This episode centers around the topic of ADHD and intuition, exploring how ADHD can impact one’s ability to trust themselves and their instincts. Ash begins by explaining that ADHD often gets in the way of trusting oneself and one’s intuition. This lack of trust can stem from a lifetime of masking, adapting behavior to please others, or having inaccurate reads on situations, leading to a tendency to second-guess oneself. Ash shares a story about a client working in a nonprofit who was struggling with a performance improvement plan (PIP) at work, leading to questions about her future and whether she should stay in her current job. The client also experienced burnout, raising doubts about her identity and what other career options might suit her. As the coaching process progressed, Ash asked the client to tune into her intuition to find answers. Initially, the client was unsure about her intuition, feeling more comfortable with logical, quantitative approaches. However, she discovered that she could trust how her body felt to guide her decisions.

Cam and Ash discuss the coaching process and how coaches must balance the client’s stated goals with the broader context of their life. They highlight the importance of being patient, allowing the client to find clarity at their own pace, and creating a space for reflection and discovery.
The episode emphasizes the connection between ADHD and intuition, showing how coaching can help individuals with ADHD navigate complex decisions by exploring their intuition and trusting themselves. Ash and Cam underline the significance of not getting attached to specific outcomes and instead fostering a process of discovery and insight.

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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. Cam, you want to tell our listeners a little bit about today’s topic?

[00:00:10] Cam: Actually it’s really your topic, Ash, but I’m happy to talk about it because I was looking back in our archive and I don’t see any mention of this topic. And that topic is ADHD and intuition. And so I thought it’s a great area to look at. And so do you want to just lead off with what piqued your interest here around intuition and ADHD?

[00:00:35] Ash: Yeah. So this is something that I’ve been noticing with my clients for quite a long time, that ADHD gets in the way of our ability to trust ourselves and to trust what we know. We have often talked on this show about how coaching sessions often go in an unexpected direction, meaning unexpected to us, the coach, if we were trying to predict or guess what the outcome of this conversation might be.

And I find that more often than not, that’s happening with my clients when we’re kind of clearing away the other garbage and storytelling and getting closer to that who, you know, what is that purest form of yourself have to say, however you express that. Some people talk about a gut feeling. The client I’m going to talk about here in a minute talks about how she feels in her body.

For me, I would say intuition is very tied to emotion, meaning sort of checking in on how I feel about a situation. And when I’m unsure, I would say, I don’t have a good read on my own intuition in that situation. I need to kind of keep pulling on threads. But it’s just so interesting how this lifetime of masking, of living one down, of modifying our behavior to please others, of thinking we had a read on a situation and being wrong, being so wrong about what the reality was, teaches us not to trust ourselves and our own instincts, our own intuition.

And I don’t think intuition is something magical or mystical, by the way. I kind of talked about this when we talked about tarot many moons ago. I do think intuition, however it shows up for you, is something we all have. And it’s just a different way of listening to yourself, right? It’s using information we have and what we know, but it’s feeling that knowing in a different way.

I have a client who really struggles with that. He’s so linear, logical. He’s a scientist, and he was talking about how he and his wife are facing this decision of buying a house. He said, I feel like there should be a spreadsheet for that tells us what type of house to buy. And he was dead serious.

And so I asked him, is there a spreadsheet for that takes into account who you and your wife are, what you like and don’t like, what you think is good for your small child. Is that something that is entirely quantifiable? And it actually became this great kind of perspective shift moment for this client.

Now the spreadsheet is something we laugh about, right? When he’s catching himself in those moments of can I solve this through logic or research? Is that the only way to go here? He’ll kind of joke. Yeah, there’s probably not a spreadsheet for that. 

[00:03:54] Cam: I want to jump in cause there’s something you said way back at the beginning that I want to bring up because I think listeners are probably thinking about it too, in the sense of Oh, isn’t, doesn’t my ADHD provide my intuition?

Like I, it’s hard for some people to distinguish their ADHD and their ADHD experience from intuition. Like ADHD provides me with my ability to read the vibe. And we always talk about, we are wired for context, that divergent wiring and always sampling. And it is, I love what you said, about how we’re not trying to define what intuition is, but it is this more of like this body awareness and this sense of self and identity.

