**This is a guest post by blogger, Liz Seda. Not only is she a kick-ass writer, she’s the only person I know who can legitimately say that she certifies knights for a living.
I have ADHD.
Ever since I was a child I was always forgetting things. I would lose anything anyone gave to me. I would forget homework, events, tests, meetings, the works.
At the time I could summarize the story of my life with two phrases: ‘I’m sorry’ and ‘I’ll find it.’
I was frustrated. I would get so mad at myself for losing my keys again, or misplacing my expense report again. The worst part about it is that I would never find the blasted thing, whatever it was, when I looked for it. It would turn up later somewhere obvious, looking at me as if to say ‘It’s not my fault you’ve got problems.’
How many times do you have to misplace your car keys (or forget to prepare for a presentation) before you learn your lesson?
The answer to this question turns out to be somewhere around 1.8 million times.
I don’t know about you, but I don’t have that kind of time. So do you know what I did instead?
I went with it.
When I lost my keys I wouldn’t bother looking for them because they would turn up somewhere eventually. Instead of wasting that time, I would call a cab or catch a ride with a friend (or use my super secret stash of keys).When I forgot to study I wouldn’t freak out. I’d just do the best I could. When I forgot to prepare for a presentation, I improvised.
My point is that being ADHD forced me to adapt very quickly to situations that I was unprepared for. I didn’t have a map for my mind so whenever something went wrong, I’d have to compensate by being resourceful or creative.
Instead of berating myself every time I did something like accidentally throw my iphone away with the trash (true story), I would just take a deep breath and figure out what I had to do to fix it (buy another one) and move on with my life (I no longer take the trash out).
It’s important to point out that at the time I hadn’t learned how to manage my mind so I was all over the place. I rarely do anything like that now. If you are living this way you should think about getting professional help.
On the plus side the flexibility I gained by being a bona fide nutcase transferred into every aspect of my life and it stuck with me.
How to Become More Adaptable
If you’re not very flexible now and the thought of just ‘winging it’ terrifies you, don’t worry. There are things you can do to become more adaptable. It’s been a huge asset for me in my personal and professional life.
So where do you start?
Find safe situations where your resiliency is put to the test. For example, the next time you have to speak in front of an audience (and your job/reputation/life doesn’t depend on it), just wing it. Even if you are speaking to a classroom full of 3rd graders on career day, the experience is a little nerve wracking. If you do it often enough, you’ll become more comfortable with speaking in front of a large
Develop your self esteem
The biggest reason it’s hard for people to operate without a plan is because they don’t know if they will be able to execute something on their own. They don’t have enough confidence in their abilities, or in themselves. When you grow to believe that you can do anything, winging it becomes the least of your worries.
Make it fun instead of stressful!
I lost my car keys once in Key West when I was in college. Key West is a 3×4 mile island 4 hours from the nearest ‘city.’ That meant that I would have to wait for 3 days while my roommate mailed an extra key for me.
I had nowhere to stay, I would be missing exams for school, and I was low on cash.
Instead of weeping softly next to a trash can in an alley, I asked the local scooter rental place if they’d let me advertise for them for a few days in exchange for room & board. I emailed my professors telling them that I was stranded on an island and if they had any humanity they would let me retake my exams. They said yes.
So I rode around in my bathing suit on the advertisement golf cart for three days telling people where the best place to rent scooters, bicycles, and golf carts was.
This might be an extreme situation, but had I let the anxiety of failing all of my tests and starving out in the middle of no man’s land get to me, I would be telling you a different story.
When something goes wrong, forget about it immediately until whatever it is you’re doing is over. Then, if necessary, take a look at what happened and what to do to prevent it from happening again. Then forget about it forever.
If you mess something up, forget something, or just plain old screw up, you have to just forget about it until you’ve resolved the situation.
In college I was the student body president and I always had to put on events. One time I forgot to tell one of my panel speakers that the date of the event had been changed. So there were only three of them. The program said four. Everyone was expecting four. The booth was set up for four. And I felt pretty damn stupid.
Instead of crying and berating myself, I shrugged it off and sat in for the panel myself. I wasn’t prepared for the questions, I was only slightly familiar with the subject, but I got through it without permanent injury. Afterwards I apologized to the original panel member, sent her flowers and chocolates, and vowed to always double check my emails from then on. I didn’t dwell on it. I didn’t let it affect my confidence as a person or a leader. I forgot about it forever (until now).
Stop expecting everything to go as planned. It won’t.
Nothing ever goes as planned. Ever. So don’t put so much stock in plans, because they aren’t ever fully realized. They are nice for a general structure or guidelines, but if you stress out every time the plan is foiled, you’re going to be constantly stressed out.
I’m not saying that you should ditch plans from now on and live on the spur of the moment. I’m just saying that adding this skill to your list of abilities is something to seriously consider.
Have you ever been in a situation that you couldn’t handle? Are there other ways to help yourself become more flexible? What do you think?
Liz Seda is the founder of a blog called A Life on Your Terms, where she writes about how you can live the life you want to live,professionally and emotio
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