ADHD and Navigating Value Conflict

Episode 212

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Individuals with ADHD can feel strongly about living a life of integrity and always honoring one’s values but what happens when our values conflict with just getting through our day? This episode centers around the concept of value conflicts and how individuals with ADHD navigate complex decisions where their values are in conflict with the demands of modern society.

The hosts, Ash and Cam, explore a specific case of a client dealing with the need to purchase a new smartphone, a decision that raises ethical and environmental concerns. Ash shares how his client struggled with the ethics of buying a new smartphone, considering the environmental and labor issues associated with smartphone production, while also acknowledging the necessity of owning one in today’s society. Ash relays to listeners how their coaching session helped the client address the tension between his values and practical needs by identifying the specific functions he required from his smartphone.

This led to a broader discussion about “task bundling” and the realization that he might be overcomplicating his approach by attempting to solve too many issues at once. Through this exploration, the client began to understand how he could still honor his values but also not let the issue hobble his need to move through his day.

The hosts also touch on themes such as black-and-white thinking, perfectionism, and the struggle to balance ethical principles with practical realities. The episode concludes with a reminder that it’s important to clarify what is truly necessary in the moment and to focus on manageable steps to address more significant ethical concerns without overburdening oneself with complex task bundling. This clarity helps create space for thoughtful, sustainable decisions while reducing the stress and pressure that often accompany ADHD.

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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 what it is we’re going to be talking about today?

[00:00:08] Cam: Absolutely, Ash. And this is a really interesting one. It might be more than one episode and you put it on our notes and what got my attention was your language here. something about how to deal with value conflicts when we can’t choose to be out of conflict with that value. And he went on to talk about a client who had to purchase a smartphone and how that need for the smartphone was smacking right into his values around environmental value or a sense of that.

You want to just go ahead and say more? Cause I think that it’s a really interesting topic that we can get into and that our listeners will really identify with us in a number of different ways, but I just want to repeat that how to deal with value conflicts when we can’t choose to be out of conflict with that value. I think that’s part of being a consumer or just a resident in this modern world that we live in, right?

[00:01:13] Ash: Exactly, Cam. And couple that with a lot more of us are awake to things that we weren’t awake to in 2016. In 2020, I am finding myself coaching clients around topics like these far more often than I was prior to 2016 because there’s this collective awareness that wasn’t there before. And that’s in fact one of the very first things that this client said to me when we met for his very first session is, I had a big political awakening in 2016. And that’s changed everything for me, including what my goals are for life.

And a lot of his big agenda is around living a more ethical life and living a more a life that fits, that exists as much outside of our capitalistic society, in terms of the ways that it’s harmful as possible. And so thus brings up this conflict of do I buy a new smartphone?

This was our very first coaching topic. It seemed like a nice way to start. It was pertinent and timely and kind of a nice way to start to look at this question of how do I exist within a system that I don’t agree with as someone who’s pretty anti capitalist? And so, you know, we start to talk about, do I buy a new smartphone or not?

Let’s first talk about where this client is at with his current device. He purchased an inexpensive device that did not perform very well brand new because he had intentions to jailbreak this device, which if you don’t know what that means, it more or less means that you can have more control if you know what you’re doing over your device.

But it also presents some real downsides because it can cause certain apps not to work if it’s not done correctly, especially high security apps like banking apps. And so there was this whole mental to do list around, I’m going to learn how to jailbreak this phone and do it in a way that will work well for me and my needs as a user of this smart device.

[00:03:36] Cam: I want to jump in for a sec, Ash, and just out to this level, this higher level around decision making. And this is about decision making and ADHD and how last week we were talking about that you brought the topic around intuition – that intuition sense of like it’s more than just the data. It’s more than just the conversation we’re having with someone. It’s a… you use that the example of your client is sort of that sensing that gut. What is your gut telling you? was the question you asked.

So we can be back to this idea of living within a system that we don’t necessarily agree with, and that is we are, everyone is, sort of more aware, more awake of what is going on. And with ADHD, we can be very much feeling interconnected with this world, where a neurotypical is gonna, you know, just sort of partition that there are they as a neurotypical, they’re going to necessarily be thinking this out in this way.

So listeners, as you’re listening to Ash talk about this client, you sort of see how the ADHD comes into play in positive ways and not so necessarily positive ways, because it’s sort of like we are feeling wired for context means we’re wired into this system into this environment. And then if we have an opinion, and it doesn’t jive with that, the world that we’re in, what do we do about it, right? Therein lies our dilemma. And it’s that, okay, well, how do I then operate in this with this value system that I have?

[00:05:19] Ash: Right, so he purchased this device with the intention of meeting that goal of operating within this system in a way that worked for me. But that intention was a laundry list of to dos and shoulds that never ended up happening.

