Anchoring as a Practice with ADHD

Episode 120

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Shelly and Cam explore anchoring as a practice this week. With the three barriers of awareness, action and learning, those of us with ADHD can lose touch with tried and true knowledge and proven practices. Seeing ourselves in the picture matters, but over time the picture can fade. Anchoring to what we know to be true is a proven practice to keep us tethered to our best practices and keeps us front and center in the picture. With ADHD we can set down knowledge and practices like setting down a set of keys. Eventually the keys become relevant when we need to drive somewhere. The irony here is that we can lose the awareness of the need or value of a practice or a nugget of relevant information. Literally out of sight, out of mind.


Shelly and Cam discuss how the pause from pause, disrupt, pivot is an opportunity to introduce an anchor practice. Shelly shares a client story where her client realizes how smelling a candle triggers a connection to a value of lightness and humor. Anchoring to what we know to be true opens us to living more authentically and within our values and strengths. The hosts leave the listener with an exercise to develop awareness around the practice of anchoring.

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Episode Transcript:

Shelly: Hi, I’m Shelly. 

Cam: And I’m Cam. 

Shelly: And this is translating ADHD. Quick reminder: Registrations for the upcoming Project X group coaching are still open. We’ve got a couple of slots left for those of you that might be newer listeners that are not familiar with the concept of Project X. What we mean by Project X is what is that one thing that is important only to you that isn’t urgent.

For example, my own project X right now is my book. There are no dire consequences if I don’t write my book. It is not as important to anyone else as it is to me. And no one else can make it urgent for me. Urgency will not get that project done. So if this is resonating for you, if you have a project X of your own that you just can’t get traction on, this is the class for you. It begins Wednesday, April 13th at 8:30 PM. Eastern.

We also have a second offering at a new time, and that is Resilience. That class begins Thursday, May 12th at 10:00 AM Eastern. Descriptions for both classes, the applications themselves and pricing are available on the website. Go to translatingadhd.com, click on group coaching, and if the description still doesn’t quite make the class clear for you, I invite you to open up the application because the questions Cam and I add in that application are really intended to get you thinking about what your focus for the course might be and might help shed some light for you about the type of work that we might do together in that class this week.

We’re going to continue our very long series on practices, because I think we still have way more on the list than we’ve covered thus far. And we’re going to talk about connecting to what we know, connecting to the future. And really what we’re talking about here is the pause that exists in our pause, disrupt pivot model. You’ve heard Cam and I talk about this a lot and you’ve heard me emphasize the point that I’m about to say a lot, but I’m going to say it again because it cannot be said enough.

The pause is the most important part of this process. So in the last couple of episodes, we talked about creating awareness, pausing. Is what happens next. It’s what we do with that awareness. Are we able to pause and be aware of an unwanted behavior of being reactive, of being avoidant of a perspective?

That’s not serving us coming back into the room in that moment or near enough to that moment that there is an opportunity there to have a different experience. And that’s the goal of all this awareness work is taking it and having that awareness in the critical moment.

Cam: Actually Shelly, I’m going to use the word that you used. As we were talking about this before we pushed record on this and that was anchor, right. and so you’re saying connecting, right. connecting to what, I really liked what you said before was about anchoring to what we know. anchoring to. What the future holds for us, and this is a practice and that practice starts with this pause, part of that pause, disrupt pivot. And so this is the interesting thing, and it’s, I think it’s so unique to the ADHD experience is that we build out these beautiful awarenesses and learnings and this knowledge of who we are and what matters to us.

Our sense of self, seeing ourselves in the picture, developing these best practices, self-care practices, these weekly review practices, strategic practices. And then one day we wake up and poof, it’s gone, right? Just like we misplace our car keys. We misplace these really important. Practices. And so as we’re doing this whole practice thing we’re so tethered to that big signal and looking for what’s next and what’s going to help me.

And, you know, someone else has something that’s going to help me be able to be successful with my ADHD. And you are building out all these beautiful learnings, this knowledge, the sense of. And then back to our old analogy, right. of Mount Rainier and the Pilgrim along the road is we set these down on the side of the road and leave them. And so identifying these elements and somehow remembering to remind the brain about this time last year, we did a whole series on rebel, right? R E B E L. And that R is remember to remind the brain. So I love that we’re kind of coming back around and looking at this, and you’ve got a great example. And so just looking forward to it, just looking forward to

Shelly: Just look at bird to it. That was like clumsy Landegg. Before I dive into the client example, I want to bring, I want to call back to some things we’ve already talked about in other episodes that can serve as this anchor for those of you that like my mantra. Let it be easy or let the easy thing stay easy. Those mantras work. Not because they’re catchy. Not because they sound profound in some way, but because for me, they helped me connect back to what I know. And what I know is sometimes it’s really hard to let the easy things stay easy. One of my ADHD patterns is one of dismissing or snoozing what’s in front of me. I’ll do the dishes later. I’ll take care of that tomorrow. I don’t have the energy today, or I’ve got too much going on today. I don’t have time.

