Bigger Perspective Work with ADHD: A Client Scenario

Episode 117

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Shelly and Cam continue in the vein of cultivating a practice and perspectives, looking at deeper perspective work over a longer period of time. People change and grow. The worlds and realities they create and live in change too. It only makes sense that their thinking evolves with that change. This is at the root of perspective – how we look at a situation is just as relevant and informing as the actual situation. There is a plethora of scientific data that supports how exploring mindset can better inform one’s experience.

Shelly brings a client example of perspective work over the span of a coaching session illustrating how perspectives can serve us in one period of our lives but no longer serve us as our situation changes and evolves. Shelly’s client shares how her “Solutions Focused” perspective served her well early in her sustainability initiative but then became more of an impediment as her situation changed. Shelly shares the relevance of a practice of incremental change and how we can generate evidence from our experiences to inform our mindset. The practice of Pause Disrupt Pivot is discussed as is a reflective practice. Individuals with ADHD with our ‘mode preference’ behavior can lock into a specific mindset missing an opportunity to take a step back and consider a better way to see a situation. A program note: This is not about just thinking positive AKA toxic positivity, it’s about seeing oneself in their picture to create agency and empower change.

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Episode Transcript:

Shelly: Hi, I’m Shelly. 

Cam: and I’m Cam. 

Shelly: And this is translating ADHD. Just a quick reminder, that applications are still open for our project X coaching group, which begins Wednesday, April 13th at 8:30 PM. Eastern. We are down to our last couple of slots here, so if you are interested in applying, go ahead and get that application in.

We’d love to see you in the group. This week, we’re going to continue our conversation on perspective work. Last week, we looked at sort of one-off perspective work, working with clients on discreet, actionable topics and how shifting perspectives can play a role in our client’s ability to be successful there.

Which by the way, really important and crucial point when it comes to ADHD is oftentimes what we think is in the way and what is actually in the way are two different things. This week, we’re going to take that same topic of perspective work and look at it. Over the course of many months, doing this type of work over the lifetime of a client coaching relationship. And what we’re looking at is bigger perspective change, which is not always obvious. Oftentimes. When we’re working with a client, we’re not directly coaching some big limiting perspective, but the work that we are doing and the practices that we are creating are sort of indirectly doing some perspective work.

Yeah. And so we’re going to dive into that with a really excellent client example that I have to bring to the table today, Cam, anything to add to what I’ve said before I start talking about my client and where she was when we first started coaching.

Cam: Yeah, just one thing is that listeners might be thinking, okay, you know, this perspective work is great, but it’s not really helping me with my overloaded calendar. It’s not helping me with my overwhelm. And so often when our clients come to coaching, they’re focused on the, what that is not happening, right. it’s I’m not doing this right. So that’s what brings us to coaching is the what and the, how we look at that in coaching. But we also want to look at the why and the who, right? Who you are seeing yourself in the picture that this perspective work is really relevant because so often we’re focused on this, what we’re not doing, and we’re not seeing ourselves and our connection or relation how we are relating to this thing that we’re struggling with. So this is significant work. It’s not the only work we do, but we folded in because your who and your why, right. purpose and sense of how you show up what matters absolutely is relevant. Right. And in there is motivation and intention.

This is why Shelley and I do this work, why we’re so passionate about it. So, Yes, I had something to say.

Shelly: As you usually do, but well said and important to reiterate because as we continue to talk about practices, you’re going to hear very little and this is how you practice a to-do list. And that’s because Cam and I know. That’s not the type of practice that’s going to create the change that our clients are ultimately looking for.

They may not know it yet, but we know it. And that is not based on nothing. Cam has 20 plus years of experience doing this work and between organizing and coaching, I’ve got 10. I used to have a whole practice when I was a professional organizer around doing the systems oriented stuff with Pete. And I learned pretty quickly that for ADHD clients that was not working, that’s what first led me through the door of coaching is how can I help these clients?

