When the Game is Rigged

Reward and acknowledgment, part 3 

By Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, CTP, CMC, A.C.T., MCC, SCAC
Another in a series of articles from my upcoming book,
TaskMaster™ – see article list below

Don’t be STINGY!

Think back to my earlier reminder that, during the training phase, you make good with those cookie bribes frequently.

Remember that I said that you can reconsider what has to be done for what kind of reward once the training is complete?

Don’t forget as you reconsider, however,
that you are working with an inner KID.  

Most adults I know have lost touch with how much they loved cookies as a kid.

Oh, we remember that kids love cookies, all right, that’s not the problem.

  • In fact, most Moms resort to keeping the cookies in a place the kids can’t reach them.
  • They say they want to keep the kids from eating every single cookie in the jar.

In another unbelievable application of black and white thinking, “You may not eat all of the cookies” transforms into “You may not eat ANY of the cookies” before a three-year-old can figure out what happened.

Since Moms generally dislike interruptions when they are busy and most Mom’s are pretty busy most days, repeated requests for a cookie are quickly considered whining for a cookie. Most Moms don’t like to give in to whining.

The game is rigged!

What’s the poor kid supposed to do? You’re too busy to stop long enough to crack the cookie safe on request and in a minute never comes.

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WHY they whine

If you’re a kid, whining is an appropriate response to the particular set-up described above!

  • I don’t know about your inner three-year-old, but mine whines in ways that cause me to lose focus on the task at hand.
  • My inner three-year-old balks at “just one more minute” of anything after a time.
  • I don’t get a whole lot accomplished once I’ve ignored a request for a cookie break, no matter how long I force myself to keep going until I have accomplished something.

A better strategy with my inner kid is to stop at the first request, just long enough to link the next cookie break to a more satisfactory stopping point, with a promise to stop within a specific time limit in any case.

I not only get a lot more accomplished, I get a lot more cookies!

Now wouldn’t you think that little realization would be enough to encourage me to take frequent cookie breaks in my own life? You’ve got to be kidding! I’m one more of those “most adults” I referred to who has forgotten how much I liked cookies as a kid.

I teach this stuff to keep it active in my memory banks.

But you like fried chicken!

Yeah, most kids like fried chicken. And pizza. And fast-food burgers with French fries. Some kids even like vegetables and salad.

But they are not cookies!

Those of us who love our careers and thoroughly enjoy the time spent working are the worst offenders when it comes to “eating balanced meals.” We are notoriously cookie deficient.

When I’m on a roll with an idea or a project, I resent stopping to go to the bathroom, for heaven’s sakes, what on earth would prompt me to take a cookie break? Who needs a cookie?!

We ALL do, unless we want to find ourselves with inner three-year-olds on the warpath.

Mine hides things from me. I can be sitting at my desk having a jolly old time editing the latest content for one of my books or classes. When I put the paper down to take a sip of coffee that page disappears by the time I put the cup back on the saucer.

If I heed the warning and stop for a break right then, that page is always right where I left it when I return, and I am able to get back on track, often with an insight that makes it better than it was when I stopped.

If I tear my desk apart looking for a piece of paper that “has to be right here, I haven’t gone anywhere!” it may only take me a couple of extra moments, but that darned kid hides something else while I am looking!

Very clever, that kid. She knows that the only way to make me stop working is to turn it into a process that feels like work! And she will sabotage my focus with everything at her disposal if that’s what it takes for me to hate what I’m doing as much as she does.

She wants a cookie!

Woe is me

On days when I am as stubborn as she is, I often hear myself muttering about how overworked I am, how unappreciated, and how hateful the entire process has become.  And I love what I do!

If I am smart, I take the rest of the day off when I notice myself hating what I love.

When I’m not smart, or when I have meetings or classes that can’t be cancelled, I spend most of the rest of the day recovering from Boggle.

We are not designed to do anything all of the time.  Without balance, everything feels like work. We hate our lives when they are unbalanced, as surely as we would hate our favorite food if it was the only thing we ever ate.

