Successful entrepreneurs are often known as ambitious, champions for change, risk-takers, action oriented, and passionate. These qualities happen to be some of the strengths you will find with individuals diagnosed with adult ADHD. Entrepreneurs can have big visions and high-energy that drive them to push through the intense work load it takes to get a business off the ground. Yes, there are incredible gifts that give people with ADHD an edge in the world of business.
ADHD is typically associated with children and there is plenty of research documenting the challenges faced by individuals diagnosed with ADHD. However, there is now some shift of focus and research starting to acknowledge and highlight the strengths associated with child and adult ADHD. In fact, a recent study by Professor Johan Wiklund was published in the Journal of Business Venturing Insights, which found that ADHD traits like impulsivity and hyper focus may positively impact an entrepreneur’s business success.
Of course, there can be challenges faced with impulsivity and hyper focus when you struggle to meet teacher, parent, spouse, or colleague expectations. In my practice, it is the lack of awareness that I observe as the most significant problem for high functioning adults with ADHD. While signs of ADHD are much more likely to be caught in early childhood for the upcoming generation, many people in our generation went undiagnosed. By the time they come in my office, their self-confidence has been diminished by repeatedly disappointing the people around them. They indicate they have struggled with lack of follow through on commitments, frequently “scattered brained,” limited patience, running late to meetings, and forgetfulness. They are led to believe it is negligence on their part and they face consequences such as lack of respect, conflict, and sometimes loss of relationships.
The good news is that with awareness and education there are many tools, techniques, resources, and even medication (when needed, but not always necessary) to help manage the challenges and allow the unique gifts of ADHD to shine through. First, we must understand that neuroimaging has proven there are differences in brain structure and wiring of the ADHD brain. With that said, not all ADHD brains are alike, which consequently means that not all individuals with ADHD have the same symptoms. For example, not everyone with ADHD actually meets the criteria for hyperactivity. Most importantly, we know the brain has neuroplasticity from birth to death allowing us to change the brain with stimulation. This is why practices such as meditation can literally change the way your brain functions and improve deficits associated with many mental health disorders, including ADHD.
Acknowledging the diagnosis of ADHD allows you to implement simple yet effective practices in your daily routine. For example, one step you may take is setting alarms on your phone consistently to remind you it’s time to leave to your next meeting. This may be necessary when you understand your brain has a tendency to underestimate the amount of time it takes you to complete a task combined with being hyper focused on the exciting project you are working on, which causes you to run the risk of being late for meetings. If you know this is how your brain operates, you know you must set those alarms, or maybe you ask a colleague or assistant to call you when it’s time to wrap things up. You break the cycle of telling yourself you “should” be able to keep track of time and accept that you may need to practice effective strategies for reaching your highest potential.
For additional strategies, I recommend additudemag.com. This site offers a wealth of resources for adults and children with ADHD along with focus on support for the parents, spouses, and loved ones.
There are many influential people in our society today and throughout history that have been identified as being diagnosed with ADHD including, Albert Einstein, Mozart, Leonardo da Vinci, Walt Disney, John F. Kennedy, Whoopi Goldberg, Prince Charles, Justin Timberlake, and Lisa Ling. It is my hope that we continue to build awareness, dialog, and education on this topic.
Maybe one day, we can have a diagnosis that replaces the word disorder with some vocabulary that acknowledges the balance of strengths and challenges with ADHD. With proper tools and techniques, we can all benefit from the ADHD brain and the adventure, spontaneity, creativity and energy they bring to our world!
Kristin Woodling, LMHC is the owner of Pamper Your Mind, a private counseling practice in Indian Harbor Beach that caters to professional women. She is also a graduate of the weVENTURE Ignite 360 Mentoring Program for small businesses.
Columnist series are sponsored by weVENTURE at the Florida Institute of Technology College of Business. weVENTURE has locations in Melbourne and Rockledge. The Center is funded in part through a cooperative agreement with the U.S. Small Business Administration. For more information, visit weventure.org or call 321-674-7007.