Navigating Barriers to Change: One Client’s ADHD Coaching Story

Episode 194

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In Season 2, Episode 12 of Translating ADHD, hosts Ash and Cam discuss their coaching approach, focusing on one of Asher’s clients and their journey through the coaching process, self-discovery and change. They emphasize the importance of addressing barriers to change, such as awareness, action, and new learning.

Asher shares a specific example involving work-related challenges and how coaching helped his client shift from black-and-white thinking and big signal distraction to embracing nuance and curiosity. The client’s journey led to increased self-awareness, questioning limiting beliefs, and ultimately making positive career changes aligned with strengths and unique values. The episode highlights the power of coaching in cultivating understanding, self-discovery, and creating a life that fits for individuals with ADHD.

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Episode Transcript:

[00:00:00] Ash: Hi, I’m Ash,

[00:00:08] Cam: And I’m Cam.

[00:00:09] Ash: And this is Translating ADHD. Just a quick reminder that our next group coaching offering, which is the brand new topic of Acceptance begins Wednesday, January 24th, and meets at 8:30 PM Eastern on Wednesdays for eight weeks. If you’re interested in learning more or applying for this course, visit the website and click on the group coaching tab.

So, Cam, where are we headed today in this realm of coaching, and what does the work look like?

[00:00:46] Cam: So Ash, we are headed in a direction that I think both of us are pretty excited about. And as we’ve been talking about the reboot and season two, we get into the sort of bringing more of the coaching into the conversation of what happens in a coaching session. We’ve been talking about barriers to change. We’ve talked about the three different barriers that we illustrate – the barrier to awareness, the barrier to action, and the barrier to new learning – and how they line up with the coaching phases or stages of change.

And last week we talked about readiness for change. And I think that where we are now is that once you get going with a coach, it’s, it’s not like it’s free sailing, easy sailing. And it’s just sort of, okay, we’re just on our way. Coaching is this discovery process of revealing the barriers that are already there.

So, Ash and I were talking to listeners about kind of specific barriers to change. And what we lit upon was this, let’s take listeners through a coaching engagement when the client comes and they’re sort of grappling with a specific thing, and take them through the process of the work that we do. And this is not what all coaches do. It’s what we do, sort of our approach to coaching. And so Ash has a great example of a client who recognizes the need and value of seeing oneself in the picture. And the work that Ash and that client did to lean in there to create change around that concept, right?

You’ve heard us talking about seeing oneself in the picture time and time again. I mean, it’s something that we always come back to. What’s one thing to see yourself in the picture? It’s like, how does that change things? How does that change your relationships? How does that change what you’re doing every day? Right? We are master responders. We’re master reactors. We will react to a situation. We will adapt to a situation. We will respond to a situation. And so to see oneself in the picture, there’s a shift there, Ash, around, well, having an opinion and sharing that opinion, right? To assert, to operate from a place of choice.

That’s addressing ADHD at its core because ADHD makes it so difficult to land on an opinion I want to share. After all, I’m inundated with seven opinions, Ash. Which one do I share, and then, you know, how do I carry that out? So I think this is a great place to begin. We’ll just use this ARC of a specific client engagement around this idea of meeting them where they are, addressing, developing awareness of the dilemma, and then what we do in the coaching process to facilitate change here.

[00:04:02] Ash: So let’s start by talking about where this client was when we first began coaching. She was in a work situation that she knew wasn’t working. All of the other dilemmas that she was bringing to the table, the awareness that she was bringing to the table in one way or another kind of radiated out from this work situation. So self-care, even eating regularly, and finances, are the dilemmas that she was bringing to the table alongside this work situation.

And her awareness at the start of our engagement was this: She had taken on this role in a family business. So a business owned and managed by a family member during the early days of the pandemic. Her previous job did not work out for whatever reason, and I do not recall what that reason was. And it was intended to be a temporary win-win. They needed somebody. She needed income. It was a tough job market and any of you that were between jobs in those early lockdown pandemic days know exactly what I’m talking about there. And so here’s an opportunity to alleviate this immediate pain and to help out a family member.

She also knew that she never saw herself working for this family business, and now she felt stuck. She felt stuck, and she wanted to do something else, but that something else seemed both vague and also seemed like I had to find the perfect thing. I have to know what that perfect next thing is to be able to move on.

