Context and the Tone of Your ‘Why?’

Episode 101

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Shelly and Cam stay on the topic of context but shift to its positive elements. They distinguish the value of ‘Who’ and ‘Why’ questions and how they inform the frame or context those of us with ADHD put around our experience. Both Shelly and Cam share how the tone of their own ‘Why’ questions early in their careers led to very different outward manifestations but similar feelings of frustration and confusion.

They then talk about how changing the tone of the ‘Why’ questions can open us up to curiosity, creativity and possibility. When we have a sense of who we are and how we show up in the world we can create agency and priority on the stuff that really matters.

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Episode Transcript:

Shelly: Hi, I’m Shelly. 

Cam: And I’m Cam. 

Shelly: And this is translating ADHD this week. We are going to continue pulling on the thread of context and we’re going to do it by talking about the question why. But before we do that, just a quick reminder that the application for the next coaching group is up on the website, translating adhd.com.

Click on the group coaching link. The class on agency begins Wednesday, January 19th, and we meet at 8:30 PM Eastern time. It goes for eight weeks. If you have any questions, feel free to reach out via the website and ask if you’re interested in joining, we encourage you to apply early as our groups do always fill.

So Cam, say more about the question, why and we are looking at why today. Boy, that’s a lot of why.

Cam: It is a lot of why

Shelly: A lot of why, which is kind of the ADHD experience, isn’t it? It’s a lot of why.

Cam: it is a lot of why and figuring out your why. Shelly and I have realized that it’s something that informs the coaching we do, and we’re paying attention to. not just what the client is wanting to do, but also their why what’s their big agenda, because emotion is so tied into this and we’re finding that emotion is connected to ADHD and it’s connected to motivation, right?

Motivation is connected to taking action on what we know we ought to do. And that’s our fundamental dilemma is taking action on what we know we ought to do. So the last couple of weeks we’ve been talking about context and the challenges there last week in our hundredth episode, we talked about the pitfalls, especially locking into a narrative or a specific content.

Building a frame and then implanting that frame and concrete and not changing anything. Right. It’s a sort of words, Cam fatalistic approach, and also destination thinking to. We can also go the other way with spinning through a narrative, We call it situational rationalization And so both are related to ADHD because ADHD is a challenge around. Regulation and management and how much we access each of these areas. Attention, emotion, action, et cetera. I know I don’t have them all today, So we want to shift to, okay. We know the challenges of context what can we do with context?

How do we flip it into a positive? And so we’re going to spend the next couple of weeks on this because it’s really relevant. And it’s so often overlooked. Shelly. It is so often overlooked in the work we do with our clients. There are so many who do this checkbox approach and prescriptive and focus on the when and the what and the how.

And really miss the opportunity around the who and the why. I will tell you this, that when I was able to create agency for myself and have a sense of what I was doing when I was doing it, I had to do some who and why work. So that was so key for me in part, it was my own coaching, all of my own client with my own coaches that had me looking at who am I in this situation and what is my bigger, why?

So at that inflection point, the tone of my wife. Shifted. What I mean by that is before that moment, the, why was often, skeptical. It was coming from a one-down place. It was from a place of scarcity defiance rebellion, there was a tone to that. Why, Why or what is the why confused. Versus a tone of abundance, a tone of curiosity. And that was really the big difference for me. Now, as you said before, the episode, it’s not this definitive moment, right? It’s like there’s a before and there’s an after it’s really incremental. My learning, our learning as we go forward, there are these learning moments, right?

We talked about the third barrier and how learning can be behind a wall, but being able to find that learning and get those incremental learning wins. And start to develop kind of an archive of beta that is so compelling that has to dispense of these old stories. I would tell myself that reinforced imposter syndrome and the one down. So it’s doing the work first and foremost. It’s I couldn’t sit on the sideline and just ask these questions. I still had to put food on the table. I had to show up. So it was showing up as a coaching client that was also showing up as a coach in training.

Shelly: Cam. I’d like to dig into your story a little bit, because we used it in the last episode to talk about negative context. And I think this evolution from one place to another, this changing of the question, why it’s so important and it’s so critical in the work that we do with our clients. Not every one of my clients concludes coaching, knowing their big why, and some come to coaching already having their big, why?

So listeners, the other thing I want to say is that this is not about, I have to find my why in order to proceed, we had somebody in last week’s group coaching kind of have that realization. I haven’t answered this question yet, so I can’t start doing the work. And then they realized I can do the work while I’m also doing the work of answering this question.