So now we’re four years later with a device that didn’t run that well new and is now really throwing up daily barriers for my client, the biggest example of which was my camera really matters to me. Taking a picture of something is a great way to retain information quickly, and it’s a go to for me. But I don’t do it with this phone because the camera uploads really slow, the camera itself is pretty bad, and if I have too many apps open already and I try to open the camera app, the phone itself will crash and create this like, you know, situation where it’s going to be many minutes before the device is accessible to me anyway at all, right?

So it’s just a frustrating device to use on a daily basis on every level for my client, coupled with all of these shoulds of maybe if I had done this, maybe I would have a different experience here. And take it out even further, the issues my client was trying to solve by jailbreaking were the things of privacy coupled with planned obsolescence, that the way that new operating systems tend to slow down older phones, but that only solves part of the problem.

So as we start talking about a new phone we get to bigger problems. Things like conflict over the minerals that go into these smartphones that are happening in parts of the world. Things like the effect of slave labor that goes into assembling these devices.

[00:07:15] Cam: Yes.

[00:07:16] Ash: And so what do you do with that, right? You have all this competing context, but the reality is you almost have to have a smartphone to function in today’s society. Cam, you know how low tech I am in my day to day life. We were just talking before the episode about my own issues with social media and why I’m not active on social media, and it has to do with this very same line of thinking.

I have often looked at dumb devices that are marketed to people like me, who kind of want to disconnect a little bit more, who don’t want to be in their phones as much. And I’ve come to the conclusion every single time that at the end of the day, that’s going to make my life harder, not easier. You know, I have to work on behavior change in a different way.

And so here’s where we are, right? It’s like, how do I justify to myself? buying a new smartphone when I know that so much is bad about what goes into these devices and the companies that manufacture and sell these devices.

[00:08:30] Cam: And I want to add one that I have a problem with, which is, I have, you know, young adults with smartphones and how, you know, all of these major companies have psychologists on staff. We’re trying to figure out how to make them as addictive as possible. That you want to pick it up, that you want to swipe left, that you want to, you know, that’s the issue that I have with them, right?

So it is contentious. I’ll just say I was laughing earlier because of to, to try to lead a principal informed life. We have that, but it can then create this to do list. And listeners, we all know about damn to do lists of when the to do list becomes so big to try to make this happen that’s where it’s like, yeah what is that return on investment? Are we really getting out what we need? And as you said, it’s really hard to operate without a smartphone right now.

[00:09:32] Ash: And in addition to the to do list, it throws up barriers every single day for my client because he’s not able to use the device in ways that would otherwise be supportive for him because it doesn’t run well. It doesn’t run well.

[00:09:48] Cam: And it doesn’t run well because it’s a cheap, cause he went for the lesser Right.

[00:09:53] Ash: Right, because he went for a lesser device because this was intended to be an experiment. So I’m going to buy a lesser device. I don’t want to buy the flagship phone and break it. Right. So that’s where we were at.

Interestingly enough, where we got to, I’m going to, I’m going to skip to the end of the story, and then I’m going to tell you how we got there, where we got to. And I love this language, is I don’t have to build the plane while I’m flying it.

And here’s how we got there. He started talking about a similar dilemma around budgeting software – the same budgeting software I use, actually – YNAB, you need a budget. I don’t even know how many years ago now – it was a number of years ago – they went from a single purchase model to a subscription model, which was pretty controversial. Why can’t I say controversial? What, how do you say that word? Controversial. Okay. Okay.

[00:10:52] Cam: It might be a Midwestern thing.

[00:10:54] Ash: I don’t know, I don’t know, I don’t know, now I feel like I don’t know how to say the word. Which was pretty controversial at the time, right? Especially since they were a budgeting software and a company that seemed to really care about their consumers. And by the way, I still think that’s true today. I still use that software, but I was also not particularly happy with that change. That’s sort of at the time that a lot of software companies were making that move. And so now everything is a subscription.

And so, he was looking into this budgeting software and found that it worked really well for him, but didn’t just have problems in general with the subscription model, because again, the subscription model is intended to extract as much money from you as possible. You subscribe, and whether or not you’re using the thing, if you forget to unsubscribe, the company makes their money either way. And so for the longest time, he refused to sign up for a subscription to this software and tried making his own spreadsheets, tried to replicate it in other ways.

Again, here comes this big list of to do’s and then finally got to a place where it’s like, you know what? Two things can be true here. I can not like subscription models, but I can also recognize that this subscription adds value for me and is worth paying for. And in the same way, I know that this particular smartphone will work. And the smartphone being the new purchase, right? We’re looking at a Google Pixel.

And part of the logic there is it does run a less bloated version of Android than any other device. Which is how we got onto the topic of that phone in particular. But I know that device will work for me. So maybe I don’t have to. He was looking at something called a Fairphone, but he’s like, I don’t think it’s going to be performative enough, but I don’t know. But I want to support the company because I’d like to see more of that type of thing.