Because what I’m doing right now is not working. It’s not getting them any closer to where they want to be. So let’s dive in and talk about my clients. Couple of things is early on when she came to coach. She said I will be my own biggest obstacle. So there’s one perspective in the room and one that we worked on in some way in nearly every session, it’s just one of those overarching perspectives.

That’s always present. But early on in our coaching work, there was this other interesting perspective because she had been successful prior to showing up to coaching. And in a particular session, we were checking in on what enabled that success. So this client comes from the entertainment industry, but is always been really interested in sustainability.

And involved in sustainability efforts in a local way with local organizations through volunteer efforts and also an industry way, spearheading efforts within her industry. And she is somebody who really follows and understands both the science and the politics of sustainability. So not to get political here, but it’s relevant that after the 2016 election results came in, she was very concerned about how many steps backward we were about to take here in the United States as a nation regarding sustainability.

And she’s still working, full-time in the entertainment industry, and this is just. Hitting her with dread. And here’s what she told me is I realized in that moment that I could either drown in this, but it washed over me and just drown in it, or I could stay solutions-focused. There’s the perspective we’re going to be talking about in this episode is staying solutions-focused. And so she grabbed on to sting solutions focused. And by the time she came through my door as a coaching client, she had dual degrees in finance and an MBA. And I’ve gotten that far in terms of realizing. Bigger big agenda item of doing something important and relevant in the realm of sustainability. And in her case, doing it through finance, she wants to start a private equity fund that invests in sustainability has no background in finance, no background in business. So here we are. We’ve started this coaching relationship. She’s made it this far. But there’s this big belief that she’s in her own way. And so over the course of a year, we do just tons of coaching work. Both discreet, topical coaching work. How do I organize this? How do I plan for this and bigger perspective coaching work, looking at being in my own way, looking at asking for help from a place of strength, looking at being able to resource, looking at being a choice that was a big realization for her is.

I don’t have to take help just because it’s offered. I don’t have to have this perspective of, oh somebody actually wants to help me, so I better take it right. Knowing what help she needs, putting herself in the picture, being at choice. She’s at a massively different place now than she was a year ago when we began coaching just massively different across the board.

And a couple of coaching sessions ago, decided to step back. And look at this new place. This is not the first time we’ve done this, by the way, over the course of a coaching relationship. This is such a valuable exercise is to step back and orient to where we are now. But this time, some interesting things came up specifically about staying solutions-focused because I brought that perspective into the room and she said, you know, That perspective has evolved.

You know, That perspective was not the great perspective that I presented it as the first time I told this story, although I didn’t realize it at the time back then that perspective was about. I have to get busy. So I don’t drown. It was about damn the torpedoes. I just got to grit my teeth and get through this.

It was about an adrenaline push. It was about responding to threats. And at that time it did serve me. It did keep me from drowning in the result of the election. And what that meant for progress in sustainability, but over time it became toxic and I’m realizing in our work together that without cognitively realizing it, I’m still staying solutions-focused, but in a new way, in an evolved way, because now instead of damn, the torpedoes I’m resourcing.

Instead of getting busy. So I don’t drown. I’m choosing intentional action. Instead of this adrenaline push or freedom from being a choice, I’m having freedom to I’m showing up authentically and, here’s a big one. I’m embracing the fact that I like to choose the hard stuff I’m looking at this enormous goal in front of me and realizing that doesn’t need to be threatening. It’s okay to acknowledge it as challenging. But also I want to remember that I am choosing. This adventure. I am choosing the hard stuff. It’s not happening to me. I am at choice and embarking on this particular journey.

Cam: So in a way she’s developing her own sustainability program here for herself.

Shelly: Absolutely.

Cam: Yeah. I got a couple of questions.

So before it was like, she saw herself as the obstacle in the way. There’s the way and herself. So what was that evolution? I know she was seen as the picture was changing and needs were changing, how she was seeing herself in the picture was changing too. So before it was the obstacle, how did that evolve or what was that shifting to Shelly..

Shelly: So the way that evolved was with lots of incremental practice. And I can’t overemphasize that in this episode, when we talk about these bigger perspective shifts.

Cam: yeah, love that. You’re going back to practice.

