Shelly and Cam look at learning and its role in creating positive and sustained change. Deemed The Third Barrier of ADHD, learning is the most significant element of a change process and the one most impacted by ADHD. In ADHD land so much focus is put on the first two barriers – knowing what to do and doing what you know – that many miss this third and so essential step in moving one’s agenda forward. Learning is key to our higher level TA concepts of agency, integrity (doing what matters) and living a life of purpose.
They distinguish learning as ‘the awareness on the backside of action’, connect it to the reflective practice we have alluded to in previous episodes and discuss the dilemma of how our own internal judgements cloud our past experiences (like walking through a house of mirrors). Of course Shelly and Cam share their own experiences and client experiences to illustrate the third barrier.
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Shelly: Hi, I’m Shelly.
Cam: And I’m Cam.
Shelly: And this is translating ADHD. Just a quick reminder, before we kick off today’s episode, registration is still open for the self-care coaching group that begins on October 20th at 8:30 PM. Eastern. As of this recording, there are just a couple of slots left. So if you’ve been on the fence about applying for this group now is the time to do so. we hope to see you there this week. We’re going to talk about a thread that cam and I have been pulling on since the start of this episode, and we’ve talked about it in almost every episode, but we’ve never talked about it overtly. That’s kind of a theme for us, I guess, in these last few episodes. Cause we did it last week with self-care and here this week, we’re going to do it with learning and how learning itself is a barrier with ADHD. Cam. You want to jump in and say more about what we mean by that statement of learning, being a barrier.
Cam: Yes, Shelly. people talk about it as a disability, I always, call it a learning disability, it is not recognized as a learning disability like dyslexia, but what I’ve seen over my work is that it impacts learning more than anything.
And what I mean by that is this process of learning. Taking hard-fought learning and applying it forward. If you think about any kind of a change model, it’s been able to take learning from an experience and applying it forward that right there, that pivot of being able to take something and apply it forward.
That is a very executive function intensive activity. And one of these breakdown points that we’ve been focusing on. And it’s so fascinating. Like my learning on this learning, thing has changed just in the last week. Like I thought it was a simple linear dilemma and I’m seeing it really much more exponential or bigger having a bigger impact.
And this is not to bum the list. Out. It’s just to let you know what you’re up against because another dilemma with ADD is if you don’t know what the problem is, how can you develop a solution for. So just want to go over these three barriers that we’ve been alluding to. We came in with a second barrier and in beautiful neurodivergent fashion, we decided to introduce the second barrier first.
But we have been as Shelly, you’ve been saying, we’ve been talking about this all along, and this is central to a coaching engagement. Right. If coming in and modeling this process of developing a new awareness, taking that awareness and putting it into practice right. Of shifting from a thinking planning state into that doing state. And there’s that second barrier of moving from what we know and taking it and putting it into. The first barrier is knowing what the dilemma is or what the need is that we need to address. So there’s that first barrier up to awareness. The second barrier to action. And then the third one is to learning and it might be asking well, how is awareness different from learning? Learning is the awareness on the backside of action. And this is why Shelly and I have been emphasizing this idea of a reflective practice, but with our clients, they come and we go through and look back at their experience to look at that. And what are the nuggets of awareness that we can take and apply forward?
That is the definition of learning and that I would say is The fundamental dilemma with ADHD is taking the learning and applying it forward in a consistent fashion.
Shelly: Cam, these are big concepts. And so I just want to revisit an example from a client of mine that I think helps quickly articulate these three stages before we shift into learning and really digging into that as a concept several months ago on the podcast, I talked about a client who struggled with email. And for a couple of sessions, she was coming with the topic of spending less time in email, in addition to her primary business, as a graphic designer, she has a startup. So she has multiple sets of emails pulling her in multiple directions. And she just felt like. she couldn’t get away from email. She couldn’t get to what mattered in either business because she was just compulsively answering emails.
And so that’s the angle from which we tackled that dilemma for two sessions, we just kept digging at it, kept digging at it. We didn’t have a lot of progress. The third session she shows up and she says something about hard emails I’ve got all these hard emails sitting at the bottom of my inbox. Guess what?
There’s the real dilemma. The real dilemma that hadn’t yet come up in two coaching sessions were these hard emails, because when we started to talk about Hardy emails, we realized that her compulsive email checking and responding had nothing to do with avoiding other tasks. We looked in that corner had nothing to do with pure sort of compulsion.
Right. I can check this off of my list. This is something easy. It’s easier to stay here than to dig into the harder things and had everything to do with the guilt and shame about these hard e-mails that she was not attending to. And so we started to talk about what makes a hard email for. As a graphic designer, her number one heart email is when a client looks at a complete set of ideas.