But you said it’s that ADHD gets in the way of us being able to trust ourselves. And I want to fully support you on that because we go back to the three barriers of ADHD. And middle one is action that a lot of people get focused on, is like all the action I’m not doing, and why don’t I do what I know I ought to do. But on either side of that action barrier is awareness on the front side and learning on the backside. And so that’s reflection, that’s kind of paying, tuning in to and sort of getting a sense of what does this moment call for right now.

It can be very difficult when you’ve got all these one down stories, or you might have a great interaction with your boss. And it’s like, wow, that was great. And sort of there I am right there in that moment, just to kind of pull that apart and recognize that ADHD, it really can impact our ability to trust ourselves. And I love that lead-off.

[00:05:43] Ash: I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: Strength and challenge are two sides of the same coin. So yes, our ability looking for the context can be so informative if we know how to tap in and listen to ourselves, if we know how to check the vibe. But if there’s one down in storytelling, or if it’s complicated – which is the story I’m about to tell – that can really get in the way.

[00:06:10] Cam: Yeah. So why don’t you go ahead and bring in that story? Because it’s really fascinating how you work with this client to move towards trusting themselves. And it’s a fascinating process there. So let’s start there.

[00:06:26] Ash: So this client showed up looking for workplace improvement. There was a discussion of her being put on a PIP. It was really positive between her and her boss, meaning the conversation that we had early on in terms of what the real opportunity is here to work through this PIP and be successful on the other side.

Those were a lot of our early conversations, and we came to a pretty firm yes there is, especially once she saw the PIP and talked to her boss about it. This client works for a nonprofit in the realm of social justice. And another thing that came out early in that sort of ‘who’ identity work that I like to do with clients early in our coaching, is that her identity is so tied to her work.

I think she said to me in a very early session, who am I without this person work? I don’t necessarily know. And so over the course of a few months, we’re kind of pulling this apart, trying to get to a decision because we recognized pretty early on that the goal of workplace improvement. And we tried to do some work in the realm of workplace improvement, but we kept coming back to, you’ve got one foot on either side of the line, which makes it really difficult to find true positive motivation to do the work we’re attempting to do in terms of improving your performance.

And this other thing keeps coming up of burnout. I think I’m just burnt out. Other people tell me I’m burnt out. Burnout is common, unfortunately, in nonprofit work. But she doesn’t know what that means. Am I burnt out? Is it the performance stuff? Is it burnout stuff? Is it something else? What would I even do if I’m not doing this? Do I try to find another job in another nonprofit that’s less demanding? Am I even capable of doing this work anymore? Do I look for something else entirely? So part of our work was her kind of looking and just seeing what else outside of the nonprofit world might be out there.

All of which elicited a pretty ‘meh’ response from her. Even if I could get this job, I don’t think I would be satisfied here. And unlike other clients I’ve talked about who kind of have their backs against the wall in the workplace and are facing a tough decision, it’s a good work environment, or as good as it can be given the nature of the beast, that it’s a political organization in a red state in an election year working on social justice. So it has its challenges, but those challenges don’t necessarily include toxic relationships with other people or things that even make it impossible for my client to be successful here.

So back to what I said earlier, our first order of business was to figure out is it possible to be successful here, to work through this PIP and be successful and everything else being equal? That answer was, and is, yes, but here’s my client kind of waffling. I don’t know what to do here. And so, we were getting closer.

So we had a couple of sessions where we just tackled that question head-on, getting to a decision. And it was really interesting. What happened from there is we had one session about that and she felt like, yeah, I’m getting closer to recognizing that maybe it’s time for a change. She actually applied for a couple of other jobs with other nonprofits, which was not even part of our action, just something she independently did. We kind of talked about alternatives.

And then there was this staff retreat that went so well and kind of got her reconnected to the bigger vision of the organization itself and also feeling more connection with her colleagues, feeling more opportunity there to be successful, feeling valued, feeling like she does have something to add here. And that kind of brought her back a little bit. Now, I’m not so sure.

And then we went back again. The next session was, yeah, I’m just burnt out, you know, getting a little, again, parsing out, separating the identity piece and what happens from here from what is the need now, right. And part of separating that identity piece was recognizing that there’s more than one way to serve that identity. I could still volunteer for this organization. I want to leave this organization well, then I value this organization. I can still be involved in this work. I can still express this identity without having it be this job that is all-consuming.

