Evoking Awareness as a Practice with ADHD

Episode 122

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Hosts Shelly and Cam continue on the theme of practice and look at evoking awareness. Evoking Awareness is actually an important coaching competency and is key to the coaching process. Within this category is the all-important aspect of self-knowledge – personal values and strengths, challenges and needs, best practices, and what we like to call the client’s worldview. Also remember that awareness is one of the three barriers of ADHD. It can be hard to create new awareness and keep that awareness once we have it. Today Shelly and Cam discuss practices beyond coaching that can help evoke awareness and build self-knowledge.

Shelly shares a surprising practice of tarot card reading and how it helps her to consider questions in a larger context. Cam shares how inspiration practices help him evoke awareness. The hosts emphasize that the actual tool or practice is secondary to what the practice encourages – curiosity in a specific context. Those of us with ADHD can struggle with overwhelm and with orienting to opportunities and questions worth considering. A good tool is like coaching. It provides a contextual prompt to explore an area with curiosity to evoke new awareness.

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Episode Transcript:

Shelly: Hi, I’m Shelly. 

Cam: And I’m Cam. 

Shelly: And this is translating ADHD. Quick note – registration for our resilience group coaching is still open. That class begins Thursday, May 12th at 10:00 AM Eastern and meets for eight weeks. Pricing and all of the information about the class, including how to apply, can be found on the website Translatingadhd.com.

Cam, we talk a lot about evoking awareness and cultivating self-knowledge on this show, and self-knowledge in particular is such an interesting thing with ADHD. I don’t know if you noticed this with your clients, but so many of my clients don’t have a strong sense of self who they are, and that’s a big part of our coaching work.

But today we’re going to talk about other ways that you might evoke awareness or cultivate self-knowledge because coaching is not the only way to have a practice here. Coaching is not my only practice here. There are other things that I do. Cam, you have this lovely metaphor about coaching as a dance between the client and the coach. And I love to use that metaphor To let my clients know that it’s okay to be where you are in this process. Some clients have never danced before, so maybe don’t have natural rhythm and it’s going to take a little more effort to get there. Others arrive, and maybe they’ve done other types of dance or they just naturally take to dancing. They just naturally have that sense of rhythm. And I find for my clients who are a little farther along in terms of their dancing capabilities, when it comes to coaching generally it’s because they’ve done other work before they’ve arrived at coaching, they have cultivated curious practices in other ways, and that learning.

Is great fodder for our coaching work because it’s already there. We don’t have to dig for it, get it. So that’s what we’re going to be looking at today. 

Cam: As we close out this whole series on practice, as we wind this down, this is a really important area to look at around evoking awareness, around building self-knowledge, and that it’s a journey, right? This journey work. It’s never done. And this keen observer approach with curiosity, I wish I could claim that metaphor.

Right? Coaching is a dance. I think I heard it from one of my trainers long, long ago around again, this, this really amazing partnership, but seeing the client as capable and competent. Being able to do their own work and meeting them where they are. So, yeah, there’s definitely an advantage when others, clients have done some work, some other work but a good coach of again, recognizes where they are and meets them where they are. Evoking awareness is actually a coaching competency. And I think that, you know, we talk about the barriers of ADHD, right? The first barrier is the barrier of awareness. So this is something that we spend a lot of time on. And last week we talked about cultivating self-care practices. Right. And that was all about self-knowledge, right? What does actually fill me up? So I’m, I’m kind of looking forward to this episode today where we just explore different ways that we’ve cultivated awareness, Within coaching and outside of coaching, different practices and tools that help us get clear on what matters.

And maybe what doesn’t matter, right? It’s a form of prioritization. If you will.

Shelly: I’ll start with one of mine that often surprises people. Although I will say doesn’t necessarily surprise my clients because several of my clients have this practice as well. And that’s the practice of taro now, cam, I’ll be really honest with you. I’m not much of a spiritual person and I’m certainly not very woo woo. As it were. But when a client of mine talks to me about some awareness that has come from their taro practice and they’re using language like magic, who am I to say that that awareness that they evoked isn’t magic. That’s not my language around it, but it is there. So, Interestingly enough, I encountered taro several times before I ever pursued it myself.

I have a colleague and very good friend who reads her cards for herself. Something I found surprising because she liked me. I would consider her to be a relatively practical person. And so it was intriguing to me that she had this practice and I wanted to know more about it. And then I started having clients that had this practice.