Here are the different directions you can go with this project and says, which one is your favorite? Because for her, she feels like at this stage, I’ve presented my best work. I’ve presented my favorites. From this point forward, what is your favorite or what you choose is subjective. Which she didn’t even really realize the dilemma that far out until we articulated it.
So when she articulated the dilemma to that point, it was like, okay, now I know what to articulate back to my clients. And guess what? We were able to get into this learning action cycle, where she tackled the heart emails with this new information and this new way of responding. And then we evaluated.
What did that do for the compulsive email checking situation overall? And it did a lot, but it didn’t do everything. So just wanted to walk through those three stages in the context of that example, because it’s a really tiny example, but it highlights why we distinguish. Knowing what the dilemma is as barrier one to learning as barrier three, they are different.
And for so many of my clients, the first work we do on any topic they bring is getting to the heart of what the dilemma actually is. My client and Loki is another great example of what is the actual dilemma here. He came to that coaching session thinking we were going to talk about time blindness and his relationship with Tom.
And it turned out that it was this voice, this limiting belief that came up in those moments that was so compelling. That was the dilemma.
Cam: And I’ll add another one of your client examples the client who was going to have her cup of tea on her porch and the beautiful Northwest. Right. And so there’s that intention, I’m going to go have some quiet times, some personal time there’s the dilemma, the original dilemma.
She goes and has her experience and it’s not doing the trick, right? It’s not, doing what she intended. To do. And as you look at it, like balancing the original intention with the experience, she realized that she was attaching all this pressure to that mindful practice, right. that everything’s going to hinge on this mindful practice.
And when she was able to separate. So, You know what? I can just go and have a cup of tea. And not put all this pressure on myself. That’s the learning, The new learning on the backside of the action. And so these are some smaller examples and I’m going to go into a bigger one of my own.
It’s just, as I was reflecting on from last week’s episode, biggest dilemma is this in this situation is a toggling back and forth between thinking. Reflecting and doing right back and forth. And with ADHD, what happens is we tend to prefer a mode. Big brainers tend to be pensive, thoughtful, anxious in their thoughts, struggle with getting into action.
Fast brainers tend to be an actor. And have a hard time tapping the brakes to have that reflective moment. So that’s the fundamental ADD dilemma is being able to toggle back and forth, but any informed action it’s about being able to sample both. We’ve said this before.
if you’re a fast brain or that you have to become a master. At reflecting, it’s just a little bit can go a long way.
Shelly: Yes cam.
Cam: So here are two great examples. Of that quick turnaround of learning and distinguishing awareness of a dilemma getting into action and then reflecting on that experience.
Right? in a kind of a short timeframe. And what I’m going to do is I’m going to share a little bit of a longer, bigger, broader timeframe here. And it was. Last week when I was relaying that story about going to the guru and the energy guru telling me that I had too much blue and I needed more red in my life.
So I had too much of a strong, feminine side and I needed more of a masculine or warriors. So. And it got me thinking, just reflecting on that, this happened 15 years ago, 17 years ago, a long, long time ago, and I’m just sort of filling in the blanks there. And I’m just thinking that at that point, we, the collective was not clear on the dilemma.
Right back to this fundamental question that those of us with add have and not getting to what the true dilemma is, right. that ADHD, as it presents into the world, you can’t just sort of open a portal into the person’s brain and see these executive functions. Misfiring. If people see this and they make up stuff, right. for me, I would say. Pretty passive. And so it was this, you need more assertiveness, right? I go back to my original coach training, where they got me a pair of Armani socks. It’s like, you need to toughen up a little bit. So that’s where I was. I was like, oh, I need to be more assertive. Not connecting it at all.
To my ADHD. Whatsoever. And I’m not saying that everything’s going to be connected to your ADHD, but in this particular situation, if I had more information, it was more curious about what was going on. For me, I’m looking outward for answers because I had a fundamental statement in my brain. I don’t know.
I don’t know. Is there any curiosity there? None whatsoever. So this assumption that I didn’t have an answer, I needed to go seek it elsewhere. And then I was just an open vessel to be filled. And guess what? I was filled with inaccurate information and it put me on this scavenger hunt for several years because my learning was not accurate.
Shelly: Cam. So if I’m hearing you correctly, this is behavior-based prescriptive solutions that you were being presented, others looking at what’s your dilemma, or what do you think your dilemma is? What’s the behavior that I see and how can we solve for that behavior? Cam needs to be more assertive. That’s how we sell. For that behavior. I’m curious at that time, what did you think being more assertive would solve?