The challenges at work were certainly ADHD related in some ways, and we did some early coaching on that. But we’re also interpersonal, dealing with a difficult job that she’s not feeling like she’s excelling at. And having her bosses also be family members introduced this extra set of dynamics that my client was grappling with in those early days, doing a lot of blame sponging, a lot of avoiding, doing a lot of catastrophizing.

So even in those moments where she could envision putting herself in the picture a little bit, catastrophizing what the response to that might look like, and just generally not knowing what a path forward in any direction looked like. So there was this real deep desire for change, for something to give in some way, and a pretty healthy amount of awareness about where she was and how she got there. But there was no clear path forward other than that magical thinking of, if I could just figure out the right career, the right job, the right role, then I’d be set.

[00:07:37] Cam: So, I love that setup. And I think I can, I just think that clients come in that situation, right? They seek out coaching because of a dilemma of being stuck, having a sense that there’s a better place. That we can get to and that coaching can help with that, but unsure of the path forward.

So, Ash, again, it’s back in the memory bank, but where did you begin? Right? What was the coaching you did with this client to facilitate seeing themselves in the picture?

[00:08:17] Ash: So I always like to start with clients around something, that first actionable topic that we tackle together, whatever it is. I like to start with something that isn’t urgent, isn’t attached to someone else’s outcomes, and doesn’t have the shame and blame thing going on. So typically, starting in the realm of self-care of some sort.

I think it’s helpful to share how you and I define self-care in the context of when we teach our self-care course or when we’re working with clients individually. Self-care is not about shoulds. I should brush my teeth. I should shower regularly. I should exercise. I should eat better. Self-care is about what fills you up. What puts something back in the tank? What is something just for you?

Because this client’s work situation was so tied to why self-care had gone so far out the window, we’re necessarily talking about and picking that apart as we’re grappling with this early topic. And when you’ve been at this as long as Cam and I have, and you’ve gotten to a certain place as a coach, you can’t coach the who.

So I’m noticing in things that she’s saying, some nuance and some places to look and some things to get curious about in this work situation, and in my client’s binary black and white thinking about this work situation, which was I need to find the perfect thing. And not just that, I need to live well, because it’s family. So I need to find the perfect thing, and I need to live well.

So over time, we coach about some self-care stuff. We coach about some work stuff, and my client is cultivating more awareness. There’s now nuance and distinction in this picture that wasn’t there before. And the other thing that’s happening and that naturally happens in any coaching engagement with an excellent coach is I’m doing my job of noticing strength and unique value when I hear it. And my client is starting to see and appreciate the strength and unique value. And she’s taking action. She’s showing up differently at work. She’s articulating her experience in a way that she hasn’t before. She’s going into conversations with family members that she might have either avoided before or responded to from an emotionally explosive space before and having a different experience. Not just for herself, but seeing a different experience reflected to her by way of how she’s showing up.

[00:11:45] Cam: This is cool that you’re sharing this, and I’d like to share a couple of things just for listeners here again to kind of where we’re listeners, we’re here listening to Ash and it’s kind of fun to be sitting ringside here in the sense of what is happening.

So a couple of things. One is going for that easy lift. Is finding something actionable where there are no big stakes, big expectations that will elicit some kind of dynamic that is outside of their control, right? So they come and it’s usually the stakes are high. Right, help me solve this dilemma that I have not figured out yet.

So yes, we’re doing that. But recognizing this, okay, what’s actionable that something they want? So around self-care, and we do this to reveal the actual ADHD barriers, right? When we’re able to kind of like identify something that they want, then we can get into the nuance of the dilemma. And it becomes less personal and more objective, right? So you’re doing this, helping them see the landscape and distinguishing them from their dilemma.

And I was going to say, something that I’m working on in my newsletter is sort of like, how do you know you’re making progress? When you have ADHD and it’s this starting to see the dilemma is not you. “I’m the problem” – that is that blame, shame, blame sponge versus, okay, the dilemma is more nuanced than that. And it’s more external. Yes, my ADHD is part of that, but it’s not the whole enchilada.