It just piqued my interest. And so finally I had the opportunity via a friend who has a terror reader that she really trusts to have my cards read. And it was a really incredible experience. You know, I brought this question, this dilemma much like we do in coaching, by the way. I would be highly skeptical for myself of any reader who is going to show you cards and tell you definitively what you should do.

This was not like the reader put the cards out based on my question told me what she was seeing. And this one was really interesting because she said I’m seeing something. that you need to resolve before the end of the year, this was in December of last year and cam I sat there and I racked my brain and a racked, my brain and a racked my brain.

And it was a year where a lot of things needed to be resolved. But by that point in the year, checking in on each one of those things, checking in on my relationship, checking in on where I was at in grieving my father who had passed earlier that year and some complications in my relationship with my mother there, just checking in, checking in, checking in, wasn’t finding it. And so I told her that I don’t think I have anything like that. She said, okay, well, maybe it’s something that you need to do. And if you don’t do it, it’s not going to get done. It’s a now or never thing. Funnily enough, I walked away, and this is an hour-long reading, I’m really not doing it justice, but funnily enough, I walked away from that reading thinking it was about my book and that still didn’t feel right.

But it was the best answer I had at the time. And I kind of kept turning it over in my head, started working on the book a little bit, was really enthusiastic about it. And then I realized it was about coaching certification because if I didn’t complete my certification process before I really allowed myself.

To immerse myself in this writing project with this book, it was not going to get done. There is no way that I would have done both. I needed to do that first because once I really dug into the book that was going to take my time and attention and be way more fun and interesting than the bureaucratic pain portal of a certification package.

And so all of this to say, I don’t think those cards told me something I didn’t already know, but they certainly brought something to my awareness that wasn’t there before that I was not aware of in that way before much like coaching, it was a damn. And now I do have a practice where I read for myself on occasion.

Sometimes I’ll just shuffle my deck and pull a card and I’m not looking for the card to give me an answer. I’m looking for what stands out about that card. What stands out about that language? And if it’s unclear, sometimes I’ll pull a second one or a third to paint a broader picture. What’s standing out for me here.

What makes sense in the context of the question I’m asking, this is not about the cards giving me the answer. It’s about the cards adding some context to the mix to help me discover the answer I already know, which is something you and I do in coaching all the time. We do it on this podcast too. When we share metaphors, when we share clients’ stories, the idea is not that your experience listening should be exactly the same as this client’s or that this metaphor should work for every ADHD person. It’s about letting that context land and using that new context to examine what is true for you.

Cam: I really loved listening to that. And again, you were already drawing similarities between the tarot reading and coaching, right, at it’s ample and open. And with curiosity, it really. Yeah, a vehicle to sort of set you up for that keen observer and to notice right. To prompt you in a certain direction.

I think that, I imagine it listeners are like, whoa, taro, whoa, Shelly, Cam. What the heck? And I just say that think in, in ADHD land and in the assessment world, people kind of are trying to find the assessment, the tool, the practice that works, right. Emotional intelligence, Enneagram, StrengthsFinder, Myers-Briggs, Disc.

And whenever I used to go to conferences – coaching conferences – I kind of would walk past the assessment tables because I always found that individuals with ADHD don’t necessarily test very well in those assessments because they’re not, they don’t take the ADHD into consideration this cognitive layer around executive functioning.

The thing though, that if you do have a, if you do have a practice or a tool that you like is to approach it with a grain of salt, I guess I would say in the sense of like allow it to inform and prompt, but also don’t get hemmed in by that tool. That it’s exposing ourselves to different practices and different resources back to this idea of evoking awareness.

Right? We are on a journey and I just got off the phone with uh, with a, young coach and we were just talking about mentoring. And I just was so refreshing that they were thinking about, yeah, I want to learn the hard skills, but I also want to develop as a human being too. Would you be willing to do that?

Are you kidding? Right. It’s so refreshing to see that it’s like a full package. Be present and attentive and curious if we’re not attending to our own needs, we can’t be expecting our clients to evoke awareness if we’re not doing it ourselves right. That we are having that integrity of practicing that ourselves.

So as we go along here, this evoking aware. It’s take a soft focus here. Kind of Be curious about where you want to develop awareness and what might be the practice in doing so, I mean, right now I’ve been doing a lot with positive intelligence and I’m still on that journey. And it’s fascinating.

