Yo listen up, it’s me again! I’m writing a new blog post for the first time in… you know, I don’t actually know how long. So definitely too long.
So I have a complete inability to maintain any level of self-discipline about anything. It’s a problem in my life when it comes to things like doing laundry and washing dishes and otherwise maintaining a home that contains small children, but it’s also bad with my creative endeavours.
I have ADHD and one of the hallmarks of ADHD is that you have tons and tons of really great creative ideas that are really exciting! Another hallmark of ADHD is that after the first exciting creative rush when you start a project… your brain finds another exciting idea and your motivation to finish the first (or tenth) idea just evaporates completely. If you have a house full of half-finished creative projects with no end in sight… you might have ADHD.
Now self-discipline is a challenge for many people, regardless of how their brains are wired. I started this blog, wrote about four posts and then mostly abandoned it. Now, I frequently tell myself that this is because my computer doesn’t work and it’s really difficult to run a blog from the WordPress app on your phone and extremely out of date iPad. And that certainly has some truth to it. But if I am honest with myself, and you, the real reason is that this blog became another casualty of my lack of self-discipline. But I would like to change that a little.
I’ve been thinking about self-discipline a lot lately. I have come to the conclusion that not only is it something that I really do need to work on, but it is something that I am actively making a commitment to myself and others to work on.
One of the biggest problems for me, and I suspect a lot of people with ADHD, is that in the initial rush of excitement for a new endeavor, I take on more than I should. I tell myself “I want to do [insert thing here] and I am going to do SO MUCH OF IT!” I set myself up for failure because I give myself a schedule that is unsustainable. I have a great story idea so I tell myself, “I’m going to write a whole chapter every week!” And for the first two weeks I do pretty well, but then the initial rush fades, and that chapter every week starts to seem like a lot of work, and then I don’t finish the next chapter, and then I feel discouraged, and then I give up and the book that I was going to write becomes just a half-filled notebook collecting dust. And the same thing goes for this very blog, or my attempt to do a regular exercise routine, or the ten crochet projects I have going at any one time. I get overwhelmed by my overambitious goal, get discouraged, and then get distracted. (Even as I write this I have three other tabs open on my web browser and I keep clicking on them and going off down rabbit trails before I have to yank my attention back here. I’m a hot mess.)
So I decided to start small. I want to work diligently on improving my self-discipline and the first step to that is starting with a reasonable, attainable goal. For me, that goal is managing to wash my face and brush my teeth at least once every day. “Wait,” you might be thinking, “I know you said you’re starting small, but isn’t that maybe a little too small?” And yes, it is a pathetically small start. Frankly, it’s something that I probably should not have trouble with, and in fact, at previous points in my life, I didn’t have trouble with it. But this is where I am right now. I went out and bought some decent quality face wash and moisturizer to help make it fun. I asked my husband to try and remind me both to do this and that I want to do this for my own growth as a person. So I sat down and did a good hard think, and I decided that I would focus on making sure face washing and teeth brushing happen every night. I did this for two reasons.
Reason 1: I have two kids, one in the middle of potty training, and one who has to be at school for 8am. As a result, mornings are, to put it lightly, utter chaos. I am usually awake at 6:30 every morning. I usually get around to “starting” my morning for myself between 8:30 and 9:30 in the morning. That is, I start making sure that I am awake, fed, dressed, and ready to face the day, two to three hours after I have woken up and made sure all of that has happened for my kids. Most mornings I drop Kid Flash off at school having put on the first pair of “real” pants I found and still wearing my pajama t-shirt. (Winter in Canada is great for this. No one has any idea that I haven’t brushed my hair or that I’m wearing my pajamas under my snowsuit. It’s 7am and -40 and no one can even see anything because the cold is making their eyes water and also making those tears freeze. Why do people live here? It is an endless mystery.) All this to say that it is not surprising that it is difficult for me to find time to make sure my face gets washed and my teeth brushed in the mornings. Chaos.
Reason 2: choosing to focus on my little goal of a daily hygiene routine at the end of the day means that if I don’t get to it in the morning, I still have a chance to not miss the goal, and I don’t have any excuses not to do it. It sets me up for success because if I get to the end of the day and realize, “Oh no! I forgot to do that thing that I’m working on!” then I can just, you know, go do it. It also means that I have to be real and honest with myself about not doing it. At bedtime, I’m not chasing down my kids, I don’t have anywhere to be, I don’t have anything else that I need to get to. Any excuses I could put forth about why I can’t do the thing right now are invalid. If I succeed at my goal I go to bed having proud of myself. If I fail at my goal, it was because I let myself fail. I don’t beat myself up about it, but I do have to be honest with myself.
So far my little attempt at self-discipline is going pretty well. I have managed to succeed more often than I have failed. In fact, several times I managed to wash my face and brush my teeth in the morning AND at night! This is obviously great for hygiene reasons, but also because it is helping me grow as a person. It is intentionally cultivating self-discipline in this one area of my life. My ultimate goal is to cultivate self-discipline in all areas of my life. And honestly, I think that is working. I’ve gone back to doing some exercise routines again. Not every day, but I’m focusing on doing it more often. I’ve pulled out my computer written a blog post, which I’ve been telling myself I ought to do since school finished in June. I’m getting better at doing the laundry even though it is the Bane of My Existence. It’s early days yet, but I am hopeful. And if I fail… well, I’ll just pick myself up and start again. With a clean face and clean teeth.
So I hope I’ll be seeing you around a bit more.