And I love that other part. There is this, an early mistake or new coaches, a mistake they make is this trying to understand the client’s dilemma, trying to understand it, and then you come back with this, oh, I understand. And I’ll hear coaches say this, Ash. I understand what you’re trying to say. And then they interpret what the client is saying versus this reflection. It’s not about our coaches understanding. It’s about the client’s understanding. And so that noticing and hearing strengths and values and principles and resolve and courage and resourcefulness and resilience and reflect that in a way that they start to hear that. And when they do, they can start to see themselves in the picture in a different way, right, to start to undo that old narrative, which has been there for 47 years. And it’s the slow undoing of that narrative that just snaps, just rolls off the tongue so fast.

It’s so amazing how we can just go right back to that inner critic. Yo, you messed up again. Oh my God, I can’t believe you just did that again. I can’t believe that. Versus, wait a sec, there’s more here that my inner critic or my emotions are trying to tell me right now. To, okay, the context of the situation.

Then we start to get a picture of not only our strengths and our values and principles, needs, practices. We get into this rhythm of engagement in the coaching. Now, this is the coaching process that we’ve talked about. Bring that learning. We’d sift through the learning with them and then develop a plan to engage with the world again.

So do you want to continue here again? Like it’s that reflecting their strength and oh, your word, unique value, this recognition of I have unique value and that discovery of it that you can, again, bring it into the world, which is so hard for us with ADHD because it’s proactive. It is asserting. It is advocating for versus being on our heels all the time and addressing the latest and loudest signal.

But keep going here. I love, love this engagement. Keep going in the sense of what next? Or again, this further development of this client starting to embrace seeing themselves in the picture and then starting to create change in their world.

[00:16:25] Ash: Yeah, I awesomely have some notes from a session.

[00:16:31] Cam: Awesomely. It is awesome. Isn’t it? When we have notes.

[00:16:35] Ash: I love

[00:16:35] Cam: sense.

[00:16:36] Ash: Yes. From the session, my client was starting to appreciate what was shifting for her. And I’d like to share those with you. This is her language. I’m pausing to ask the questions rather than assuming. I’m saying what I think rather than pandering.

I’m noticing how much I’m living in black-and-white thinking. It seems like my vibrations have changed. Situations are starting to work themselves out. And I think this has to do with me questioning the stories that I’m telling myself. Whoa, whoa,

[00:17:21] Cam: That’s a plop right there.

[00:17:23] Ash: I often talk to my clients, my new clients, about big agenda. And if their big agenda is building a house, the coaching work is not finishing the house, putting in all the fixtures and the fine details, the coaching work is really about digging out and laying a solid foundation. And in this session, my client is articulating that foundation.

She’s looking at her world and her lived experiences and ADHD and everything else differently, with more curiosity, with more nuance, more distinction, less black and white thinking, less storytelling, and when that black and white thinking and storytelling enter the room, she’s able to step back and examine those beliefs rather than letting those beliefs drive her reaction or her behavior.

It’s a powerful place to be. So, interestingly enough, it wasn’t too long after this that this client and I paused coaching. She was in a different place, feeling pretty good, and had some other things that had her attention. Months later, I heard back from her. She has taken on a role within the industry that her family business is in, but not with the family business, with a related company doing something that lines up nicely with her strengths and her unique value. And she’s sharing this with me, articulating why it lines up with her strengths and unique value.

So let’s rewind to where we started. I want to leave well, and I got to find that perfect fit, and I don’t know what it is. Mind you, she’s not super passionate about this particular industry, but that’s where nuance and distinction come in and journey thinking. This role may or may not be a career destination. But it was an opportunity that presented itself at a time when my client could look at it with nuance and distinction and where she could be at choice. And she sees that opportunity from that place of strength, detaching from that outcome of the perfect career, perfect role, and instead saying, okay, this lines up with my strengths. I enjoy this type of work. On the rare occasion I get to do it in my role now, this seems like an opportunity and a thread worth pulling on, and I’m going to go for it. And she did.

[00:20:29] Cam: That’s so cool. I love that statement. I mean, that’s the stuff that we coaches strive for, right? When we hear our clients come and share something like that. And the word that got my attention was the vibrations. Right? There’s a vibration, there’s an alignment that things are making sense in a way that they haven’t made sense before.

