions, but I tried to address as many as possible this time around. And if I didn’t get to your specific question, know that I will likely use it for a deep-dive exploration of the topic and dedicate an entire episode to it at some point. So stay tuned. 

For example, I received so many questions about organization of stuff. So I’m going to dedicate an entire episode to that topic specifically. So, get excited, friends. Lots of good things coming your way.

How Can I Get Started On A Project or Goal?

So the first listener question poses, “I’m once again trying to get motivated to start a project. Any tips? Also, why is it once I get started on a project I can tear through it like a tornado?”

I love this question. I think for many people, and especially ADHDers like myself and this listener, getting started is a big challenge. So many of us have a hard time taking that first step. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a project or task or assignment. So the first thing to do is figure out why we’re not taking action.

If you notice yourself struggling to get started on a project, check-in. Ask yourself, “why aren’t I getting started?” What’s the answer that comes up for you? And don’t tell yourself I don’t know. Remember, I don’t know isn’t an answer. You do know and your brain will give you the answer when you really pause and listen for it. So why haven’t you gotten started yet? Whatever answer comes to you, that’s your thought about this project.

After you have your thought, then check in with yourself again. Notice how you feel when you think that about the project. When you think about diving in and getting started, what feelings come up for you? If we consider the self-coaching Model and the Thought-Feeling-Action sequence, we have what we’re thinking, which causes our feeling. And we want to create some clarity on that. Why? Because whatever it is that we’re thinking and feeling is causing us not to act. Our thought-feeling combination is causing us to stay stuck and spin.

So maybe your thought is, this is going to take so long, so you feel dread. And when you feel dread you put off getting started. Or maybe you think to yourself I don’t know where to start, so you feel confused, and the actions that you take from confusion are spinning in all of the different possibilities and you don’t get started.

Maybe you think to yourself this is way too hard. And when you think to yourself it’s way too hard, you feel defeated. And when you feel defeated, you don’t even try to get started. So the first step here is to get clear on your thought-fixing-action combo. Remember, motivation doesn’t just happen to us. We create that motivation with our thoughts. So how do we do that?

Ask Yourself 5 Questions

Well, this brings me to five questions that I encourage you to explore any time you’re feeling stuck or not taking action. Go through them one by one and by the end, you’ll be ready to dive in and make things happen.             

Now, as I mentioned, our thoughts create our feelings. So, the first step or the first question to ask yourself to help generate that feeling of motivation or commitment is “why is this project or why this task is important to me? Why is it that you want to make it happen? By getting really clear on why this project is on your list in the first place, you start generating that motivation or commitment.

So if you’re hosting a fundraiser and you’re not particularly excited about gathering all of the details to organize the actual party, maybe you think to the bigger picture of why you are creating this fundraiser in the first place. Who will you help? Who will benefit from your work? Why is this fundraiser so important?

If you’re dragging your feet on job applications and can’t seem to find the motivation to get started, think about why you want a job. Think about how you will feel and the work you’ll get to do once you’ve found the position and gotten hired. In other words, spend some time reminding yourself of the WHY to help jumpstart your motivation and commitment, which will propel you into the second question.  

Now the second question I suggest you explore is what is the end goal that I am trying to complete? What are the specific details? How will I know that I have reached this goal? What does done look like?

So often we keep our goals and projects really vague. We tell ourselves I just need to get organized for this party. Or I just need to apply to some jobs. But what does that actually mean? How do we know if we’ve done it? How many jobs will you apply to? Does this involve simply posting your resume on a platform? Or does it also involve emailing certain companies or individuals or making phone calls? Does it involve showing up to different places and hand-delivering any information? Do you need to submit materials or samples of your work? Get really clear on what done looks like. You want to you know exactly what you’re working toward rather than some vague idea of where you’re going.

I may have given this analogy in the past, but it’s kind of like putting the city into your GPS, but not the actual restaurant where you’re going to meet your friends. So you have the general idea of where you need to show up, but from there you’re a little bit stuck. You don’t know where to go once you’ve reached the city. Give yourself that specific direction. 

Then we get to the third question. What are all of the smaller steps I need to take to reach this end goal? And brainstorm all of the different steps involved. Get them all out and then put them in order. 

Next, ask yourself this 4th question. Looking at my list of steps, what is the first step to take to move forward on this goal? Once you’ve found that first step, then ask yourself further. The 5th question. How can I break this first step down into three to five small tasks that I can do immediately? How can I start building momentum?