And so those mantras in that moment helped me connect to what I know. And what I know is letting the easy things stay easy is a way that I can take care of my future self. And when I don’t do that, I’m headed for overwhelm It’s like Cam’s dirty snowball, right? It starts off small with one day of maybe not taking care of the dishes. And the next thing you know, my whole house feels like it’s a disaster.

Cam: So what you’re saying there is, it’s also starting with anchoring to what doesn’t work. I love that language around dismissing or snoozing, right? To of push the snooze button on the dishes to delay or avoid and so that’s a really important thing just like last week with that snowplow metaphor. I have to remember that first, anchoring to what doesn’t work in that again, the big idea generator and making my snowplow get bigger and bigger. I have to start there and catch myself. When I start to do that again, then nip that in the. To slow that process down and then counter with the practice or the awareness that does work.

Shelly: My client and Loki is another great example here. What doesn’t work? Is the story that he tells himself in that moment that when I’m at home later, I can sit on the couch and I’ll be comfortable and I’ll do this work then. And it’ll be great. That story is very compelling at the time for my client. And by naming that voice and particularly naming it as a trickster, that is his way of connecting to what doesn’t work.

So here you’ve already named three for me. Oftentimes not always. It’s mantras for Cam oftentime. It’s metaphor. For some of my clients, it’s about naming those voices, giving them personalities distinct from the self. And the client example we’re going to get into now is about something a little more tangible than that.

So this client was struggling at work when she first came to COVID. She was brilliant at what she does. She had been with the company she was with from the time that it was a 12 person startup to its current form as a 200 person huge agency. And she kept running into this challenge, particularly when meeting with clients where she was overworking herself, overworking a problem. Meaning if she couldn’t find a solution to a problem, or if one didn’t exist, she wasn’t stopping to notice that she was digging in more, trying to find a solution where one didn’t exist, operating very much being on the back foot. And this was radiating out in how she was showing up everywhere. Just reacting to. Frustrated with, and over time we started to get some traction there, and she arrived to a coaching session with this question or this topic, “Things seem easier at work, but I’m confused. Why is it easier?” Now for some context, in our previous couple of sessions, we had reconnected to her value of humor and of having fun and of having some lightness in her life.

And that was a thread that we had started pulling on. So as we coached around this question, we came back to that same topic and she said, it’s hum Humor is the difference. I always used to be able to poke fun at myself and not in a self-deprecating way, just as a way to make it lighter.

And I’m realizing this is the missing piece at work at home. And in my overall happiness is I’m not doing that anymore. And she said, here’s the litmus test. I love this. Have I been saying I’m an idiot for losing my AirPods or have I been saying, okay, I lost my AirPods. Where are those silly things? Such a great distinction there.

So at the end of our session, we were talking about how she might connect back to humor. Particularly out work. Things are easier at work right now. How do we anchor to this new knowledge? That humor is the missing piece and bring humor back into the picture. When you start to notice that it’s going away at work and she chuckled and said, you’re going to think this is so silly, but that’s the point. So I work in a pretty open office and I have this candle on my desk that a coworker got for me that smells great. And one day I’m sitting at my desk working and I suddenly realize that I’ve just been holding this candle up to my face, huffing it for who knows how long in this open office.

And it just made me laugh because I must have looked ridiculous to all of my coworkers. But when I’m being who I authentically am, when humor is in the picture, I don’t go to a shame place there. I thought it was funny. I was amused and I don’t care what anybody else thinks because I thought it was fun. So her mechanism for connecting back to humor was pick up that candle and smell it with the smell itself, being the disrupting function and that allowing her then to connect back to the humor of quote unquote huffing at camp. Having a candle. That was the solution. And I love this story in particular.

And it’s one that I pull up often because my clients will so often feel like their way of making meaning of connecting back anchoring is silly. “Normal people don’t have to talk about Loki in order to have good time management” might be something a client might say to me.

You know, We build this story of, because I have ADHD, I have to employ all of these ridiculous solutions.

But it’s not ridiculous if it works. And that was the great thing for this client is because the topic was humor. We were able to bypass all of that. The ridiculousness of it became part of the overall supportiveness of the action. And so our point today is that these anchors could be anything. Cam. And I often talk about mantras and metaphors because those are the anchors that work for us.