I mean, I’m getting the reveals around emotion for me and emotion as a resource. It’s mind-blowing for me right now, but I’m in process and working on that and sort of seeing how emotion can be a resource beyond just this idea of emotional regulation or emotional dysregulation. I want to go back to the idea when you were talking about taro.

I was thinking about a practice that I’ve been doing for years, Shelly, is that around inspiration and practicing and sport that often our clients are waiting for inspiration to start something, right, waiting for inspiration to start a day or start that project. And I see it as something that is actually a practice of, you know, going out and deliberately seeking inspiration in places.

Last week, we talked about nature and that’s where I go for inspiration. I just, things shake loose when I’m out in the woods. And I have that kind of quiet thinking. You were talking about the brain settles down during a Phish concert for you. For me, it’s on my bike out in the woods. It just kind of quiets down. It opens up to inspiration and new awareness and I see something often for the first time, it seems right. A little perspective shift. So people do that too, right? Positive individuals are right. Positive and supportive communities. And we’ll be doing, I think that one probably next week. So lots of different options here, listeners around evoking awareness and don’t get hung up in the technical aspects or the how 

Shelly: In the self-care episode, we talked about my two clients who are runners and how for one of them it’s very individual practice. And for her, that is absolutely an inspirational practice. If she is able to run before she sits down to write. She is going to sit down inspired and ready to write feeling connected to her work.

There’s a mental clarity there that allows her to cut through everything else. That for her only happens on a run. is the only way that she can access that particular type of mental Claire. And so whether it’s a practice of environment being in nature, that’s a big one that comes up for a lot of my clients.

Just, Just today, before recording this podcast, I was talking to a client about being in nature as a practice, just getting out and observing the world around you and appreciating the beauty, seeing other people. Puts her in a different headspace, create some room there for what she calls, and I love this term, free brain time – time to let her brain wander to whatever places it might go without slipping into rumination.

It’s an incredible practice for her, so it can be a physical practice. It can be. Environmental, you know, at a fish show, it’s a combination of things for me. It’s the environment, it’s the sensory experience of it. It’s the community aspect of it. But the part that fosters awareness is in the music, in the music itself, I will have an incredible aha moment.

It just brings something out in me that I can’t get anywhere else. The only place I can get that is seeing live music. And then there are tools, things like terror. And I want to come back to your statement about assessments cam, because I’ve noticed something really interesting about my clients who have these practices, very few of my clients, if any care about their StrengthsFinders results or their Myers-Briggs results or their Disc results.

And I’ve done all of those, by the way. I couldn’t tell you what my results were for any of them. Although I have them in a folder somewhere, but they are drawing. To things that allow more space, things that are less prescriptive, right? The three that I just named you, you take a test and it spits out this is who you are.

However, Enneagram doesn’t work that way at all. I found really interesting. And that’s another thing that just kept coming up across clients. So many clients who were so into Enneagram that I finally went, okay, I’m going to look into this. Now you can take a test and I chose to take a test as a starting place, but the idea behind Enneagram is that you type yourself, you are supposed to type yourself.

So just. The journey to typing oneself, to learning about the different types and examining what is true for you is really interesting after I took the test and I’m a seven, by the way, after I took the test, I texted a friend of mine. Who’s very into any agreement. The results says I’m a seven. I don’t think I’m a seven.

This doesn’t resonate. I’m reading the description. Just doesn’t resonate for me at all. This doesn’t sound great. So then she recommended a book and sitting down and reading that book and examining what was true for me was so useful. It turns out I am a seven, by the way, but finding that out for myself by examining who I am, what’s true for me, what I know about myself, was so much more powerful than that test, that spit out a couple of paragraphs that didn’t really land.

And so whether you already have practices in place or you’re looking for some new practices, the idea here is you’re the expert. You know yourself better than anyone or any test could. And so those prescriptive tests can be useful on some level to get to know yourself and useful in some contexts. For example, I think I took StrengthFinders when I was sitting on a board of directors. We all did as a way to examine who was good at what on this board. Really useful in that context. Really be looking for tools that have an active involvement component from you. Tarot cards are not going to give you the answer, but they can help guide you to the right answer. They can help evoke awareness there Enneagram cannot tell you who you are, but it can make some things about yourself clearer.

And for me, what it really clarified in my next iteration of self-work is the areas in which I’ve struggled to change that weren’t resolved by coaching that despite having an excellent coach high that was cam and being a coach myself and dealing in the business of change, having these sticky areas where I really.