And this speaks to the second part of the listener’s question, which was why is it that once I actually get started on a project I can tear through it like a tornado? So often for people,  especially when it’s a project that you are genuinely interested in, once you get over the initial resistance and you have clarity in where you’re going, you build that momentum and you keep going. 

It’s like getting the ball rolling and it’s rolling downhill; it just picks up speed and keeps moving faster. So when you follow these five questions and lay out the steps for yourself, you naturally build that momentum and continue moving forward until you reach that end goal. So for anybody who is looking for that boost of motivation or that extra nudge to get started, I encourage you to ask yourself these questions and take that first step.

My Goal Is Taking Too Long

All right this second question that came in was “how do I patiently pursue my goals with consistent, inspired actions, and still be at peace with however long it takes for the results to show up?” 

I know that this question is relatable to so many of us. We all want to reach our goals now. We want things to go faster. And we want to make things happen immediately. I know I’m that way. So, what I especially love about this question, is the listener’s awareness about maintaining their forward momentum without giving up even if it is a longer process than they would like.

And the first suggestion I want to make is to check in on why you want to reach your goal now. What’s the hurry? Why does your brain want to make the goal happen now? 

You may be thinking, “um, duh. Because it’s going to be amazing and I really want to reach the goal, Paula!” And that’s great. But also, remember the reality that “there” will not be better than “here.” Once you reach that end goal, it’s not going to be better than where you’re at now. Circumstances might be different. The situation might be different. But it won’t be rainbows and daisies non-stop happiness for the rest of time, which is what we’re basically conditioned to believe with setting and reaching goals.

And if this seems unbelievable or a bit of a whomp whomp, You can test this for yourself. Think about a goal that you set and reached. Do you still have a 50/50 experience? I sure do. And that’s the 50/50 reality. I talk about this concept back in episode 77, if your brain is really resisting the idea and you want further exploration of the concept. 

But long story short, 50% of the time you’re still going to face challenges and experience uncomfortable emotions. And 50% of the time you’re going to feel peace and calm and joy and love and all of the positive feelings.

Again, it might be a different flavor of challenge. For example, if you’re building a cupcake business, you may face certain obstacles and frustrations now about your current situation of navigating both a full-time job and the business. And while these circumstances will change once you reach your flourishing cupcake business and you leave your full-time position, there will still be 50% of the time where you face other challenges. They’ll just be a different flavor.

So rather than dealing with a demanding boss, you’ll deal with employees who might not show up or your cupcake supplies not arriving on time. Right?

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Now our brain wants to forget this. The brain wants to convince us that it’s going to be perfection and easy and amazing once we reach that end goal. And because of this mindset we get into this hustle. We get into a rush, rush, rush, mentality because we think once we reach that goal we’ll be happy. And we forget that things will still be 50/50.

Now that doesn’t mean that you stop because it’s going to be 5050 either way. Because you may like the flavor of challenge that comes with owning your own business rather than the challenge of navigating a boss. And that’s beautiful. But get curious about why your brain wants to hustle toward that end goal. Is it trying to escape the negative emotion now to find positive emotion on the other side? If so, check in.

 In addition, I also recommend checking in with your future self and doing this frequently. Check in with future you three years from now or five years from now after you’ve reached your goal and maintained or exceeded that success for several years. What do they have to say? Gain that wisdom from future you.

And as you’re checking in with them, feel the emotions of the positive 50% that you will experience when you have reached that success. Really generate those feelings of success and accomplishment and focus and drive in your body. Feel them and experience them.

Then focus on what future you is thinking about. If we go back to the business example, focus on what future you as a successful business owner meeting their revenue goals thinks about five years from now. And from that reflection, the it’s time to show up like that future version of yourself. As that saying goes, Be HER now. Be THEM now.

This helps you enjoy the experience along the way because you ARE fueling your journey with those positive emotions. You get to experience those positive emotions of the 50/50 now and use them to fuel your journey on the way to success. And in my personal experience, it expedites the progress as an added bonus.

And then the last tip I’d suggest for this question is to celebrate every win along the way. Even if you don’t always have measurable growth in every area, you certainly have it somewhere. You can find progress forward somewhere. So identify it, track it, measure your growth, and celebrate every step. Make it fun along the way. Show your brain that everything you’re doing is creating that momentum towards your end goal. This helps fuel the fire and keep you going when you do drop into the other half – the negative side of the 50/50 – and you need that extra nudge of commitment to keep moving forward.