And then he went, you know what, money is not the problem here. I could support Fairphone by buying a phone, and I can play around with that phone, and maybe do some of the things that I was interested in doing. But that’s a project, not a job for my primary device. I’m going to say that again. That’s a project, not a job for my primary device. Which is how we got to, I don’t have to build the plane while I’m flying it.

And so there was just this nice distinguishing between like, I need this device to do these things, but there’s also this other thread I want to pull on. Well, that’s a project, not a job for my primary device. My primary device, I need it to do these things. I need it in order for my life as it is right now to work.

Yeah, go ahead.

[00:13:45] Cam: What I’m noticing that’s in play is managing perfection, you know. So Ash and I will talk about more about black and white thinking than perfection, because black and white thinking is what is happening at causation. It looks like perfection, but we’ll just go with perfection. It’s sort of like this perfect execution of living a life based on my principles.

We have this sort of idyllic view of what that is and it can be really hard to imagine something different. We create a picture, there’s that picture, and then it’s like we cannot entertain another picture, another version of that. So it’s a really interesting thing. And I think that we’ll talk more about, I have questions about the coaching that happens there.

But it’s sort of like the work you did with the client last week around intuition, right? The starting place, I can’t trust myself or, you know, I can’t support whether it’s Google or Apple or one of the big boys to this. Oh, wait a sec, I can have my primary do its job, and I can have this more as a hobby.

That’s cognitive flexibility. That’s tweaking the picture and allowing for, and as you said, and something you say often, two things can be true. And I can work on this other plane in the hangar while I use this plane to get the job done because to take that metaphor out, we got to get the planes in the air people, right? We’ve got, we have things to do. And when our values or principles kind of keep bumping into just normal traffic patterns. That’s when it can get really challenging.

[00:15:35] Ash: Yeah. So if you’re curious about the coaching that got us there, it was a couple of things that came out. The first one was, he said, I have very strong opinions on how things could be done. Yeah. And we had previously talked about the impact of those strong opinions, including frustration from others, just in day to day conversation, meaning like, I don’t want to hear about this or, I hear you, but what do you want me to do about it, right? Sort of creating conflict and interpersonal relationships and creating this internal conflict.

And so we actually started questioning. How can two things be true here? Right? How can you hold your opinions and what you value, but change the impact of those opinions? And that line of thinking got us to this statement of, Oh, I think I might’ve swung too far in the other direction. And that’s a pattern of mine. I might’ve swung too far in the other direction. And I often try to bundle tasks, even when it doesn’t serve me.

Okay. Right, so swinging too far from black to white from all to nothing, right? And bundling tasks together. And the task bundling we figured out because as part of this, he was considering, or he wants to get off of his parents phone plan and onto a plan with his spouse. And so he was talking about doing those two things together. And I said, well, are you going upgrade and do the monthly payment plan? Or are you just, I used to work for cell phone carrier years ago. So I have some like information about how they actually function.

[00:17:18] Cam: You got information I don’t have, I’m not privy to.

[00:17:21] Ash: Right. Or are you just going to buy the device? Because if you’re just going to buy the device, you can buy it and stick your SIM card in it, and you can make the changing plans a separate task. Right. That’s when he realized, man, I do, I bundle tasks together, even when it doesn’t serve me. I may have swung too far the other direction, and here I am bundling tasks together in a way that’s not serving me.

And so here, where just a few minutes before we’re in a no-win situation, my client is now seeing the gray space between – still doesn’t love the ethics of it, but is able to be at peace enough with his decision where he wasn’t before. Because there’s this awareness that when I swing too far the other direction, that just creates different challenges. That doesn’t serve me either. And if I’m going to achieve some of the things I want to achieve and have an impact on the things that I don’t agree with, I can’t do it if I’m always swinging too far the other direction. And if I’m bundling things together in a way that my to do list is impossible to approach.

[00:18:42] Cam: So this is part of this coaching process Ash and I always talk about. Getting to causation. So way back when we talked about Mount Rainier and living in the valley and getting up on the slopes of Mount Rainier and past the lunch counter, this was moving up to causation.

So the term I want to use is getting to the behavior underneath the behavior. And this is what can be difficult for us to do, but with this, whether it’s with a coach or yourself or with someone else to kind of look at what’s driving my behavior, what are the things that are happening here that don’t make sense in a scientific way.

So there’s the ethics, there’s the value, there’s the principles I want to bring the physics. And that’s what I’ll bring in with my clients is, you know, it’s like the limitations the client I was talking about where they like to, my ADHD tells me to keep adding things to my plate. Well, the physics of it are, is that our plates can only be so big. We only have so many hours in the day.

