We talk a lot about goals. We set goals at the beginning of each year, when we go into a new relationship, when we start a new project, and even goals for the life we imagine for our newborns. When in reality we have no idea what the path to that goal is going to have in store for us or someone else. Sometimes we get so ambitious we set goals we can’t meet in the first place.
I’m writing this a week into the new year. A week where my mind and body have felt so numb. The overwhelm from the things I want to accomplish hit me square in the face and debilitated me. It left me raw and ashamed. All of the things people have said about me failing came rushing back in. All of those reasons why they told me I would never be successful and all of the limitations they set for me based on their own experiences felt real to me.
By the grace of all that is good in this world, my dad somehow is always one small step ahead of me. He sends me these books, last year it was The Compound Effect by Darren Hardy. This year, it was Atomic Habits by James Clear. I’ll admit I’m only a couple chapters in but a specific line had me inspired to write again, “Winners and losers have the same goals.”
So if that’s true, what separates the winners from the losers? Action. But action alone will only go so far. Say you set a goal and you’re so excited and inspired you start doing all these big things to make them happen. Then you burnout maybe after a week, maybe after three months. Regardless, these grand gestures towards your goals aren’t sustainable.
It comes back to the compound effect, which is essentially creating small habits and doing small tasks consistently that will eventually create the life, relationships, or business you desire. Habits. Habits are the meat and potatoes of creating a successful life and man, do I LOVE meat and potatoes. Because I have ADHD, I have been forced my whole life to have routines and structure. Even while traveling around the country for weeks at a time, I had to have what I like to call “a routine sandwich.”
Let me explain - I talk a lot about my ADHD, I could use it as a crutch and I could use it as an excuse - sometimes I do. However, I think my ADHD is a small super power. It has forced me to look at the way I show up in the world. I can’t hide the fact that mid sentence I’ll forget what I was saying. I am truly the dog from Up, if I see a leaf fall - I’m distracted. I can’t hide the fact that sometimes, I’m just not a good listener. That’s the worst one, I want to be a good listener and sometimes I am, but sometimes I literally cannot focus on what people are saying. It’s like words are coming through a really really thick fog. I can’t help the fact that I forget a lot of things. My friends know that sometimes you get a Birthday card and sometimes you don’t. I’m not always consistent. I also can’t sit still. Never have been able to. My leg is always bouncing or I’m picking at bumps on my arms or legs or sometimes I’m chewing or picking my nails. I hate these things about myself. They’re embarrassing and people love to comment on them. I had a guy tell me once, “Don’t you think it’s a problem that you can’t sit still?” Out loud I said, “No, it fuels me and has brought me a lot of success and adventure.” In my mind I told myself, “Ya, I probably should figure out how to calm the fuck down.” The devil and the angel - I can show either one. This is where we can all relate, we all have the devil and the angel. My devil just can’t hide.
This is where habits come in. We as humans are incredibly expansive creatures. We hold within us the most expansive, unique range of emotions, experiences, and capabilities. While I do have ADHD, I’m also wildly driven and ambitious. I could wake up everyday and let my symptoms take hold. I could go through my day and, as my dad likes to call it, Chicken Little. Start with one chaotic event and let it snowball me into anxiety and depression because I can’t control my symptoms.
But I don’t do that, I use small, I mean truly microscopic, habits from the moment I wake up that support the day I want to have. Notice I didn’t say life, I didn’t say year, and I didn’t say month. I said DAY. Sometimes, when I’m extremely overwhelmed it’s an hour or a minute at a time. I don’t always win either, sometimes that devil gets a hold of me and the first thing I do in the morning is look at Instagram. Without fail, my day will spiral. I’ll Chicken Little.
So now that you know how my brain works, let me explain the routine sandwich. The morning is most important, that routine is longer and paramount to keeping me on track. I start by simply NOT getting on my phone. I listen or read a book and snuggle my dog until I’m ready to get out of bed. I put my workout clothes on, I brush my teeth, and put my contacts in. The dog and I go downstairs where, in an order so specific my dog gets confused if I stray from it, I open the blinds, light a candle, feed the dog, pour a cup of coffee, and sit down on the couch to write my list of gratitudes. The dog eats, I finish my gratitude journal, I open the door for her to go out, I write my to-do list for the day, let her back in the house, sit down and meditate, and then I leave for a workout. When I come back, we go on a walk and I get dressed. Then my day can start. The chaos can ensue and I will most likely not have any symptoms for the day.
If I stray from that ridiculous routine my day, and I cannot stress this enough, will be absolutely fucked. Starting with doubt and usually ending in overwhelm and paralysis. I’ll binge eat things I know I can’t have and I’ll get nothing done and it usually seeps into the next day. In order to break that cycle, I started a night time routine too. A much smaller group of habits but just as effective. I pickup the house, make coffee for the next day, wash my face, brush my teeth, and read a book in bed. Most importantly I stay off my phone if I can.
I share all of these wildly embarrassing things because I know that your devil is probably easier to hide or maybe it’s not. Regardless, the difference between a winner and a loser are their habits. You probably hear a lot of business owners say they have ADHD and you probably wonder why they are able to have the success they have. It’s because we were forced to look at our habits at a young age. We were forced into channeling our energy so it didn’t consume us. We became athletes, artists, and book worms. That is why my ADHD is a tiny super power. That is why my habits are my saving grace. That will be the difference in achieving my goals and failing. It could be your difference too. So don’t set goals this new year, make habits.