So, there’s a couple of different levels here, listeners. It’s cool, you know, ADHD coming into play here. It’s like, well, where’s the ADHD? Okay. ADHD is that black-and-white thinking that is often called cognitive inflexibility, right? That is where we are black and white thinking locking into a certain belief. And it’s like, that belief is driving our behavior. Locking into a certain outcome, as you said, like it has to be perfected. It has to be perfect. Excuse me. I have to leave well, and that’s the way it is versus this exercising and developing some flexibility.

So the two things that we coach in this situation, I think Ash, you’ll agree, but you’re welcome to chime in again what else you were doing. What I’m noticing is, is you’re supporting them in their agenda, and helping them, again, develop practices and learnings to apply going forward, to create informed change.

But at the ADHD level, it’s this appreciating nuance that means we have to address the cognitive and flexibility. And so that, again, these, the way we question, the way we consider, we start to exercise that muscle. This is something that you can exercise. This is something that with practice, you can develop, whether it’s with a coach, a therapist, another professional, or a friend. Or yourself journaling. So that cognitive flexibility piece.

The other thing is the impulsivity or the disinhibition. Disinhibition is with less dopamine available, we will jump to a conclusion. And so again, in that power of the client finding power in the pause. And, but it’s first this dilemma of, you know, instead of racing to assumption, I hit the brakes right back to our pause, disrupt, pivot to pause, disrupt the limited belief that was there before and pivot to this new way of being, of thinking, of practicing.

That is giving this amazing feedback loop and those vibrations of like, Oh, this is an alignment with right. It’s reinforcing the “Who”, who I am, and the context that works for me. I see the context is that it’s ADHD. It can be the super glue. It’s that sort of thing that it can be so powerful when it’s used well versus catastrophizing is the flip side of context. It is kind of turning it into something that is such a barrier. There’s so much here that is cool. I think this is a great example, Ash.

[00:23:51] Ash: Cam, I had a former client, and a listener – so if you’re listening, hello, and thank you for this – say something to me a couple of months ago that couldn’t have possibly landed at any other point in my life. And it was this: Ash, I just want to say that you seem really at peace with yourself. And what stuck with me about that and what’s shining through in this client example is yes, I am really at peace with myself.

And that’s what we do when we partner with our clients. We help them examine what’s going on with curiosity, nuance, and distinction in service of this big coaching, in service of this big coaching goal of creating a life that fits or getting closer to a life that fits.

When my client first came to this coaching engagement, she knew that her life didn’t fit, but she wasn’t all that clear about what a life fits. Who am I? What are my strengths? What matters to me? Clarity in those areas is what informed what happened next. Clarity, awareness, and developing the ability to pause. To examine storytelling, limiting beliefs and perspectives, strong emotional responses, and to examine what’s true and real in this situation. That’s what we do.

[00:25:26] Cam: That’s great. And so as we finish up, listeners, a little exercise here, right, around this starting to take steps to see oneself in the picture, to see yourself in the picture. And I’ll say that if something is frustrating you, something you’re tolerating, you can sort of be like, you know, well, that guy’s frustrating me, or this situation’s frustrating me, or I’m frustrated with myself, there might be an underlying value or strength that’s being compromised. Right. And it might be an opportunity to open a door to see yourself in that picture. That frustration is an indication that you’re not seeing yourself in the picture. That your unique value is being compromised in some way that we’re tolerating.

So just to sit back and reflect on that to consider what might be the change that I can start to identify. What’s the change here? What is the step? What is the actual dilemma? And maybe we’ll just leave it at that right now, just to kind of reflect and consider that and look for more good stuff because I actually, I think we’re onto something here.

[00:26:42] Ash: I agree, Cam. We were talking offline about getting back to some experiential episodes. Not to be prescriptive, not to say, Hey, this was this client’s journey, follow this path. But because ADHD brains are wired for context, seeing our own experiences through someone else’s lived experience can be so helpful in cultivating our understanding of ourselves.

So, this is the theme we’re going to be on for a little while. And listeners, we welcome your feedback, as always, in terms of how these episodes are working for you as a listener. Speaking of which, it’s been a little bit since we’ve asked for new reviews and we got a few new reviews the last time. Lovely. All three. Thank you very much, listeners. So if you have the time and the bandwidth to leave us a review, wherever you listen, we sure would appreciate it. And until next week, I’m Ash, 

[00:27:44] Cam: and I’m Cam 

[00:27:45] Ash: and this was the Translating ADHD Podcast. Thanks for listening.

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