So, another big piece is I don’t like how I’m showing up at home with my spouse. I’m tired. I’m wiped. When I get home every day, there’s nothing left in the tank to give to him. There’s nothing left in the tank to give to my own self-care and the other things that I would like to do, which is another area that we tried to coach in that we weren’t having a lot of success with. That session is where the intuition piece comes in, is my clients just frustrated feeling like, ah, damned if I do damned if I don’t. I just don’t know which way to go here. I genuinely don’t know.

And so I tossed out, what is your gut saying? She went, ooh, I don’t know. I don’t really trust my own intuition. I don’t trust my gut. I don’t know that I have strong intuition. She kind of paused and then she said, what I do have is how I feel in my body, how this job feels in my body. And I don’t think that is going to change unless I make a change. Because identity stuff, why stuff, it’s there. The ability to do this job is there.

That was another important realization we had along the way, is I can do this. This is not about whether I can or can’t do it. But what it is about is what it takes for me to be able to do it. Just the number of hours and the amount of work it takes to fulfill this role.

And so now my client is making that connection between that reality of what it takes to fulfill this role and how I feel in my body. And she’s ready to have a conversation with her boss. But then I get a message from her before that meeting happens saying, I’ve had some good interactions, I’m questioning again, I’m not sure what to do. And so we, I went back to that same question, what does your gut say? She said, my gut says let’s just let this be a regular check-in, but I’ll stay open to what happens from here.

And so the next time we meet, she shows up, and that’s the place that I’m expecting us to start from, because that is the last that I’ve heard. And she says, I’m ready to make a decision – I need to leave – with a surety that hadn’t been there before, which immediately got my attention. Like, whoa, this seems different than where we’ve been before. You seem sure. She said, yeah, because I am.

Ooh, how’d we get here? How’d we get here? And Cam, how we got here, I’ve started with that question of what does your gut say? And my client starting to pay attention to how she feels in her body. And as we talked about it, part of that process was having that moment of, Oh, yeah, maybe I can feel good in my body here. You know, where that immediate context feels good, but sort of discounting the bigger context of the amount of hours, what it’s, what it actually takes to fulfill this role.

And then coming back around to seeing that again. So there was this moment where she felt calmer, more chill in her body, but it didn’t last. And she was tuned into that. And so right back to that same statement of I’m not going to feel better in my body in this, but knowing it in a way that the first time it came out, it was unsure it seemed true. This time she knew it was true. She knew it was true.

[00:15:17] Cam: As I’m listening here there’s a couple of things that are getting my attention. First and foremost, it’s that process of the coaching process, of this discovery process. So you’ve heard, listeners, you’ve heard us say like discovery action insight is general coaching process where people come and we look at something, and then they go off and have their experience.

And they are in action in their lives and their lived experience testing, experimenting, trying on different stuff, come back and share again. And so that ongoing process, the coaching process, allowed her to develop a process of getting better and better data. And just that, you know, the question of what is your gut saying? Having her sort of counter with, that’s not really my gut, it’s my body, and how that got her attention.

Number one, and it’s, this allows to get present with a situation to really dig in and delve into what am I thinking about this? What am I feeling about this? Where is this in my body to really consider big decisions like this and allowing it to be? I love what you said. There’s like going into that meeting with I got to know an answer, right?

It’s sort of impulsive or rushing restless. And I’m just like, let’s just figure this out and move on, versus I’m going in and I’m going to be open. Let it be this regular check in, and I’m just going to let it, I’m going to be there and be present to that situation.

So really fascinating to listen to this client example, Ash, and just how it, it’s an evolving the truth is evolving for her over this period of time. And, oh, a building of trust. Really fascinating.

[00:17:17] Ash: And the reason that this client stood out for me in particular when it comes to intuition is that’s where the answer really was. This client is capable of doing this job. She is, and she knows that. So what was it that she didn’t want to, which was creating so much conflict with identity? If I’m not doing this, then who am I, or maybe I’m not actually capable of doing this.

What if I go somewhere else and it’s the same story all over again? But now she’s got a different tool, and one that – going back to my client and his spreadsheets – one that isn’t quantitative. You can’t break this down in a spreadsheet. Because it’s about how she feels in her body and the impacts that has on everything else; on workplace performance, on how she’s showing up at home, on self care. Effectively, Cam, on all of the other stuff that she wanted to bring to coaching to see change on wasn’t going to happen while she was here.

