Getting Distance from the Adrenaline Response Cycle: Big Signals and Journey Thinking

Episode 162

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Ash and Cam continue to discuss the Adrenaline Response Cycle and ways to create some distance from ARC. The hosts revisit the concept of Journey Thinking – a cornerstone of coaching principles and a common theme on the podcast. Those of us with ADHD are prone to Destination Thinking or a propensity for attaching to specific outcomes.

Both Cam and Ash share their own examples of Journey Thinking and what they did to address it. Ash brings back a popular metaphor of rocks in a foggy pond to illustrate the challenge of next steps and Cam shares how ADHD can exacerbate Destination Thinking.

Part of the attaching to outcome dilemma is that it is often connected to a big signal either positive or negative. Along with that big signal is a limiting story and often intense emotions. The hosts share the practice of catch and release – a way to hold thoughts and feelings less tightly.

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Episode Transcript:

[00:00:00] Ash: Hi, I’m Ash.

[00:00:01] Cam: And I’m Cam.

[00:00:02] Ash: And this is Translating ADHD. Before we get started today, couple of quick group coaching announcements. Equanimity begins Tuesday, March 28th. That class will meet at one o’clock Eastern. That is a class just with Cam. Project X begins Tuesday, April 11th, meets at 8:30 PM Eastern. That is a course with both of us. For information on both courses, including prices and how to apply, visit the website and click on the group coaching tab.

 Okay, Cam, where are we going today?

[00:00:42] Cam: So you got some rope, Ash, got some tethers. Cause you might be dealing with super high contextual Cam. Today I’m thinking to myself one of unidentified balloons, it’s floating over North America. You’re like, what is it? What’s it up to? Like, don’t shoot me down. Okay. Don’t shoot me down, please. But what this means for me, it’s, this trusting that we are looking at some stuff that’s really interesting, right? This is what I love about this podcast is that it forces us to really consider these topics we’ve been talking about. Boundaries.

We’ve been talking about the adrenaline response cycle and how to get some distance from that cycle of the procrastination, delay avoidance into intense activity, hyperfocus, and then the inevitable crash and recovery. And Ash did a beautiful job of sharing how he really focuses on having a recovery on his terms. So this whole thing about getting distance from ARC has had me really considering a lot of different topics here in this sort of high contextual, and this is what we did when we started talking before the episode today. To consider, okay, what, are our choices here going forward and giving listeners some really good information to ARC, right. To, get some distance from that rollercoaster. And so we’re really gonna start with journey thinking. We’ve talked a lot about journey thinking on the podcast, but Ash and I just realized how significant it is to start to get this perspective and get distance on. This one pony show, right, to keep that ARC pony in the stable and look for other ways to engage with the things that matter to us.

So Ash, you wanna say a little bit more about journey thinking? Just remind listeners of what it is and what it isn’t. 

[00:02:55] Ash: Cam, it’s really interesting because when I was first introduced to Journey thinking, it was at a time in my career when I was really attached to destination. And it was getting in my way. I was still an organizer at the time, and I actually remember at an industry conference, I was rooming with a fellow organizer who I really admire, and she was working her butt off the whole conference. So anytime we were in the room between sessions, she was working her butt off. And what was I doing? I was talking to her about, well, once I do this, once I have this in place, once I have that in place, once my branding is right, once my marketing is right, once I’m certified, then I’m going to do this and that.

And toward the end of the conference, she looked at me – and I can laugh about this now because it’s exactly what I needed to hear – and said, Asher…that’s not what she said. She didn’t say Asher cuz I wasn’t Asher then. But it’s okay, Asher, if you want to do these things, why don’t you just do them. And Cam, I burst into tears.

I did not have a good answer to that question. This, by the way, was the same conference where I realized I had undiagnosed ADHD, and it wasn’t too long after that that I just happened to come across this little book called Why Greatness Cannot Be Planned. The Myth of the Objective. I’m not gonna spend a lot of time breaking down the book for you, but it’s a book on journey thinking written by two computer scientists.

