Skills That Pills Cannot Give To You: Attitude

Dr. Purushothaman
October 3, 2013

Here is our first article from our new series on the ABCs of Things that Pills for ADHD Cannot Do for You.

Pills used in the treatment of ADHD can be very helpful, and we have seen hundreds of lives improved by using stimulant medications such as Adderall, or alternative treatments such as Attend.

But in these articles we will be focusing on skills that need to be learned on purpose in addition to taking pills, in order to have more success in all areas of life.

Our ABC's are:
A - Attitude and Approach
B - Breathing and Relaxation, and
C - Character and Confidence

There are few things in life that we truly have control over, but one thing that we do have in our control is our attitude. Something else that we have control over is our approach to life, to work, or to our next task.

Let us start by defining attitude as our state of mind as we go through the events of every day. This includes our experiences that we have learned from in our past, what we are doing this moment in the present, and what we are looking forward to accomplishing in the future.

So think clearly, and exercise self-control... St. Peter

We approach the experiences of life with one of two attitudes in regards to our sense of where control comes from: either it comes from within us or it comes from outside of us. We call this our locus (location) of control.

When individuals have a sense that they control how they will approach each day and how they will prepare for each event, and have a sense that they can control their view of the world and the choices that they make in life, and when they have a sense that their successes or failures are the results of their own efforts (or lack thereof), then they are in a place where they can take personal responsibility for their own choices, decisions, work effort, and to some extent even their results.

People with this sense of an internal locus of control will tend to work hard and sacrifice to improve their situation and performance.

However, when individuals live as if they have no control over their approach to each day, or how they will prepare for upcoming events. There are those who have the sense that they have no control over the choices that they make, or over the way that things turn out. And as a result, these are people with no reason to take responsibility for their decisions, their work effort or lack of work, or their results.

These are the people who will not work to improve their situation and performance. After all, poor performance is not their fault - it is the fault of someone else.

Individuals with an external locus of control tend to be less willing to work hard or to make the sacrifices necessary to change the situation because in their mind it does not matter how hard they try - everything is out of their control. These individuals also tend to be more stressed in life, and perhaps even more depressed.

I have had the privilege of coaching dozens of pitchers from Little Leaguers to university level athletes. I often tell them that there is very little that they can control when they are on the mound. They can control what they do with their bodies (their mechanics, their release points and arm angles, etc.). They can control what they are thinking, how they are breathing, and their attitude toward the next pitch that they will throw. But both they and I know that once they release the ball, they really cannot control the results of what will happen to the pitch they have just thrown. The results are literally out of their hands. Though I encourage them to practice hard to seek perfection on every pitch that they throw, they simply have no control over umpires, batters, or fielders.

However, I tell them that they are expected to take responsibility for the results, even though they have no control over what happens after they make the pitch. Why?

Because without taking responsibility for the results, a pitcher will just blame the umpire, the fielder, or the baseball gods, for anything that goes wrong. And if he does this, then there is little motivation to come to practice the next day to improve his personal ability and performance.

One must take personal responsibility to be willing to make the effort and make the sacrifice needed to improve performance in any endeavor.

If someone or something else is the cause of our bad results, then there is no motivation to do the work, or make the necessary sacrifices, to improve performance and probably the results.

For a child with ADHD this means that blaming the teacher, or the test, or the weather for poor performance in school is not a very good strategy for success as taking personal responsibility for the poor performance. If the problem lies outside of us, then there is no reason to put in the effort needed to do better. If we say that the problem is within us, then the answer is to improve ourselves. This is done by taking the time and by making the necessary sacrifices to improve our skills, knowledge, or performance.

For an adult with ADHD this means that blaming the boss, the co-worker, or the spouse for poor performance at work or at home, is not as good of a strategy or attitude as taking responsibility for the poor performance. If the problem lies outside of us, then there is no reason to improve. If the problem is within us, then the answer is to improve both ourselves and our situation through making the necessary sacrifices to improve our skills, knowledge, performance or even relationships.

How can you improve a bad attitude and make it a good attitude?

First, start by being honest with yourself and admit that your current mind set gives up too much control to forces, or people, or things that are totally outside of yourself. Then begin to take more personal responsibility for your approach to each day and to your performance each day.

Take the time to consider why it has seemed like a good idea in the past to blame something outside of yourself for your own lack of preparation for each day, or your own poor performance. Take a few minutes to enjoy the feeling of taking personal responsibility for your own life and performance.

Welcome the learning of new skills, new information, and developing new attitudes. Begin to dedicate yourself to improving your existing skills, knowledge base, and attitudes. Get excited about your potential to take life to the next level.

Begin to notice others more. Listen to others. Learn from others. Try to understand other opinions or points of view. Learn to be more compassionate and empathetic. Even become more generous toward others.

It is a myth, perpetuated by inexperienced coaches that practice makes perfect. The fact of the matter is that only perfect practice makes perfect. When practice is sloppy, or someone is practicing the wrong thing, under pressure when it is time to perform one will give a sloppy performance.

Another important truth in either coaching or counseling is that when people or players are under pressure they will do the things that they have practiced the most.

Here is one of my favorite sayings: If what you are doing works for you, then do not change it. But if it does not work, then you must do something different. Take personal responsibility for your preparation and approach to each day. If it is less than excellent, then work to make your preparation and approach excellent. If it is less than what is needed to be successful, then make the changes that you need to be successful.

Plan ahead for the next day. Eat a proper diet today, and plan for good foods tomorrow. Get plenty of sleep tonight. Exercise or play outside a little bit each day.

Work the very hardest that you can on the work that you have to do for the next twenty minutes.

Take personal responsibility for your choices and actions each day. If it is less than excellent, then work to improve your performance each day until it becomes excellent. Focus for the next twenty minutes on the most important thing that you have to do, and do it well. Then do it again.

Your Approach to each day, and to preparing for tomorrow, are both completely under your control.

Your Attitude for the next twenty minutes is also completely under your control. Both maturity and a greater sense of freedom will come when you realize that you have complete control over your attitude and approach to life. Don't give it away to others.

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