(A note from Jamie Turner: The 60 Second Marketer typically focuses on business articles, but this personal account of my journey with ADHD was so popular when I posted it on LinkedIn, I wanted to share it with readers of the 60 Second Marketer.)
I was the kid in middle school you used to hate. You know the one – the kid who was bouncing off the walls and causing a lot of distractions for the children who were actually trying to get good grades.
At the time, I didn’t know that I had ADHD. I just knew that I couldn’t sit still for more than, say, 10 or 15 seconds.
Seriously, 10 or 15 seconds.
To me, there was always a joke to tell, or a friend’s shoulder to poke, or a cloud outside that deserved my attention.
Did I want to pay attention to the teachers? I tried, but it didn’t work.
By the time I was in high school, I was starting to figure out that something was amiss.
I had ambition – my father had attended Princeton and I wanted to follow in his footsteps, but my B minus/C plus average was getting in the way.
I remember talking to the school counselor about my Ivy League ambitions.
In my freshman year, the counselor said, “Well, you’ll have to get better than Bs and Cs to get into Ivy League.”
By my sophomore year, he said, “You’re going to have to get straight As from here on out for that to happen.”
By my junior year, before I could even say Ivy League he interrupted me — “Stop. You’re not going Ivy League. It’s simply not going to happen.”
I was devastated.
I just couldn’t understand — I worked harder than all of my friends (except Drew, who consistently pulled all-nighters … in high school, no less).
I studied relentlessly. In fact, I remember my friends asking why I was taking so many books home. These were A+ students … and I was taking more books home to study than they were!
That’s when I learned to accept my reality — I was just going to have to study harder than my friends if I was going to maintain my B minus/C plus average.
Then I went off to college. I went to the University of Texas, which at the time, would allow just about anyone with a checkbook and a pulse into the school. (Not so today. To my great pleasure, it’s become a top-tier university.)
But college is when things got really strange.
I remember sitting down to study and realizing that I literally couldn’t sit still for more than 8 to 10 minutes. After that, there was always a pencil to be sharpened or a cup of coffee to be re-filled.
It’s amazing I got through at all.
One night, I remember studying a list of 5 concepts for Astronomy class. I repeated them out loud so many times that after the 10th time, my roommate, Davis, hollered out “Dude! Even I know the list by now. What’s wrong with you, man!”
What was wrong with me was that I had ADHD and it was not being treated.
Sadly, I was a few decades away from proper treatment. (Spoiler alert: What solved my ADHD was not Ritalin or Adderall, even though I wanted to try that approach.)
Before I found the right coping mechanism for my ADHD, I went through a lot of struggles that could be tied directly to my lack of focus.
My first marriage failed, in part because I didn’t understand that a spouse wanted my focus, not my energy.
After that, my first business failed, again in part because I couldn’t stay focused on the specific tasks required of someone to manage a growing business.
Eventually, I found myself in front of a counselor.
This wasn’t an ordinary counselor. This was a gifted, thoughtful, humble man who had devoted his life to helping people who were struggling.
By this time (I was in my late 30s) I realized that it wasn’t normal to have to re-read paragraphs 2 or 3 times, or to have virtually no memory of important events, or to change the topic in the middle of an important conversation.
So, I asked him if I could get a prescription for something to manage my ADHD.
My counselor said something that changed my life. He said, “You don’t need a prescription. What you need is a strategy to try to manage it. Have you tried meditation?”
As it turns out, I was an early adopter of meditation (it’s a story for another day, but my folks were sort of hippy-like and got us into Transcendental Meditation when I was in middle school).
So, I said to him, “Yes, I actually do know how to meditate.”
He said, “Have you tried it twice a day for 25 minutes at a time?”
I said, “No, but if you think it will help, I’m willing to give it a try.”
And that’s when everything changed.
When I started meditating twice a day, I noticed some subtle, but profound differences. I almost completely stopped getting colds, my memory improved (dramatically), my focus improved and, most importantly, I found that my stress level dropped to nearly zero.
Other things improved, too. Suddenly, I could read a book and not have to re-read the paragraphs. I could also have a conversation with someone without shifting gears mid-stream. My foot stopped compulsively tapping. And people viewed me as a calming force in meetings, instead of a nuclear power plant run amok.
I describe meditation to friends as the same kind of feeling I get right after a church service – I’m at peace, I have perspective, I’m stress-free and I get it.
The good news is that when I meditate, these feelings stay with me all day long.
Better still, because I have this deep, inner sense of peace, those around me sense it and, I believe, interact with me in a more peaceful, calm manner.
So how does meditation for ADHD work?
There are hundreds, if not thousands, of medical studies on mediation and its effect on humans.
I can’t go into all the findings right here, but I will tell you that one of the key states in meditation is called the Alpha state.
The Alpha state is the scientific term for what people sense when they meditate.
If you were to ask most people who meditate what they feel, they might say, “A sense of connectedness to all living things” or “Deep perspective and peace” or even “A feeling of oneness with God.”
Ideally, that feeling permeates your life and influences those around you.
This all leads to the most important question, which is “How do I meditate?”
As mentioned previously, the act of meditation is deceptively simple. They key is to stick with it.
(I’m going to encourage you to try mediation for three weeks. If, after three weeks, you’ve decided that meditation is not your cup of tea, no problem – it may not be for you. But to get started, you should try to commit to three solid weeks of twice daily meditation.)
So, here are several easy steps to get you on your way:
- Find a comfortable chair to sit in. (Don’t meditate lying down because you’ll fall asleep.) If you’d like to try sitting in the traditional cross-legged position on the floor, just be sure to sit on a couple of pillows while keeping your crossed legs on the floor. Putting the pillows under your butt and keeping your legs on the floor helps straighten your back and makes sitting upright simple and easy.
- Sit quietly for a minute or two. Take several deep breaths. Relax.
- Close your eyes and start counting your breaths. In and out is one breath. When you reach 10 breaths, start over again at one. (It’s that simple. I’m not kidding.)
- When your mind wanders (and it will), go back to counting your breaths again.Each time your mind wanders, start counting over again at one.
- Start meditating for 15 minutes twice a day. Over the course of three weeks, work your way up to 25 minutes twice a day.
- By the second or third week, your mind and body will kick into the Alpha state.It will be subtle at first, but over time, you’ll begin to recognize it and the deep, abiding peace it brings. (Another phrase for the Alpha state, in my opinion, is silentcommunion with God and the Universe.)
- Try introducing affirmations. Once you’ve gotten comfortable with meditation and have been doing it for a while, some people introduce thoughts or affirmations at the end of their meditation.
Towards the end of my meditations, I introduce the following affirmations into my mind:
- I am Peace
- I am Love
- I am Humility
- I am Clarity
By introducing the affirmations at the end of the meditation, I believe it helps my mind stay focused on those concepts after I finish my meditation.
That’s all there is to it. As mentioned, it’s really quite simple. If you can commit to three weeks, you’ll probably become familiar with the Alpha state. Once that happens, you’re off to the races.
What are your coping mechanisms for ADD and ADHD?
I’ve covered a lot of ground here. Hopefully, you’ve found my story compelling (and helpful). Meditation is just one coping mechanism for ADHD. There are plenty of others.
Do you know someone with ADD or ADHD? If so, what has worked (or not worked) for them?
About the Author: Jamie Turner is an internationally recognized author, speaker, and CEO who speaks about business, digital media, and leadership at events, conferences, and corporations around the globe. He has been profiled in one of the world’s best selling marketing textbooks, is the author of several business books, and can be seen regularly on network TV news. He can be reached at +1-678-313-3472 or via email at Jamie.Turner@SIXTY.Company.