To change and do better for myself, but I can’t Enneagram was really illuminating for me there in a way that I don’t think continuing to work with an ADHD coach would have been, it’s just a different, take a different context, a different way of examining my experience and one that shed some light on these old dilemmas in a way that I now feel. I know what some steps forward are in cultivating new practices.

Cam: I love the active part there. Right. Of picking something where you’re an active participant and able to move through. And there might be some listeners like guys doing so much on awareness. I’ve got, I just have so much awareness. I need more action. Any more activity. And I just want to say that if you’re overwhelmed, And you’re unsure where to start.

Part of that is a challenge around orientation, right? We struggle with creating and sustaining useful structures, Structural frameworks that orient us to our day to who we are, to what matters to how to access our work. And so all of these are worth creating awareness around the engagement you want to have is connected to the awareness on either side of that engagement, What I want to do, what are my needs? What are my wants? How do I go about doing that is knowledge. Inside and outside of you. So one thing we can do is we can downplay awareness. I don’t need awareness, cam. I just need action. I need you to, I need a kick in the butt Nita. I need a firm hand and I need to get things done.

I’m way behind. I have no time for this stuff. So the first thing is to start to elevate the value of aware. Right. Not runaway awareness, not awareness that’s not helpful. Anxiety worry is a form of awareness that is likely not helping you right now. It’s also likely hurting you, but always pushing ahead to try to get into work creates pressure – freezes the prefrontal cortex. So we aren’t sharing this just for fun. There’s neuroscience that really supports what Shelly and I are talking about here. This coaching process to get clear on what is available and curious about how you’re going to identify what you want to do, and then how to enter into that and make an exit.

Transitions are another place its really tough for ADHD, but if we have awareness of again, where our limits are, our boundaries, where we get tripped up our trigger points, this is helpful. It orients us to a map that we can align ourselves. Position ourselves, that orientation piece, because so often we don’t have that ability to locate ourselves, Whether it’s emotionally or within a task or with people. So evoking awareness is a practice of orienting, of aligning. And it’s a lifelong process. will tell you, Shelly evoking, all kinds of awareness in that third barrier of learning with my little video project that I’m just absolutely suffering through. I mean, I am suffering. It’s a Sufferfest. But it’s so worthwhile. I’m getting so clear on certain things that I wasn’t clear before. 

Shelly: So the reason we wanted to do this episode today is to just double down on the fact that coaching is not the only way to do this work. Coaching is not the only way cam and I do this work. If you already have a practice that puts you into an awareness state leading to that. Cultivate some consistency there and then build from there because that itself is a practice.

You are practicing, stepping out of fear, out of anxiety, out of urgency and stepping into this curious place. So to bring it back full circle. When clients have done their other work or done other forms of awareness work prior to coming to coaching, it’s not just the knowledge about themselves. They bring, it’s also being able to easily and readily step into that place of curiosity, to know how to cultivate awareness for themselves.

So if there’s something that’s working for, you lean into it. If there’s something that we’ve mentioned here or something that you’ve thought of in this episode, that sounds like a practice you’d like to try, try it on.

Because learning to get into that curious Headspace, you know, cam talking about your videos, that’s not a practice, that’s a, that’s a thing you’re doing or trying to do, but you have the practice of curiosity naturally on board because you’re an expert in it. How do we cultivate that expertise?

Coaching is one way clients get better at curiosity, the longer we coach, even the ones that really struggle at first, but it’s not the only way other clients show up. They’ve already got it on board. So what is a practice that allows you to be curious about yourself, your experience, and what’s true for you?

And how can you develop some consistency around that practice?

If you like what we’re doing here on the. A couple of big ways you can help us out. First is leave a review wherever you listen. It’s been awhile since we’ve gotten the last one. So for those of you that are well-intentioned, but maybe haven’t had the time, space or bandwidth yet I would implore you if you’re able to make some time to get that review out there, thank you. Number two, don’t keep us a secret. Share us on social. Share us at work. Share us with the other neurodivergents in your life. And finally for $5 a month, not only are you financially supporting the show, including covering all of our operating costs, you also gain access to our discord community, where our listeners are working together to do their own, understand, own, and translate work. To become a patron, visit the website, translatingadhd.com. Click on the Patreon link in the upper right-hand corner. 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 122