Stepping Out Of Your Comfort Zone

And this brings me to the last question that we’re going to talk about today, and the question is a little bit longer, so I’m going to read it through so you have the context. The listener writes:

“I understand that my value as a person is always 100% regardless of what I do or don’t do. So whether I achieve a goal or stick to a plan or not, I’m still 100% valuable and worthy. However, I’m not sure that belief is getting me any further on my goals. I get the feeling that telling myself everything is perfect the way it is, is actually keeping me from doing what I had planned in the first place. Because at the end of the day, I make it okay if I don’t do something by saying: my value is untouched. I don’t need anything to prove that. So how do I know that believing I am perfect as I am is not actually an excuse for not getting things done? How can I solve for this?”

I think this is a really important question, and it’s one that I get from people a lot when we start talking about these bigger concepts of “being enough” and worthiness and one’s inherent value.

So many of us believe that we need to beat ourselves up or be hard on ourselves in order to make sure we get enough done. We worry that if we believe we’re enough just as we are, then we’ll sit around watching YouTube or Netflix while scrolling social media and alternating between ice cream, chips, and cookies all day long. We need the push to be enough and do enough to fuel our forward momentum.

And here’s the deal, I definitely thought that for years and years, too. And the first thing I want to offer you, is what if you’re wrong about that? Have you ever tried allowing yourself to believe that what you do is enough and truly believe it? If not, then you want to give it a try, my guess is that you might want to watch Netflix and eat snacks and scroll social media for a little while because you haven’t let yourself do it for such a long time. And if you have, it hasn’t been intentional. You probably beat yourself up after for it. 

But if you did have zero expectations on what you “should do” my guess is that you’d be bored pretty quickly. You would want to start doing things because you’re a busy awesome human. And you want to grow. You want to stretch yourself. Otherwise you wouldn’t keep that goal for yourself in the first place. And those times when your brain is asking for a break, is probably because it needs to recharge. What if that’s true?

Again, I am a person who believes that you are 100% worthy and enough, exactly as you are, right now, in this moment. And what you do or what you achieve is not going to make you more worthy as a human. But rather than asking, well then what’s the point of going after this goal? I love to flip that. 

Why not? If achieving this goal means nothing about who I am as a human, why wouldn’t I go after it? Because then if I fail or mess up or stumble or have to try over and over and over, it means nothing about me. It means that I am a human doing awesome things and learning and growing along the way. And how fun is that?

What if the reason you set goals is to see what you can do? What if the reason you set a goal is to challenge yourself to go big and dream big and make things happen because you can. Because you get to see what you’re capable of and you get to try and fail and learn and grow and achieve in huge ways. This is incredible.

This is something that I work on often when I first begin sessions with clients. So often we think we need to prove ourselves by reaching goals or staying on top of our calendars or getting enough done because we don’t believe that we are enough as we are. So we hustle for our worth and try and prove ourselves by achieving. But what if we drop that story? What if we don’t have to make up for any lack because what we are is enough? And because we’re already complete, then what? Where do we want to go from there? Because from there, you get to go all in and do what truly lights you up simply for the pursuit of the challenge and the growth and the experience.

Now, the listener who asked this question provided some extra details around her particular circumstance. She has an online course that she wants to launch and finds herself thinking, “I don’t need to prove anything to justify my value or my worth. I am doing this purely to grow and show myself I can achieve what I want. But there’s also no rush.”

So with this in mind, I want to offer you some coaching with love and real talk. If you’re wondering whether you are using these beliefs as an excuse for not getting things done, check in with yourself. Because you know that answer. If you planned to work on something and you put it off because you genuinely felt exhausted and needed rest. Or if something else came up and you chose to divert your time and attention and you like your reasons for it, amazing. Not a problem.

On the other hand, if you’re using this belief as an excuse because you are afraid to put yourself out there or you’re worried about doing the hard thing. If you let fear drive your actions and you keep procrastiworking with busywork rather than doing the scary tasks that will create results for you, then it’s time to be real with yourself. As you mentioned in your email, you’re doing this to grow and show yourself what you can achieve. And by procrastinating with busy work, you’re not doing that.

Even if you fail. Even if you put your course out there and you don’t get the results you want the first time, that doesn’t mean anything about you. This worthiness thing goes both ways. It doesn’t make you more worthy to reach the goal. And it doesn’t make you less worthy if you try something and it doesn’t go as planned. So why not do the hard thing? Why not do what you set out to do, which is learn and grow and show yourself what you can achieve simply because you want to? Because it sounds amazing? And because there are people out there who need your help and will benefit from you putting your work out in the world

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