Shelly: Like There is no big aha here where it’s like, okay, all right. I see it now. I’m no longer my own biggest obstacle, but there was lots of little incremental practice in terms of asking for help. the first couple of times we coached around resourcing and asking for help. We’re really challenging, but guess what?

My client went out. She had a new experience there and some new evidence. And then the next time it got a little easier. We coached a lot about putting herself in the picture and she made some other pretty big changes in her life. That happened as a result of our coaching work either directly or indirectly when she started putting herself in the picture.

So again, there’s some evidence here. There was one big perspective shift that was pretty important too. And that was holy cow, why do I think I’m not allowed to have problems or struggles along the way? up until that point, that coaching session, where that came out, which by the way, wasn’t that far in time before this session we’re talking about now, where we talked about staying solutions-focused was this realization that she was still holding onto this limiting belief that she’s not allowed to have problems that she’s not allowed to show problems because that shows weakness or that says something about her.

Cam: That right. There is an ADHD thing that’s happening in the sense of that collapse of Problems and weakness to have problems is to have a weakness. And I can’t show weakness or have weakness. Therefore, I can’t have problems that collapses a classic ADD manifestation. Just want to throw that right in there.

Shelly: Absolutely because we live in that one down in that making up for, so it’s I can’t ask for help. Because what will they think of me? Or they already think this of me. So I have to make up for, by doing it all on my own. So you see how her perspectives around who she is, are changing along the way as we’re working together.

But I also want to address some of the how and the what stuff. Meaning a lot of our work was starting to get some incremental traction. On this big goal going from entertainment industry to I want to start a private equity fund. Is a huge, huge leap and do use my client’s metaphor. She said, you know, I can see myself on that Oscar stage.

I know what the other side of this looks like, but here I am. Envisioning and dreaming about the Oscar stage. When my show doesn’t even have a green light, yet I need to figure out what I need to do to even get to pre-production to get a green light, to start making this show.

Cam: Great.

Shelly: Yeah. So as far as the action-oriented stuff we started working, and this is here, is working with metaphor, which is going to be another practices episode that we do, but.

My client. And I use that metaphor as a way to anchor to the work ahead as a way to start to break it down and as a way to put herself in the picture along the way. So for example, if she came to a session where she was really stuck and she was in an entrepreneurship program where she had some deliverables related to this bigger agenda goal of hers that she needed to prepare, but just did not have creativity. And by the end of that session, here’s what she realized. You know, It’s like I’m forcing myself to sit in the writer’s room and stare at the blank whiteboard when I just don’t have it today. And that doesn’t serve anyone rather than doing that. I can. Go out and work on my garden, work on my own little personal sustainability efforts that both connect me back to my why in doing this work.

And also fill me up. This is the stuff of self-care. So working within that metaphor to not just define actions, start having some actions start having success, but also to cultivate some other supportive practices, giving herself permission to take the day off when she’s locked in the writer’s room and the creativity just isn’t there.

She knows that sitting there all day, banging your head against the wall is just going to drain her. And that there’s this other opportunity out there to recharge, to say, I don’t have it today. Let me go do something fun. Let me go do something that recharges my batteries without beating myself up about it. The whiteboard will be there tomorrow and I’m not on a deadline yet. I’m still trying to get to pre-production. So I’ve got time. To let the creativity come and to make this production what I want it to be.

Cam: I love hearing that. you know, as you’re talking, I’m really appreciating you tethering this bigger perspective, work with the iterative practice process. And this is the nuance of coaching. We’re paying attention to the who and the why. We’re also paying attention to the what and the how, because words are cheap, we can’t just think our way to making something happen. I think that there are some listeners out there like, ah, you know, this is really hard. I can’t do this. It’s a camp thing. I can’t step back weigh and consider and Shelly and I feel that you can right you as a human, you grow when evolve over time and that your thinking should grow and evolve with you, right. that here’s this client who. There was that period where staying solutions focused, served her again, it served her in that place of not drowning post 2016. So it was getting going. And I think that often we’re our thinking is around the performance, right? This is a performance based perspective.