Those are the anchors that we most commonly employee, but it doesn’t have to be a mantra. It doesn’t have to be a metaphor. It doesn’t have to be something that anyone else, but you understands. It’s really about what in that moment is going to help you anchor back to what you know. To not go down into the limbic system and lose sight of what you have learned about yourself and your ADHD.

Cam: I love that story, and I think that you can’t really smell a candle if you don’t know what it’s tethering to or what it’s true. The candle is the sensory phenomenon that reminds the brain to knock it out of that limbic hold. And there is neuroscience to support this, that when we have a sensory type activity, touch, smell, taste, you’re visualizing. It can happen. bump that, and of create an opening for that pause because how many of us, again, get locked into this hyper-focus of rumination, right? People talk about hyper-focus in the sense of doing stuff.

What’s under-reported is the hyper-focus around uh, should, As you were talking about this, Shelly, I was just thinking about my own experience as a coach. Once I got into the coaching booth, right. and got going, I attached a seriousness to responsibility. I had the sense of responsibility and a collapsed meaning, right? Collapsed distinction of collapsing responsibility. And this is serious. And that whole member of that inner critic that was there, like you can’t do this, or who do you think you are, came in and said now you gotta be serious because yeah.

And people are depending on you. And so there was a playful element, right? I did a very similar kind of silly playful element. I’m not saying that it has to be silly or playful. It has to work in concert. You are values, right? Your client had, was tethered to humor. I have humor too. And I’d lost that as I was going along and developing myself as a coach, I had lost my tether to playfulness and humor because for me, playfulness and humor allows me to.

Keep perspective to step back and consider and tap into my biggest strengths, the coach, which is intuition and perspective, work and metaphor. And when I get serious guests, It activates the limbic system and I get hyper-focused on, oh, they have a dilemma and I have to help them solve this specific dilemma.

And here we are looking really close in a myopic sense at this dilemma. And then I’m not providing my best service to my clients. So the interesting thing, there was, again, this idea of experimentation, right? I had a background as a science teacher, and so I had some education around the science and the scientific method and the value of experimentation.

And I realized that when I started to experiment with this and bring sort of playfulness back in around this sort of how it’s going to show up as a coach, it really turned that whole thing on its head, right. that I was able to anchor. Back to my knowing of if I’m going to be a coach, there has to be a playful element.

That’s what made me a great teacher in the classroom. We’re dropping watermelons from a climbing tower, 50 feet up in the air because we were doing physics and the acceleration of gravity. And that was meaningful. Those are the kids that are now like in their forties. They’re like, this is what I remember was the fun we had. Teaching science and math through this element of fun and lightness. It opens the brain to neuroplastic.

Shelly: am, I would say that’s what I remember most about our coaching work together, as well as the fun and lightness, which is really funny given how heavy things were for me when we started working together, which we’ve talked about in many past episodes, you talking about this reminds me of another way that I connect back to what I do.

 When I was working professional organizer, I felt like I needed to present a certain way. I’m selling people professional organizing services. I need to be organized. I need to be on top of my own stuff. And that is the persona that I need to present to all of my clients. And it was exhausting in ways. I never really realized. A few years into my business. My now ex-husband and I were in the middle of a move and the house we bought needed some pretty serious work before we moved in. So we were living with my in-laws for six weeks with our three-year-old an hour outside of the city that we live and work in, which is St. Louis.

And I was trying to maintain my business during this time. And their internet really could not handle that many people on the internet. So trying to run my business was difficult. And so here I am commuting into my clients from an hour away. One day I’m driving into a client. I knock on the door, my client opens the door and she just laughing, just Belly laughing and I’m standing there the joke. I don’t get it. Well, That’s not the client I was supposed to meet with that day. I went to the completely wrong client. The biggest issue wasn’t laughing at me, but what she was laughing about and what she later said is, “You’re a real person. It was nice to see you make a mistake. It was nice to see that little bit of humanity in you.” Ooh, It took me a while to walk through that door, but it cracked a door that I had firmly closed.

And whenever I now have a client where I am telling myself a story that I should show up differently than authentically who I am, I connect back to that story as a reminder that this other way doesn’t work, number one. So number two, what’s really going on in this client relationship that I’m telling myself that. What do I need to check in on or dialogue with the client about that’s behind the story for me? So over time, because the more authentic I’ve been in my business, the better I’ve done all the way along.