And so that’s the physics, the physical limitations. So, your client came to realize the cost of these two things that he was doing. Swinging the other way, number one, and then what would be perceived as a ADHD hack. We love to bundle. We love to figure out how can we package this in a way or bundle it so I can, man, take, do more than one thing at once. That’s one of our favorite moves. And yet right here it wasn’t working in this situation.

[00:20:22] Ash: Yeah, Cam and I want to point something out here because we so often talk about limiting perspectives or limiting beliefs on this show, but in this instance, this was not about shifting my client’s ethical viewpoint. It was not about addressing the ethics of it as quote unquote limiting. Those have not changed. His worldview is the same as it was before. But as you just so beautifully said, it was about sort of breaking apart the ethics of it, separate from the ADHD of it, and looking at the bigger picture of impact, both the impact of the decisions he’s previously made and what that impact is now. My device isn’t working for me and it’s causing daily barriers and functioning challenges in my life.

The bigger thing of, I said this before, when we were talking about a different client of mine who had a similar dilemma around ethics. The world’s on fire and I’m one person with one bucket. So there was an element of putting himself back in the picture here too.

[00:21:36] Cam: As I’m listening to you, it sounds like this client and you doing this process of kind of getting back to what matters, to prioritize, to see oneself in the picture, to managing expectations and simplifying this whole decision making process. He kind of overbuilt it and kind of, it got really big and cumbersome. But through this process, it’s like he got back to, you got clarity of what’s at stake, what really matters and what are we trying to do here in the end of your let it be easy

[00:22:14] Ash: And funnily enough, that client brought up “let it be easy” toward the end of our conversation. Oh, this is one of those “let it be easy” moments. And I told him in turn that, that mantra for me – I’ve talked about it a lot as a reminder on this podcast, but I’ve talked about less just because it hasn’t come up, especially recently with all of the people in my own life – is sometimes it’s a question. It’s a helpful question to ask myself. How can I let this be easy?

It’s a way to sort of shortcut some of that thinking that gets in the way, that task bundling. I’m still struggling with task bundling my whole house as a singular task sometimes, right? Progress is being made, but then I have stupid new problems, like I have carpenter bees on my deck because my deck hasn’t been stained, and I can’t stain my deck because there’s carpenter bees out there all day, every day.

So I don’t know what to do about that, right? And just, anyway, a thousand different little problems that all become the house. This one big bundle, which means you can’t see progress, you can’t distinguish, and you put too freaking much on your plate.

[00:23:34] Cam: So as we finish up today, there’s a couple of things that are happening on in my home front. One is my daughter is a sophomore in high school and has two AP tests and other things going on. One of her big learnings about being successful in math is if she kind of gets in early with the teacher, some one-on-one time with the teacher, she gets it. And then her confidence and competence goes up.

And it’s an amazing just the lesson of this reinforcing because it’s like this math for her is like this sort of boom, anxiety, fear, and like, ah, and then what’s the point? I’m like, the point of math for you right now is if you engage with a dilemma and just keep chipping away at it, you’re going to find resolution.

And this is what happens. Like, so listeners, as you are feeling overwhelmed or paralyzed and unsure where to move. Or you’re you’ve got a dilemma like Ash’s client where it’s like you feel so it’s so challenging to be successful in this world. It’s that starting to look at the dilemma one piece at a time, right?

Do you notice that, Ash, with his client, they used the example of the phone and took that all the way out? Kind of, you notice that it wasn’t solving everything, just like you can’t solve everything in the house. We can only do it one piece at a time, but to go in at one place where it exemplifies this dilemma. Yeah. And to keep working at it with a trusted partner who will listen.

And when we start to look at things and give it time and energy, it starts to loosen like a rusty bolt. This is what happens time and time again in coaching engagements. But you don’t have to be working with a coach to solve these dilemmas.

[00:25:34] Ash: Before we wrap, I’ll just add, because I didn’t explicitly say this, that the place that we started in this coaching session is what do you need this device to do, which was the clarifier for everything else. He said the current device is slow and bad, and that’s bad. And then he described why. And so there was some clarity about outcome that helped us focus the rest of our conversation that helped us get to my primary device and a project are two different devices, not the same device.

So sometimes for me, just orienting to what’s the outcome I’m looking for here right now? Or what’s an outcome back to my house? What’s an outcome I can turn my attention toward today or this week? What is the outcome I’m trying to get to? What’s important here? What matters here? Can be really helpful as well.

Because getting to what was important about a device for him helped clarify the rest because now he’s in the picture and it’s about what do I need this to do for me? What is my need here? I think that’s a good place for us to wrap.

[00:26:50] Cam: I think it is.

[00:26:51] Ash: So listeners until next week, I’m Ash.

[00:26:53] Cam: I’m Cam.

[00:26:54] Ash: And this was the Translating ADHD podcast. Thanks for listening.

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