Why can’t I get some things done — even when I know they are important?

Do you have this challenge? You have something that you know is very important to do. Perhaps it is a family or community obligation. Maybe it is something required of you at work. You have no doubt about how important it is. BUT you can’t get started on it or you can’t get yourself to complete it.

Do you and others berate you when this kind of thing happens? Have you wondered why your ADHD brain responds this way? Consider the following.

Neurotypical people can often complete a task in a timely manner if they know it is really important. For those of us with ADHD, importance alone is not enough to keep our brains engaged, no matter how much we know (and are reminded by others) that the task is important.

ADHD expert, Dr. William Dodson, has explained in multiple articles that ADHD is an “interest-based nervous system.”  He makes it clear that for those of us with ADHD to initiate and follow through with a task, that task must spark our interest and remain sparkly enough to hold our interest.

Our ADHD brains typically have lower than average levels of available dopamine, a neurotransmitter involved in regulating rewards, motivation, and mood. Something that is interesting stimulates a more “normal” level of dopamine in our brains. Therefore, we are often strongly (even irresistibly) drawn to engage only with those tasks which include a satisfying level of dopamine-balancing interest.

Dr. Dodson points out that interest sufficient to engage the ADHD brain will generally need to stimulate one of four interest responses in us – novelty, challenge, urgency, or passion.

In my next four posts, I will address each of these four interest factors and suggest how to use them to motivate yourself to complete those important tasks that need more focused attention than you sometimes are able to give them.

If you have any thoughts, I’d love to hear them.

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