And that is really the practice of coaching. And that’s why we talk so much about journey thinking every one of my clients is on a journey and we are trying to get closer to that big why if they don’t already have it. So when they leave coaching, even if they haven’t answered that question yet, what they do have is they have a tool set. To keep pulling at that thread to stay in curiosity and to stay on their own journey of discovery in terms of their bigger, why? So Cam let’s back it up to the time when your why wasn’t so compelling.

Cam: I will do that. Shelly, I just want to reiterate what you said there. It’s not this. Oh, I have to find my why. Which is that destination thinking I have to have my wide before I can proceed. Versus it’s more of a mine. It’s a mindset of what could my, why be? And when we have that mindset, we are accessing this whole other part of our brain where the positive emotions live.

so going back, I remember struggling with the why question much of my life, because I’m watching these kids around me advancing. Starting in about fourth grade, it just seemed like they had a why now I wasn’t asking that or seeing that as a fourth-grader, but they had a sense of purpose.

Like they had a blueprint that I didn’t see, they had some way of a, kind of internal compass that was letting them know, while you do this and this. And it had kind of mapped out. And just wasn’t available. That was this sort of question of they’ve got something I don’t have. And how do I find that? And I was telling Shelly story before the episode that she’s, she wants me to, he wants me to get to, so I’m getting to it, challis, get into it.

Shelly: I mean on one hand, I want you to get to it on the other hand. Uh, Yeah, no. Tell the story now. We, then now you have

Cam: I know I have to. So, Again just really challenged with thinking that there’s some map out there that I don’t have. thinking about coming back from college first year back visiting some of my old friends from high school I think we’re at 19 or so, and we’re dropping shrooms.

And we’re up at the cathedral, which is just above our school, up on north Charles street in Baltimore. And the other guys are having a great time and I’m sure. they’re like feeling the energy of the parcels on the door, you know, and, caressing their little bald heads and like, Ooh, this is electric, and I’m over in the bushes, spinning out Shelly and you know, what’s going on, like all of the why’s of my life. Or condensed into this moment and I’m in the dark here with these guys and they’re like, this is so cool. And I’m like, what’s it all about what is it? I’m not getting it guys.

Shelly: I love that you say what’s it all about? Because I find when our, why questions are coming from that negative place, we’re often not even asking why we’re asking what’s the point. And if we are asking why it’s so existential, you know, why am I here? Why is society the way that it is right? and Cam I don’t know about you, but in my younger years, I could get really, really far down the existential nihilism plane, because everything seemed pointless, following the map. Unlike you. I figured out what the map was. I was like, okay, go to college, get a job. That’s the map.

That’s what people do. That’s what I’m supposed to do. Let’s do it. But then I got into college and I hated it. And then my friends started graduating from college and getting nine to five jobs. And I just couldn’t envision spending the next 40 to 50 years of my life. Chained to a desk. So I changed majors a few times and dropped out because I couldn’t find anything compelling enough to make me want to stay.

There was no end job at the end of a college degree that I was like, yes, That’s for me, that’s what I want to do. And interestingly enough, my clients who have struggled less in the area of career are the ones that were fortunate enough to have a map through college that led to an area of interest. I’m thinking of.

I’ve got several clients who are in the sciences and. Obviously in that case, there is a pretty traditional path through, but the interest and the compelling nature and their bigger, why is tied to their particular area of study and research. So 19 year old, you has this moment, this total existential moment of why, what happened from.

Cam: Beyond the total buzzkill for my friend.

Shelly: Yeah, you were definitely that guy.

Cam: Oh, yeah, I was that guy. I was definitely that guy that night. I was that guy, you know, in that situation, why was confusing and not inform me. Right. And I think that this is the big difference between why we’re spending so much time on context is how context can be. Absolutely. Confusing and questioning not in a positive way versus informing right.

To inform who I am, what I’m up to. Right. So in a way it helps to prioritize. There might be people listening to like, damn, why are you guys talking about this stuff? We’re talking about it because it helps in a sense of prioritizing. Not in the conventional way, but when we have a sense of who we are and how we show up in the world, it makes clear what matters. I now have a sense of what matters and what doesn’t matter. And I can choose on that, right? Because remember, add is about well, it all presents equally and I have to address it all equally.

And that’s not possible.

Shelly: am. I have been fired from more jobs than most people will have in a lifetime yet at this stage of my life, it’s easy to prioritize work. It’s easy to do the things that I need to do. And that’s because my work is now connected to my why. And has even before I knew that bigger, why that’s pretty recent, this show kicked off my discovering my bigger why, but for several years before that I was pulling on threads that were getting me closer to this place.

Things that were interesting, things that were new. And it is, it’s a different Headspace. I have a lot of self-employed clients who come and kind of want me to hold their feet to the fire. I need accountability. It’s just me. I’m on my own. And I need accountability from someone else. But that’s never what they actually need.