And so, interestingly enough, the book itself was not the outcome that these two authors were looking for in their research, but it’s what they found and they found. because when they were studying ai, they noticed consistently that they had better outcomes if they didn’t try to force an objective. So for example, if they put a robot in a hallway with the goal of teaching it to walk out the door at the other end, that outcome happened more quickly and more consistently if they just put it in the hallway and let it go rather than if they put it in the hallway and tried to manipulate it to force that objective, and that got them really curious about the applications to humans. If this is true for AI, is it true for humans? And so the entire premise of the book is that you can’t plan great achievements. . And by attaching to an outcome, you might actually miss some other important stepping stone in your own journey.

And the metaphor that they lay out is, and I’ve given this on the podcast before, it’s as though you’re standing on a foggy pond on a stepping stone. And it’s so foggy that even though there are stepping stones in all directions, you can’t see them. And so rather than attaching to a destination, making the goal to reveal the next stepping stone.

And so now let’s go back to where I was in my career when I happened across this book. I don’t know if I’ve said this on the podcast before.

[00:06:36] Cam: You did. I remember.

[00:06:38] Ash: But my first coach training class, I took that class because I won this course, and I had no intentions of becoming a coach. I really liked organizing, but I saw the value in the coaching tools and bringing those to my organizing clients, particularly those with ADHD, because I was recognizing that clients with ADHD addressing this stuff isn’t enough. You have to get to the stuff behind this stuff.

And here’s the thing, Cam, is I don’t think we get here to this podcast and this work that I love if I was still attaching to outcome. If I was trying to force my coaching practice in a certain direction, if I was trying to force milestones at a certain time.

Here last week, we talked about the fact that I am now certified. I am very, very behind the eight ball in terms of where I am as a coach and where my certification came in. I ought to have done that several years ago, but if I would’ve tried to force that outcome at that time, it would’ve been to my own detriment. 

[00:07:49] Cam: I really appreciate that story and your experience there and what it has to do with ARC and being more effective and working on the stuff that’s meaningful and purposeful. Often the big signal is connected with that destination thinking, along with the shoulds of, I should have this in place, or that in place, or I need to be certified in order to start coaching, or et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.

There’s a story or narrative. If it goes with that and a strong emotional feeling and with that is a big signal and part of getting distance from ARC is starting to identify the big signals starting to get some distance from those two. Cuz what I’m appreciating, Ash’s perspective. You’ve got a perspective now that you didn’t have before, and I’m curious about were the big signals that were all wrapped up in that destination thinking that you had?

[00:08:51] Ash: It was all about how it should be, how my business should look. What does success look like? Cam, I was really measuring success in other people’s terms. I wasn’t thinking about what I wanted or what I was curious about, or what I liked to do in my business and what I didn’t like to do in my business. I was thinking about what does my business look like? Is it professional enough? How much money am I making? How many clients do I have? How can I show others that I’m being successful? And I felt that I needed to reach. A certain level of what I was picturing as success in order to take next steps in order to quote unquote be taken seriously.

[00:09:49] Cam: Hmm.

[00:09:50] Ash: Ah, and so now let’s fast forward a little bit. So the conference I was talking about was in 2014. Fast forward to 2018. You and I met up at the Chadd Conference and listeners, this was the nature of Cam and my relationship at the time. Cam was my mentor coach, and gosh, we hadn’t seen each other in person in probably four or five years, since the last time you spoke at a NAPO conference. And we decided to meet up and have breakfast. And at that breakfast you asked me if I wanted to teach a group coaching course with you. Now, career-wise, I wasn’t even coaching full-time. I was splitting my time between organizing and coaching, doing a little of both. And you were well aware of where I was because you were my coach.

So you had an inside view to exactly where I was as a coach, and to be honest with you, that ask scared the hell outta me, which you know, because I said so at that breakfast table. Why me? What makes you want to work with me? I’m surprised that you are asking me to collaborate with you. Help me understand where you’re coming from, which is not how I would’ve reacted if I was still attached to destination thinking because that imposter syndrome would’ve come in so loud, I would’ve just told you, I don’t think I’m ready for that. I don’t think I’m the right person to work with you. I think you’ll be disappointed in what you get if we collaborate.

Funnily enough, that ask never went anywhere. We designed a group coaching program, if you remember Cam…

[00:11:36] Cam: No recollection.

[00:11:39] Ash: And we put it out to our audiences, but since neither one of us are marketers, it just never went anywhere. However, what it did do is it opened the door for the next year in the spring of 2019 when I gave that talk. That kicked off the idea for this podcast. I knew that you were open to collaborating with me.