Got to keep moving. And so it served her and yet as she kept going, it was their own sustainability thing I’ve seen, oh, can’t sustain this unless I take care of myself and see myself in the picture. So I just love the weaving of her evidence from her experience and practices and feeding it back into who she is becoming. We talk about seeing ourselves in the picture and a reflective practice the reflective practice doesn’t have to be this sitting for seven minutes or 20 minutes and being silent. It’s just this pause, disrupt pivot moment to kind of check-in on who you are, how you’re maybe showing up. And if it’s really uncomfortable, might be at an inflection point here, an opportunity for a shift in perspective or the way that you’re viewing something.

Shelly: Cam just want to add to what you’re saying that, building a reflective practice is one of those things that sounds deceptively simple. And this comes up a lot in her coaching groups and with my private clients too, we’ll get somewhere and they’ll go, wow. Is it really that simple? We had someone in class say that just last week.

Is it really that simple? Is that really what it is? And this is where again, I’ve said this before, but I can’t say it enough, simple and easy are not the same thing. And what is simple or quote-unquote obvious is so often hidden from those of us with ADHD, because we do not naturally pause and reflect on our lived experience in a way that is meaningful or useful.

We are either in the, right now, we are a few steps ahead of the, right now in an urgency place or for in the past, oftentimes it’s, we’re in the valley and we’re in the past in a way that is not helpful in which we’re bringing in context to support whatever that big negative emotional signal is. And so just learning to pause and examine our lived experience is so important.

And pause disrupt pivot can be a little deceptive there because it talks about the pause at, or before the unwanted behavior, which is the goal by the way, because if we can pause. Before at or during the unwanted behavior and notice what’s going on really notice and name what’s happening. There is an opportunity for change there and to have a different experience that didn’t exist before, but it doesn’t start there.

It starts with reflecting back, developing some language back to this client and the language of the whiteboard and the writing room. That started as reflection and something that she reflected on over multiple sessions, this behavior of being stuck in the writing room before she was able to name that behavior in the moment, which again, that’s the biggest piece.

Once we can do that, we can get to disrupt and pivot. It just might take a little more work. So she got that bar and then we did a little work on what. Disrupt and pivot might look like, and then she was able to put the pieces together and have that different experience. Start to finish noticing that she was sitting in the writing room with a blank whiteboard, being able to acknowledge and own.

This is not productive. I know that there’s a part of me. That’s saying you have to sit in here and you have to keep working, but I don’t have to do that. I can be a choice here. And then being able to pivot in a way that felt good in a way that didn’t leave guilt or shame about saying, I don’t have it today.

And that’s okay. That didn’t happen over one session. It was over many and it was with that topic weaving in and out of other related topics. And that’s kind of the overarching point. Of today’s conversation is that incremental practice that we talked about last time, those little perspective shifts, the little practices we’re going to be talking about in the coming weeks.

They build their something bigger. If you stay at it. And I have to caution every single listener here, that there is no fixed timeframe for that. I tell new clients three to six months, but the reality is three months to two years, just depending upon the client possibly longer, right? Every client is on their own journey there, and there’s nothing wrong with that.

Cam. I’m thinking about our group coaching participant who. Was asking herself what happens after class? What happens after this class is over? Do I just go back to the way things were and who was looking at coaching with all of this kind of I’m broken in? I need fixing language. It was like going to the doctor at the truth is. And what she came to. I loved her metaphor of ballet. She’s a dancer. What happens if you don’t go to ballet class for awhile, well you’re going to be a little rusty and that first time back, you should take a little easy on yourself, so you don’t hurt yourself. But ultimately the solution is to keep turning up, to just turn back up at class, no matter how long it’s been.

If you turn back up, you can get back into the rhythm. Of ballet dancing as an experienced ballet dancer. The same is true here. It’s not all or nothing. It’s not do this work consistently over a period of time. And you’ll be set. I have clients whose work is disrupted all the time, because life gets in the way they have a sick parent or something happening with a child and they have to pause this work. But that doesn’t mean the work goes away.