You know, What they actually need. I’ve done this time and time again with clients is to step back and look at this business. They’ve crafted and have some agency to be at choice to shift and morph what they need to shift and morph on their journey. And when we do that, guess what all this stuff of, I’m not doing my work.

I’m not completing on time for my clients or whatever else just falls away because that’s not the cause of their issue. It’s a symptom. So this is what makes ADHD. So freaking complicated is, a few weeks ago we talked about Loki and how my client thought he was coming to a coaching session for time management.

 Similarly, my self-employed clients come and think they’re coming for time management. But what they’re really coming for is resolving their current business with their why, which means letting go of the things that don’t work for them letting go of the shirts. I had a client who was in the area of career coaching.

We thought I have to do resume writing everyone in my field does resume. Right. I have to offer it, but the more we dug in, the more we realized she had this really unique and awesome approach and the people who got her approach loved her work and loved working with her. So why are you tacking on all of this stuff you don’t want to do when you know how to work with your clients in a way that works for you in that. 

Cam: Great example. And thinking about, again, this incremental approach. That big idea generator would keep floating these balloons on sort of, testing out these different whys, right? you could do this. You could be this, it could be this.

And last week we talked about locking in and spinning through so I was spinning through, I was spinning through these different stories and guess what? It’s popping my signal. Right. It’s making that big signal. It’s giving attention and I’m like, you I’m trying out these different things, but it was sort of more in my head than actually putting myself out there into the field and checking to see, is this truly going to be life-giving.

is it going to fill my well.

Shelly: say like me, but I want to call out this is different places in our stories. So I was on the journey at the point that I articulated earlier, but before I was on the journey and I think this is really interesting, cam, my manifestation was very different than yours. And you’ve got all these possibilities sort of floating by that.

You’re mentally checking out, trying to see if it fits. And meanwhile, I had the exact opposite going on. There is no end in which I do well in the 40 to 60 hour workweek world. That was my stance. And so I was blowing through jobs without a care in the world. If I have enough money in the bank to pay the rent and get some groceries, I’m fine. And the minute this job starts to annoy me past the point that I can’t stand it I’ll quit and I’ll find something else. It’ll be fun. wanted to call that out because We were both in a way hopeless. But it was very different. How that looked you’re you’re up here trying on all these fantastical possibilities and I’m down here saying what’s the point?

There is no job that works for me in my brain. it doesn’t exist. Why bother?

Cam: And it seemed like my experience was more in the, thinking like the inattentive or the big. Right. And yours is more in the fast brain in the sense of again, through your experience.

Shelly: hundred percent.

Cam: Yeah. Great distinction, really nice distinction. And again, for listeners it’s, not one size fits all. And to start thinking about the tone of your why, when you ask a why question. Is the tone more fear-based or scarcity based or is it moving into curiosity and abundance? And that’s what happened for me, Shelly it’s to kind of bring this to a close for my own story. It wasn’t until I started to really think about the way I was asking the why and shifting my mindset. To possibility to opportunity with curiosity and to go out into the world and do little tests. Right? So thank God I was teaching. I was coaching and I was practicing. I was developing a skillset all along. And I would say though, that it came to this point of really starting to embrace a why and that why was pretty heady.

It was pretty aspiration. And I will say that, part of me was like, who am I? Who am I to have this big why? Right. The one down you know, I wasn’t deserving. How could I be deserving of this?

Shelly: I will add that prior to recording. Cam said well, I don’t have to say. Do I like cam I think you do,

Cam: Yeah.

Shelly: but that’s not one down to be fair. That’s just immense level of humility you’ve always had. I don’t have to say my big why. Right? I don’t have to share that on the podcast. 

Cam: Yeah. Cause I think that it’s not about the words.

It’s about the emotion.

Shelly: So maybe share the words and see if we can’t dig into. The emotion, if that’s okay with you.

Cam: That’s fine. And I think that it sort of, again, as we’re talking here, I can’t just look at the why without looking at the who, because along with the why was this question of who, who can I be? Who should I be? There were shifts in my life that I, you know, should follow in my father’s footsteps or be a certain way.

it was all in. And so the why is really around celebrating cognitive diversity, that’s it celebrating cognitive diversity and what that is? Let me give you some context. There is that what I embraced about coaching was being a change agent. It’s like, okay, where can I create change? And so it was lofty to think about, can we get to a place in the world where cognitive diversity is celebrated and not diminished penalized

Right. The shame and the stigma. So it’s sort of like for my own self, but also for something bigger than me. And along with that was again, this question of me and who I am, and I settled upon educator ‘ cause I thought, you know, well, a coach is a coach and it’s this sort of, I gotta be a coach and it’s like, you know what, what I am is educator with a capital. E I’m a teacher I teach. So coaching is my vehicle, but this podcast, it’s a teaching vehicle. It’s sharing something to help people have a better day, that having an understanding so they can be informed and move forward and have agency in their. Maybe a little less shame, a little less stigma.