And that’s not something we were going to figure out by pulling data or looking at other jobs or figuring out what she could do next or trying to make this role work for her for now. None of that was going to give her the answer she was looking for. This doesn’t feel good in my body.

[00:18:50] Cam: I want to go back to something that, a statement you said, that I think many of our listeners will resonate with, is this sort of I can’t imagine myself doing something else. This identity with this activity or vocation, right? It’s in that we talk about the be and the do, and sort of this emphasis around what am I doing? Where am I working? Who am I working with? And what does that entail?

And we’re in there, and it’s sort of the fish in the water situation. And it’s like, we can’t imagine something else. And there’s another way that ADHD can get in the way. It’s a very, not a very nice term this, the term is cognitive inflexibility. And we sort of will lock into a way of being. It’s very difficult to unlock that to let go, to detach from outcome.

And so this process of kind of finding different ways for her to be in process here and to consider, to kind of to really step into that divergent wiring and that the contextual thinking to look at this from, you know, take the time and really look at it from different perspectives. And then this really thinking about challenging herself.

Okay. What if I can identify myself in some different way that I’m not beholden to this identity. That’s something that we do a lot in coaching, is to kind of in loosening that cognition piece. Cause we will kind of, we like to kind of grab onto things cause there’s so much uncertainty in our day with over, especially when we’re overwhelmed dysregulated, we kind of will grab onto these things that kind of give us comfort.

But if we grab on too much, and then it’s like, again, that letting go feels scary. But here’s this process for letting go and this amazing discovery. And I would say resourcefulness and resilience. She’s building resilience here. I can be here and sort of be in with this decision and this decision process. Really interesting, Ash.

[00:21:10] Ash: Without knowing what’s next. By the way, where this was actually our last session for a time, because the conversation we had from there is that she is now going to be in this transition period, whatever that looks like. When she talks about she doesn’t have another job lined up, and that’s okay for her situation in terms of finances and being able to take care of basic needs for a time.

And so there was this shifting from I have to know what’s next, and I have to know there’s something that’s a better fit than this, to maybe I need to be out of this for a minute and catch my breath. And that’s the place where there will be opportunity to figure out some of this stuff that we haven’t been able to get a lot of traction on in the coaching because of how overwhelmingly this job was impacting everything else.

[00:22:14] Cam: As we finish up here today, If there’s some new coaches listening, just the process of sort of paying attention at two different levels. You go back to the beginning and what might get your attention as a coach here is okay, here’s this person who they might have a performance improvement plan. That’s like, that’s the focus. That’s the goal. That’s the objective is to help them be successful with this performance improvement plan.

And so coaches, but also listeners, to just that noticing what happened there. This paying attention at two different levels, in a sense. There’s what the client is bringing and then that holding the space above that, is this strength based coaching. This is really big C coaching. There’s a, it’s more about the who than the what.

So the, what is the performance improvement plan, but it’s that who and that why, and how that can just inform the whole coaching process. And so as you’re going forward and Ash, I love what you did there, whereas you just started to hold that space for that client to consider around what matters, values and principles, strengths, identities, and what is it to trust oneself. That that’s really the biggest outcome here, is here she is, she has now this confidence around trust and trust in oneself. That’s not a performance improvement plan. That’s something much bigger. I just appreciate of carrying what we’re focused on, but also that next level above to kind of hold that space for that.

[00:24:02] Ash: And I’ll add to that for newer coaches that a great clue that there’s something more than what the client is bringing there, is if you’re spinning your wheels. If you’re not having a lot of success or forward momentum in addressing what the client is bringing, and that’s where it can be so hard as a coach to detach from, oh, I have to, this client came to me for workplace improvement and it’s, she’s got her back against the wall, so we have to find improvement.

That’s an outcome that I could get attached to as a coach. And an outcome that, you know, five, ten years ago, I would have gotten attached to as a coach. So it’s not even that you have to coach differently. It’s just learning to truly detach from outcome and follow where the coaching goes.

I didn’t suggest that this is why we weren’t being successful. It just came naturally out of the conversations we were having because I wasn’t attached, which was helping my client stay curious in a bigger way.

[00:25:12] Cam: Right. That’s modeling. 

[00:25:13] Ash: I agree, Cam. So listeners, until next week, I’m Ash. 

[00:25:16] Cam: And I’m Cam.

[00:25:17] Ash: And this was the Translating ADHD podcast. Thanks for listening.

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