Cam: Oh, that’s a good question. So all I knew was is that I had a hard time taking action. I had a hard time with decision-making right. That again, that idea generator that I’ve talked about in the past, now I have perspective on that idea generator, right? I’ve taken the keen observer to that place to see the power it has.
That in times of stress and times of excitement, that idea generator will pop out ideas. And so I’m focused on the front end and the big signal here and not really thinking about the backside of my experience. And so all I can say it was that it really wasn’t based in reality. I thought that being more assertive would be able to make decisions easier.
And it didn’t, it didn’t at all. Now. What’s interesting is in that moment, I didn’t see my past experiences as an OB. As something to consider as a resource. And I think this is a fundamental ADHD challenge is that we will come to a dilemma and we’re looking ahead. We’re looking ahead at the bright, shiny object, the big signal.
And it’s like, again, where’s our attention. Where’s our focus. It’s going ahead to, I got to address this dilemma. I got to attack the dilemma and my eyesight is moving ahead. I’ve often said that when we leave a room, our attention is 20 feet in front of us. 10 seconds ahead of us. And we’re not really looking behind us.
So we’ll leave a room incomplete. This is one of my fundamental learnings at that time. Not too long after the coup real was that moment of, oh, I don’t complete. So that had me turn around and look back Cam, I’m going to jump in here because I want to talk about the looking back or the not looking back for a moment. You and I both often say ADHD. People are not naturally good at reflecting on and learning from our lived experiences. That statement is at the core of the work that we do. Now. That’s not to say that we don’t ever visit the past, but we’re visiting the past in unhelpful ways. When my clients first come to coaching, they have this list of behaviors, this list of symptoms, this list of patterns that are not serving them. So they can reflect, but all they see is behavior and pattern. They have no idea what’s that? Cause, and in fact, they’re asking themselves the question, how do I keep finding myself here?
Shelly: I know that this behavior doesn’t serve me. I know that this pattern doesn’t serve me. There are even times where I can see it coming. I can see that I’m falling into this again, but I can’t get anywhere.
Cam: Can I interject one thing. They see pattern behavior and judgment.
Shelly: Yes. So I was getting
Cam: Okay. So
Shelly: and that’s okay. That’s all right because that’s the other way we experienced the past is ADHD. People are in our limbic brains, in our pool and our valley in our Hoff, So we experience it from our limbic system, And we’re experiencing it in this completely distorted way when we’re in our limbic brains because when we’re in that place, We’re pulling in evidence to support whatever negative emotion it is. We’re having right now for failing at something or failing to act on something. We feel like we’re behind, whatever it is.
We start pulling in all of this past evidence to support that perspective. But what are we leaving on the table? We’re leaving. Strength values, successes. It’s this completely distorted view, Cam. And I described it like the house of mirrors before we hit record today, you’re in a past experience, but you’re not experiencing it with curiosity and you’re not seeing it from a.
Reality-based perspective. You’re seeing it from this distorted perspective colored by the strong emotional place that you’re in.
Cam: When I left teaching, I taught one year to man. And I was overextended and fully burned out. And so I based all of my teachings, all that wisdom and knowledge that I developed and earned through my activity through engaging kind of lumped it all into that last year. And in looking back that last year was a real barrier.
To reflect on the experience. And so it’s like, who wants to do that now? let’s throw in emotional regulation to mean as we look back it’s like turning up the saturation on the old TV set, too much color, too much saturation, too much. So I think what happened there is starting to really get to the dilemma.
Right. I had to go back to that seminal moment with my spouse around. You’re not working nope. If anything, my spouse is a truth-teller. That’s what we find. Many of our spouses are.
Shelly: And cam just to interject in case our listeners, haven’t heard that episode. The moment Cam is talking about as a conversation between him and his wife, where she said, just that you’re not working. And he said, but I am. And he was, or he felt like he was, and she said, but there’s no money in the bank account.
Cam: Thank you for that. So for a moment, I was hurt, but then it’s like, what are you going to do about this? It forced me to really look at the day. To start to consider what those patterns and behaviors. And to set the judgment aside, to look for the data and the data-informed me that I would work to about 78% of a project, and then jump off for a number of reasons.
But it wasn’t just the fact that I didn’t assert or go out and get the thing that I wanted. There was some mechanical breakdown that was occurring for me. I couldn’t make that connection and locate the next step. And it told me that it wasn’t about willpower or character or that I just had to find the right guy.