And you see where we are now, Cam, and I just put all of our stuff out there. We’re not afraid to talk about any lived experience that is relevant to the topic at hand here. And the more I’ve done that, the better my business has gotten. And I don’t just mean in terms of dollars – In terms of the great work I’m doing with my clients and the connections that we’re making, because I’m being authentic and I’m showing them who I authentically am and that matters. So when I feel that pull to do otherwise, I first connect back to, I know this doesn’t work.

Which then opens up the question. What’s compelling me to want to show up this way that I know doesn’t work. What’s really going on here. There’s the pause. There’s the positive time where I would have previously just modified my behavior and tried to show up as somebody that I’m not.

Cam: I love how this is shifting to authenticity, right? This is not about, Hey everybody, let’s be silly. It’s not about that at all. It’s about connecting to your authentic self, right? That your clients smelling the candle was this trigger to remind her of lightness and humor as a core value. That there are glimpses of yourself. What is real for you? What resonates for you client? And notice that this practice here is this mix between taking action and experimenting and playing around with activities. But then. Pausing to reflect on that. Is this working for me? How is it working for me?

Is this not working for me? And how is it not working for me? And this sort of sampling back and forth between our experiences and then cultivating or mining the learning from those experiences to create that chest where we this knowledge, this learning these best practices, right? Often it is with my clients.

It’s building this chest out and then remembering where we put this chest to go back and sample and look in, sorry. I’m just doing clumsy 

Shelly: Oh, it’s okay. I think we’re both a little clumsy today. A lot of my words have been clumsy today, but it’s all right. 

Cam: You sound great.

Shelly: You didn’t hear the number of words that sounded wrong, that I just kept talking anyway, but if you listen back, you will. Anyway. To put this another way, cam, this is one way to put oneself in the picture. Awareness work is awesome, but it’s not enough. It’s not enough to have the awareness. If we can’t apply that learning in the critical moment. And it is navigating that transition and practicing in that area. That’s at the heart of what cam and I do with our clients every day.

We first evoke the awareness, But then we look to what’s the practice based on this awareness. So if you’ve been developing some awareness of your own based on the last two episodes or based on any other episode, we’ve put out because so much of this podcast is in the realm of evoking awareness. The thing to be curious about here is how can I take that awareness and create an anchor point?

What can I try? And this is again where the notion of practice is really important. It’s not about getting it right on the first, try my client with the candle. She did get it right in the first try. She knew exactly what would work when I asked the question, my process of showing up more authentically in my business took years from that moment.

But today what I connect back to is that client opening the door. And just belly laughing and again, not laughing at me. She would have been laughing with me. Had I been able to see the humor in that moment. And I do see the humor now that still happens occasionally with clients where we schedule something at an off time.

And my brain is just wholly unaware that we did that. And guess what? Now I do laugh with my client.

Cam: Okay, so what’s the opportunity for our listeners this week around?

Shelly: So the opportunity for you this week is choose a point of awareness that you’ve been chewing on. How can you create an anchor so that you might be able to pause in the critical moment when being able to pull up and connect to that awareness would be most helpful to you? What might you try? Is it a mantra?

Is it a metaphor? Is it a character like Loki? Is it a physical sensation? Is it something that is already connected to that awareness? Like my client and the candle it wasn’t about the candle, it was about the humor. And connecting back to that funny story, give it a shot and then whatever happens, be curious.

Was I able to call up that awareness? In the critical moment or nearer to the critical moment or not. If so, what’s the learning, if not, what’s the learning and how might you adjust from there?

Cam, and I often talk about our mantras and metaphors in ways that might make it sound like we discovered this thing and that it just worked from there. But the truth is the process was much more iterative than. And even today with my left, the easy things stay easy. Every once in awhile, I don’t do those dishes and the backslide starts.

It still happens. I’m still practicing there. So embrace this as a practice, give something a try, knowing that your goal is, can I pause in that critical moment? And that starts with not going from zero to 100. But can I pause nearer to that critical moment? Can I notice that behavior nearer to the time it happened, even if it’s after, still, because that unto itself is progress. So, This is a great place for us to wrap for today. If you like what we’re doing here on the show, three big ways you can help us out, you know them already, but I’m going to say them again. First, leave a rating or a review wherever you listen. These help other people find the show and let people know why we stand apart from other ADHD podcasts.

Number two, don’t keep us a secret. Share us on social. If you have a neurodivergent support group at work, share us there. and finally, you can support the show financially by becoming a patron for $5 a month. You are helping Cam and I cover all of the costs of this show, including our editor and our assistant, which takes a lot off of our plate and frees up our bandwidth to keep doing and growing this work for all of you, You also gain access to our discord community, where our listeners are working together to do their own, understand, own, and translate work to do this, visit the website, translating adhd.com and click on the Patreon button. 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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Episode 120