So it started as this idea, a bold idea, but I think it was backed up by the undeniable evidence, Shelly of the work I was doing with my clients and seeing the change that was happening. And again, it wasn’t about me, it was about this coaching process. I’m like, whoa, There’s something here.

And I’m going to lean in. Because I’m able to help people create change and understand their brains better. So all I did was take that to a higher level to make it more than just me. And when I did that it took the spotlight off of me because with that spotlight was this pressure of, I need to know my why I need to know.

My who, and here is like more encompassing. You see listeners, this is contextual in a way using my contextual wiring to really tether to this bigger sense of what this is about. And, the other thing was not to toot my own horn.

This other declaration of not playing small. I had to give up this idea of playing small when I did that and embrace this who in this, why I presented four presentations in three years at a national or international conference. Right. So it was putting that out. And then of course doing the work and getting the support to make that happen. But I’m going to tell you there’s, no pill, there’s no supplement that has created this much attention for. This is why it’s so important that we see it’s valuable. And I appreciate what you said earlier. Listeners don’t think that, oh my God. Okay. I have to find my why. No, you just have to be curious about your why. And this week as we finish up here to just to notice the tone of your, why questions. And to open that to a possibility curiosity.

Shelly: I’ll add to that cam and say that when I talk to my clients about their why or their big agenda, particularly when they’re not clear when they have no idea what that might look like at first, what we then talk about is lighting a beacon in the distance, like a lighthouse far away. Can we get enough of a sense of who you are? And what a life that fits does look like for you to light that begin to get a general sense of direction so that we’re not walking in circles in the woods. So before you start to answer why, and Cam perhaps we ought to do an episode on who you can look at your who and what matters to you. What does a life that fits mean for me?

 And where am I currently not living that or having that experience. And those answers vary wildly for every one of my clients. But as we start to find them, guess what? As we do that work on what doesn’t fit, we get even clearer about what does fit. We get a little closer to the beach.

Cam: Yeah, this came up in our self care. In the sense of really being curious about what fills you up, And that informs your who, who you are because we’ve got 10 people in the class and every single one of them, what fills them up is unique to themselves. This is not prescriptive. There is no secret. There’s no checklist. It’s about being curious about your own specific needs to develop your own authentic voice. That’s what I’ve learned. I’ve learned that the world needs us. The world needs our unique take.

Shelly: Yeah. And I’ll add that. I’ve learned that curiosity opens so many doors and so many possibilities in ways that I could’ve never imagined. it’s almost wild to think back. To a time in life. And curiosity was not the way that I led the way that I lived my life. I lead with curiosity. Now that’s what I start with, but it took a lot of work and a lot of effort to get here.

But man, when you do, and my clients who leave coaching, because they’ve gotten what they needed, guess what, that’s what they’re doing too. So you don’t have to be a coach to do that. You don’t even have to have a coach to do that. The biggest element is practice, observing your experience from a curious place, practice, reflecting from a curious place, noticing when you’re in the limbic, are you able to get back to curiosity or at least.

To safety, to a point where you can get up above it a little bit and chase out some of the distortions that are happening. Get a more realistic picture. It sounds so simple when I describe it to new clients and I warned them, it sounds simple, but it’s going to take practice and how much.

Is entirely dependent on you and not in terms of how much work you do or how hard you work in terms of what process do you need to go through and what things do we find along the way that you need to move through or address and resolve in some way.

Cam: Right. And that’s journey. thinking versus destination. It’s going to be different for different folks.

Shelly: All right, Cam, I think that’s a good place for us to wrap for today. We said this at the start of the show, but just a reminder that the application for the group coaching course on agency is up on the website, translating adhd.com. Click on the group coaching link. If you like what we’re doing here on the show and you want to support us, there are a few key ways you can help us out. Number one, don’t keep us a secret. Share us on social, share us at work. If you have a neuro-diversity group there, share us with the other neurodivergents in your life, wherever they might be.

Number two Is to leave a rating or review wherever you listen, these help other people find the show and let other people know why we’re different. And finally, you can become a patron by visiting the website and clicking on the patrons. For $5 a month, not only are you helping Cam and I cover all of the costs of running this show, you also gain access to our discord community, where our listeners are working together to do their own, understand, own and translate work.

 So until next week I’m Shelly

Cam: And I’m Cam

Shelly: and this was translating ADHD. Thanks for listening.

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