They can come back to it and they can continue practicing what they’ve learned along the way in the time between.

Cam: So I’m looking at you and I’m noticing your brick wall, and it reminds me of a good metaphor, right? A story back to your client who distinguished facades and foundations.

Shelly: Just as an aside for listeners, there is an actual brick wall in my office because it is an addition to my all brick home. So Cam is actually staring at least in part of my background, a brick wall.

Cam: And it’s some awesome album covers too, but the brick wall is something that I’ve used with my clients for a long period of time. Is that when we talk about these small practices, it’s brick work, but before we build the brick wall, we’ve got to assemble the bricks. We’ve got to make the bricks we will often make bricks and then we have a pile of bricks that’s where we are, have to come back to that pilot. In the sense of these little completions, these little practices that we do have something, these little learnings, this imagery, the metaphor of being in that space and the whiteboard. Those are the raw material. That we can come back and pick up and then start to assemble into a wall.

Right? And then what’s a wall. Not much use until we create a foundation. That’s the foundation that we build you know, our first and second stories on, that your client is doing some important foundational or structural work here that she can then build a really powerful structure on top of it.

Shelly: And Cam just to add to what you’ve said, and also noticing our time to wrap the episode for today, it does get easier. We talk exhaustively about, how it is difficult for ADHD people to reflect on and learn from their lived experience. It is immensely difficult for our clients at first to articulate their experiences.

You know, We’ve spent so many years as ADHD people sort of realizing from an early age that we are different. And trying to hide or mask or work around that difference in secret or in private that trying to articulate one’s experience can be really uncomfortable and or difficult for a client at first.

But as we practice over time, as we come back to those foundational structural elements over and over again, this really cool thing starts to happen. Where a client starts accessing those resources without prompting from me without needing to coach about it. They’re having whole arcs of, from dilemma to solution between coaching sessions, using those tools, being able to pause.

Getting curious, accessing what they know and what they’ve learned over this time that we’ve worked together and having a different experience. It’s the coolest thing. It’s my favorite part of my job is to notice that for a client when that starts happening, because that’s ultimately what I want for every one of my clients.

And I know. That on whatever timeframe any client is on. If they stick with it and do the work and not necessarily stick with it by stick with regular coaching sessions with me. But if they stick with it in some form or another and keep doing the work, they will get there. If you stick with it and do the work, you will get there too. The sky is blue. My eyes agreement. I know if you stick with it, this will work because I’ve seen it play out over and over again in my own work. I trust it. So implicitly now. That I can’t imagine trying to work with the client in other way. I can’t imagine going back to that solutions, focus, style work that I used to do with people, which is a great mode of working for some people, but generally not for ADHD people.

All right. So if you like what we’re doing here on the show, a couple of big ways you can help us out, you know them already, but we’re going to say them anyway. First is don’t keep us a secret. Share us on social shares with the other ADHD years in your life, man, we’re starting to get some cool emails about whole family.

Engaging with this podcast together and learning more about themselves in each other, which is really cool and not just families with young children, but also adult children sharing this information with their parents and reflecting and learning together with those parents. So cool. Number to leave a review wherever you listen. This helps other people find the show. It also lets people know how we stand apart from the other ADHD content out there. Really appreciating the reviews that have been left. You all are amazing the way that you articulate how our work has impacted you just means so much to Cam.

And I really is a driving force for why we continue to be passionate about this work. And finally, You can support us by becoming a patron, which helps cam and I financially cover all of the costs of running the show, including our supportive people in our editor and our assistant, which at this point needs Cam.

And I basically get to sit down and record these episodes for you and then turn over the heavy lifting of editing, maintaining the website, et cetera, to the other supportive people in our world, which is great for us. Thank you so much to our existing patreons.

Cam: Yeah, we’re resourcing. Where were you sourcing?

Shelly: We’re resourcing with your help. So thank you for that. So for five bucks a month, not only are you contributing to what keeps the show running, 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 the translating ADHD podcast. Thanks for listening.

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