That was a thread that I hadn’t forgotten about, even though it had gone dormant, and I was confident to make the ask whatever the outcome was. I knew I wanted to make the ask, and I was able to make that ask without attaching to the outcome. I just wanted to start a conversation with you, and I certainly did not expect the immediate yes that I got, nor was I attached to it.

And that’s the thing, is if had I been attached to an outcome, because I knew that if you said no, that this idea was dead in the water because I knew that you were the right co-host for it. If I would’ve attached so strongly to that outcome, I might have been too afraid to ask. I might have been too afraid to get the answer. And that’s the beautiful thing, is when you’re just looking for the next stepping stone, it becomes not only less scary to pull on a thread – to make an ask, to try something new – it’s almost fun. It’s almost fun.

In the last two years, I’ve been looking for another creative project, and I haven’t found it yet. I’ve hit a couple of dead ends. I’ve had a couple of collaborations that I was really excited about that didn’t go anywhere. And in a past life I would’ve chalked that up to failure. It’s failure. I’m failing. Nobody wants to work with me. There’d been all of this story building, and I mean this when I say this listeners, I’m truly able to let it go as that wasn’t the right thing, and that’s okay. Because my learning, not just in journey thinking, but in practicing journey thinking, is that when it’s right, I won’t have to force it.

The show hasn’t always been easy for either one of us, but it’s also never been exceedingly hard. And it has never, ever been something that either one of us dread. And I value that, and that’s something I now listen for and pay attention to is dread or difficulty. Am I trying to force this too hard? Because chances are if I’m trying to force something too hard, I’ve attached to an outcome. I’ve attached to this particular thing, and guess what? If I’m attached to that, what else am I missing? So if this thing isn’t the thing that’s going to work out, all right, let’s take a step back and see what else might be revealed.

[00:14:37] Cam: Well said, Ash. I think if you take a moment to talk about why do we get attached in the first place, what does ADHD have to do with attaching to outcome? I think we do it as a coping mechanism. It’s a comfort and safety thing. Before we know we have ADHD, we don’t feel a sense of agency in our. Agency is choice and control. It’s the class that we’re teaching right now. When we don’t have a sense of control, we grab onto whatever is gonna give us some comfort. So we attach to outcomes positive and negative. in those outcomes are big signal. I just have a quick side story here to share of my own outcome that’s so fascinating and reveals how ADHD shows up.

So guess what? I don’t think I’ve ever shared this before, Ash. I don’t think I’ve ever shared this before. I wanted to be a hero. I just wanted to be a hero. I just remember it’s like, can I be a hero? Can I save the day? Whatever that is. And so listeners, and I know there’s therapists who are listening to this, and you can start your, evaluation of that. And there’s probably some therapeutic stuff there, but there’s ADHD stuff too, right? Because I didn’t understand my brain, I would push go and nothing happened. And so that we make stuff up, we create meaning around it, right? And in that meaning is this big signal.

So I’ve done a lot of work in therapy and also in coaching, and realized that I have a need for validation, that hero story is this sort of like, oh, I get, strokes here. I get an attaboy. But also in play is this erosion of our sense of self. We always talk about seeing oneself in the picture, right? Knowing our who and our why. I had no sense of that, and so in. Seeking that validation is trying to sort of erect a mirror in front of me to see who I was because my ADHD kept snipping those tethers all day long, right?

It’s like trying to build some kind of foundation in sand and it keeps eroding. So starting to see destination thinking as something in play. Don’t be too hard on yourselves. If you’re noticing this listeners, that to take a step back and to start to look at that attachment, is this holding on? That’s an executive function thing to play a little game of catch and release, right? If you grab onto something we hold tightly, it’s to notice what are you holding onto. You’re creating meaning where there’s an emotion and just kind of letting it sort of sit in your hand a little bit more to release that grip a bit. That’s what Ash has been talking about, this journey of moving to a thinking like noticing what am I attached to, and starting to work on that mechanism.

Cuz I’ll just say one more thing. in all those years where you were doing that destination thinking, you were not practicing getting into action. And that’s the big thing, is that going through certification, doing this podcast, we gotta show up. We have to show up and do, and to practice an exercise moving from one state into the. So this journey thinking supports this whole discovery, action, insight model of coaching. This is what we do with our clients, is meet them where they are, this discovery process and inviting them to create experiments to test, and then get to the other side of that experience. And pull that learning forward. This is a really significant podcast today, and I’m so thankful that we’re getting to do it.