There was something cognitive going on and back to this idea of, oh, okay. Now I have this awareness that I don’t complete. That’s the learning I needed that I wasn’t really recognizing the value of that once I did. And this is the fascinating thing, listeners, once I went back and sort of sample. The past and went back, took my keen observer and sampled for the data and set the emotion aside. I found that back to that middle part of the pool was safety it didn’t kill me. It didn’t hurt me and realized, oh my God, there’s this whole other partition, this curtain that I can drawback. And look back and, we talk about a house of mirrors with these distorted mirrors.
I cleaned up my mirror, straightened it out, and set it up so I could see behind me clearly, to look at that and start to develop this practice of pivoting. Look back, what can I learn from this to apply forward? So. As we talk about this today can feel large, right? Oh my God, learning the learning gap.
It’s big. It seems too big Cam and Shelly over a period of time, it can have and manifest in a large way. But we’re saying here today that the fix for you can be really straightforward. Right back to last week with identifying a self-care practice and putting that through this process of try it out, stop, consider, and evaluate in an objective way, take the learning, and apply it forward.
Moving that lens or that spotlight to look back, grab what you need and go forward that pivot will put a little bit of grease on that universal joint there be able to move back and forth.
Shelly: Cam. I think it’s also helpful to call out that while we described this as a linear process barrier, one barrier, two barrier, three that’s often not how it plays out. In reality.
Look at my client in Hardy emails, right. we were grappling around in barrier three. Trying to get the learning week to week with her experience with emails and why that meter wasn’t moving, why she wasn’t having a different experience, even though we had coached about it.
And we thought we had gotten somewhere new and it took a couple of dips into that learning. Over a couple of sessions to find hard emails, to find barrier. Number one, here’s the actual dilemma. Now it’s more clear.
Cam: Nicely said. And so it’s like listeners as you think about, okay, what can we do this week with this is to see where you’re getting stuck. Right? Are you getting stuck in barrier one? Are you getting stuck at barrier two about taking the dilemma and putting it into action? Shelly and I. We’re going to make a suggestion here to stay at barrier three for a second because you can have all kinds of
Shelly: You have.
Cam: Yeah. All kind of, You have all kinds of wisdom from past experience. And not to open that box and let it all come out. But again, in a selective area last week, we invited you to practice a little self-care. So this week, if you’ve done that to look at that experience and to distinguish the judgment, the harsh feelings, the guilt, the shame set it aside.
What are the data points that we can learn from that experience and apply this week? The week is a wonderful unit of time for this whole practice to identify an intention, put it into practice, reflect on that experience and reset. And if you keep bumping into one of these barriers as Shelly. It might be that you’re really having to dip into the learning more or dip into the action or dip into the intention.
Here’s the thing. The other thing that happens is that I’m not sure what to do. I’m not sure where to start waiting for kind of the intention to reveal itself. And so. that can be another obstacle of like, I’m not sure what to do. And so we’re frozen by, analysis, frozen by our thinking, or it’s got to be a certain way, this is where you can let go of outcome of just exercising, getting out of the thinking, planning into the. Small little experiment, a small little exercise, do it for 10 minutes back to the triple tennis ascending and that 10-minute piece of the 10 seconds, 10 minutes, 10%, 10 minutes of some activity in one area, and then reflect on that experience and be kind to yourself. And notice if you’re being judgemental and set it aside.
Shelly: One last thing I want to toss in here before we wrap today, Cam is. If you are currently unable to set aside those emotions, that’s okay, too. That’s the place where a lot of my clients first come to coaching, we have to learn how to develop. That keen observer develop a curious place. And even my clients who have been at it for a long time and know what that place sometimes arrives to a coaching session fully in their limbic system.
And our first order of business is. Getting to safety, getting to a place where we can get up above the dilemma a little bit. So if that’s where you are, I invite you to revisit some of the episodes where we talk specifically about the valleys. If you are not able to reliably bring your keen observer in and get curious then.
You have other work to do first and that work is doing your valley work or your pool work, learning how to get to a safe enough place in those experiences where you are able to bring in. A little curiosity and a little perspective where you were not able to before. So just wanted to toss that in there.
And Cam’s over there furiously nodding his head because when he says set it aside, he doesn’t at all mean setting it aside is easy. That’s part of the work here. But for the purposes of this, it’s what you do need to be able to do reliably to start working through these steps is being able to set it aside long enough to engage in a different way with these old dilemmas. So Cam I think that’s a good place for us to wrap for today. Realizing at the start of the episode, when I talked about our coaching group, I did not give the information on how to find that group. So if you are interested in applying for that group, visit the website, translating adhd.com, click on the group coaching link, and about halfway down, you will find our upcoming session and the button for the application for that.
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Cam: And I’m Cam.
Shelly: And this was translating ADHD. Thanks for listening.