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Taking control of destiny part 1

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Sep. 30th, 2008 | 03:11 pm

I'm sure many of you already know that last week I lost my job again...

But I really hated the job. It wasn't right for me. Maybe this is a good thing.

While working there I learned a lot about myself.

* Maybe I really am Talented, and Gifted
* My biggest obstacles are emotional
* I can overcome my ADD, and stay focused if the project is interesting enough
* Stuff that draws on my creativity tends to be the most interesting

In elementary school they started sending me to TAG class once a week. It was a whole day of doing unusually interesting stuff. I think it was on Wednesdays. They told me that I was different. That my opportunities in life would not be like other people. I could do anything I wanted. This expectation they instilled in me at an early age has yet to be realized. I've watched so many people who are theoretically less capable than me achieve so much. I asked myself why I kept failing.

There are a few answers to that. One of the easy ones is that I have ADD. ADD makes a lot of things a struggle. Anytime I need to focus on something it's hard. So many things to think about competing for my attention. The creative flood always seems to be there drowning anything else. While this is a continuing challenge I have discovered that it could be a source of strength rather than a source of sorrow.

What I now think is my biggest challenge isn't that at all. It's emotions. Emotions rooted in how I was raised.

There are a few side effects from being gifted. The first is that a lot of things that would be hard for most people are easy. Because they are easy we don't really have to try. There is no struggle so we never learn how to deal with struggle. When something is hard the reaction is that since we can't "just do it" that it must be impossible. We give up. Worse is that everyone expects us to really shine at the hard problems. Since we're "gifted" we will probably figure it out first.

Another side effect of things being easy is there is a tendency to put minimal effort into everything. Why spend an hour doing a great job on a homework assignment that doesn't solve any real world problems when we can spend 10 minutes on it, and then the rest of our time doodling, or running around outside.

I managed to incorporate both of those dysfunctions into my core being. I put minimal effort into lots of tasks, and give up at the first real challenge. Then because people know I'm smart, and expect more out of me I feel bad about letting them down. Being ADD adds an extra monkey wrench to the whole equation.

Stress, and the ADD brain...
Years ago my psychologist told me about a study where they did brain scans of people with ADD. They found that stress would cause the brain to shut down. What does this mean for me? It means that when I get a task I fist expect that my gifted brilliance will quickly conquer it, and as such I don't put much effort into it. When it's harder than that the next reaction is a bit of surprise that it wasn't easy, and switching on full power thought to solve the problem. When that fails it starts being stressful because people are expecting more of me, and I've learned to expect more of myself. As the stress increases it becomes harder, and harder to even think about the problem. Then the ADD brain adds one more twist. It starts presenting me with other things to think about. Lots of them, and they are all easy to think about.

So when I'm presented with a challenge my reaction has been to have my emotions turn wretched followed by changing the subject. Unfortunately life is a challenging problem which is why for a long long time I was depressed, and didn't get a whole lot done to improve my situation. Life improved gradually, and last year I discovered a way out from the depression that has plagued my life since at least elementary school.

The way out was pretty simple. When my mind changed the subject to something more pleasant I just ran with that. I didn't really realize that was what I was doing. I just started going to every activity I was invited to. Fun distractions filled my life. My mood improved, I made a lot of friends, but little was done to improve my career, or fix any of the other life problems I had. Every minute I spent at work became a minute I wanted to leave so that I could be happy again. I stopped tolerating the unhappiness that was associated with trying to solve challenges at work. My job suffered. I lost it.

For a while I was happy. I didn't have to solve problems that triggered my automatic unhappy reaction. As I ran out of money, and started to deal with my problems I got really unhappy. They weren't just problems that caused stress there were a lot of them, and among the most stressful of the problems I ever dealt with. Just as I was starting to realize how much emotions played into my situation I got a job. The problem wasn't solved, but at least I knew about it.

The job added a new problem. The extreme commute time involved. To make a multimodal trip of cycling plus transit to get to work took an hour, and a half. I stopped being able to reasonably distract myself with interesting activities because I no longer had the time. I started waking up soaked with stress induced cold night sweats. I replaced my sheets, and blankets with beach towels to reduce my misery. This lasted for weeks.

Then something happened. I was given a miserable task, and following my normal methodology I tried to go for the lazy solution. I thought writing a program to do a task would be easier than a boring repetitive task. Although it ended up being a vastly more challenging project than I imagined it to be I kept seeing the "next step" as a relatively easy task. I kept this up for a week, and then another. Suddenly I found that I could turn a miserable job into a lot of small, and mostly fun tasks. Unfortunately I knew my employer was more interested in my doing things the miserable route than the fun, and creative route.

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Comments {2}

ashen

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from: karrlii
date: Oct. 1st, 2008 03:17 am (UTC)
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I'm sorry you lost your job. I totally feel you on the ADD thing. I am ADHD. I take medication and it really does help get my mind to stop going into a million different directions. Medication also helps me stay more grounded emotionally. I think personally it makes me a little boring and takes away some creativity, but for me the tradeoff is worth it. If you need someone to talk about this message me, sometimes it's nice to have a little support group.

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Jerry Federspiel

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from: jpfed
date: Oct. 1st, 2008 05:28 pm (UTC)
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I identify with a lot of this.

Two experiments:

Experiment 1.
Maintain a stack of goals.
While true,
If the goal at the top of the stack is completed, pop it off the stack. Continue.
If the goal at the top of the stack is immediately attainable, do it. Continue.
Break the goal at the top of the stack into a set of new goals, "overcome obstacle A", "obtain tool B", etc. Push all of these new goals onto the stack.

Experiment 2.
Program your cell phone or a computer you regularly use to give you a daily reminder of the thing you most need reminding of (whatever that is). So, for example, I use the reminder "Remember to live inside your own skin", because it is easy for me to neglect my regularly-recurring needs (simple things like eating enough, drinking enough, going to the bathroom, and talking to friends). That neglect makes the lower parts of my brain go "hey, something's wrong!" and the higher parts of my brain go "I'm trying to work on this problem, but I am distracted for some reason."

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