[00:18:42] Ash: Me too. Just want to kind of clarify that I wasn’t getting to action, I wasn’t getting to meaningful action. There was a lot that I was doing,

[00:18:54] Cam: Hmm. 

[00:18:54] Ash: But, Cam, here’s where it was coming from for me, and it’s a little different than where it was coming from for you. For me, it was coming from one down imposter syndrome, making up for my business and who I was in that business had to be just so. Because I was afraid that if somebody saw past that veneer, it would all come crumbling down. It’s almost funny to me now how I showed up with my early organizing clients versus how I show up with my coaching clients today. I was putting on a persona. I’m the organizer, so I have to be the most organized. I have to have my ducks in a row at all times. I can’t make a mistake, and I need to put all of this effort into making sure that I don’t make a mistake that anyone else can see. My business was so overstructured and the amount of additional work and executive function tax that that added to look back at it today was insane. It wasn’t serving me in any way, but because I was so afraid, I didn’t know how else to do it.

Flip that around to where I’m at today. I’m not afraid to make mistakes. In fact, I see that as a way of modeling for my clients. When I do make a mistake, it still happens on occasion. I mess up, I forget a client appointment that’s at an unusual time for me, it just completely slips my brain, or I fumble around a little bit when teaching a course with my language. It takes me a minute to find my groove. But again, that’s the beauty of being on the journey. I no longer see those things as something to be afraid of, but as something that might reveal what’s next.

The Purpose course I’m teaching right now is the very first group coaching course that I’ve taught alone. You and I have been teaching classes together now for a couple of years. This is my first solo class and I walked into the first class nervous, and I bumbled around a bit at the beginning and felt disorganized. And there is a time where that would’ve thrown me off for the entire hour and a half where, even if I would’ve been able to recover. My only takeaway from that first class would’ve been those first few minutes and how awful it was.

Instead, I found my stride and took a beat and leaned into what I know how to do well, which is coach. And we had an amazing class and we’ve had amazing classes since then. And I showed up to class two and I told the participants about class one. Not because I was seeking validation, but because I wanted to model for them what that was, and how I was able to recover from that and not let it drag me down into the valley. And funnily enough, after I shared every single person in class said, we didn’t even notice. We didn’t even notice.

But more so than that, Cam, the fact that I’m even teaching the class. Old me would’ve had this idea and would’ve spent so much time efforting in ways that don’t matter to construct the perfect class. And so, tying back to ARC, that type of action that doesn’t move you forward in any way can be its own type of delay, and it is the type of delay that I was best at.

So it’s a little different than you, Cam, where you didn’t realize that you weren’t completing. I was avoiding risk by staying in the pre-planning stages by efforting in that way. I didn’t wanna take a step if there was risk involved, and I would effort and effort and effort to try and make sure that there was no risk. And funnily enough, I’m at my worst when I do that. When I show up too prepared, too attached to how it’s gonna go, it never goes as well as when I show up open to where it goes. Whether I’m teaching a class or giving a presentation, I do better with less preparation, not more.

[00:23:37] Cam: Yeah, I think we’re just starting here around journey thinking, right? To think of this as really an introduction to it. Several episodes on this topic because it’s so relevant, right? As we talked about like last week, getting distance from ARC. We can’t do it in one episode. we’re gonna come back to that too. But I really appreciate where we’re starting today.

And listeners, start with just, are you experiencing some destination thinking? What are you attaching to? What’s the story connected to that? What’s the emotion? Right? You and I both have the same emotion of the fear, right? A fear of failure or making a misstep. I think that’s really prevalent and it just loosened that hold a little because that right there is the ADHD part. That’s that arcade claw that we’ve talked about in past episodes. To give a little bit of a release there to lessen that grip, right. We talk about being present and curious. Ash, this is an opportunity to be open and present to the current situation.

[00:24:46] Ash: Well said, Cam, and I think that’s a good place for us to wrap for today. So listeners, if you like what we’re doing here on the show, one big way you can help us out is to leave a review wherever you listen. And until next week, I’m Ash.

[00:25:00] Cam: And I’m Cam.

[00:25:01] Ash: And this was the Translating ADHD podcast. Thanks for listening.

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