Even if we live relatively balanced lives most of the time, functioning grinds to a halt when we expect ourselves to continue without breaks. Very little more gets accomplished than if we had taken the time to stop and restore – and most of that needs to be redone!

I know this, you know this, and some people make a living selling coffee mugs, refrigerator magnets and throw pillows with little sayings on them to remind us of this:

•  All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.
•  Everything in moderation.
•  A stitch in time saves nine.

Do we remember to heed that sage advice? 

I know I don’t. I don’t even listen to my inner three-year-old’s pleas for a measly cookie break until Boggle shuts me down in howls of frustration.

Like I implied earlier, you teach what you need to learn!

When too much is not enough . . .

. . .  you’re overdue for a cookie break!!

Those of us who have challenges with distractibility learn to utilize hyperfocus for accomplishment. Hyperfocus is a state where our concentration becomes so laser-focused that almost everything else in the world disappears.

Everybody hyperfocuses, ADD/EFD or not.
  • Football fans zero in on the game so completely that they barely notice children fighting at their feet unless one of them blocks the view of the television set.
  • Teenagers hyperfocus on video games so intently that many parents find it difficult to believe that they could ever experience distractibility!
  • Almost all men can point to more than a few occasions when Beloved’s shopping hyperfocus was close to becoming the final deal-breaker.

Opinions are divided on whether hyperfocus is a useful tool or a symptom of a disorder, but I’m not going to enter that debate.  I personally find it works for me up to a point – the point where I find myself pushing through hints from my inner three-year-old so that I can return to hyperfocus rather than taking the suggestion that I need a break.

It is easy to fall into the trap where the idea of stopping for a break is cast into the black and white pot with interruptions and distractions.  They are not the same thing at all, and it is never useful to treat them as if they are.

  • We must filter out distractions to stay on track long enough to complete anything.
  • We must NOT ignore our inner three-year-old’s need for a cookie break or we will eventually reach a place where we are not ABLE to complete anything:  Boggle!

Sherlocking signs of Task Anxiety

The next article will explore ways to figure out when and how YOUR task anxiety encourages what the neurotypical world likes to label “procrastination” – so stay tuned.

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About Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, MCC, SCAC
Award-winning ADD Coach Training Field founder; ADD Coaching field co-founder; [life] Coaching pioneer -- Neurodiversity Advocate, Coach, Mentor & Poster Girl -- Multi-Certified -- 25 years working with EFD [Executive Functioning disorders] and struggles in hundreds of people from all walks of life. I developed and delivered the world's first ADD-specific coach training curriculum: multi-year, brain-based, and ICF Certification tracked. In addition to my expertise in ADD/EF Systems Development Coaching, I am known for training and mentoring globally well-informed ADD Coach LEADERS with the vision to innovate, many of the most visible, knowledgeable and successful ADD Coaches in the field today (several of whom now deliver highly visible ADD coach trainings themselves). For almost a decade, I personally sponsored and facilitated seven monthly, virtual and global, no-charge support and information groups The ADD Hours™ - including The ADD Expert Speakers Series, hosting well-known ADD Professionals who were generous with their information and expertise, joining me in my belief that "It takes a village to educate a world." I am committed to being a thorn in the side of ADD-ignorance in service of changing the way neurodiversity is thought about and treated - seeing "a world that works for everyone" in my lifetime. Get in touch when you're ready to have a life that works BECAUSE of who you are, building on strengths to step off that frustrating treadmill "when 'wanting to' just doesn't get it DONE!"

4 Responses to When the Game is Rigged

  1. Pingback: Dealing with Distractions | ADD . . . and-so-much-more

  2. Pingback: Doling out the Cookies | ADD . . . and-so-much-more

  3. Again, you got me Madelyn! I have been struggling so much with this very dynamic with myself this week. My inner 3 year old has been on a tear, and boy has it been a battle. This week was supposed to be my off week, but lo and behold I have worked myself to the bone and totally forgot about fun. BOO to my ‘that adult’ self this week! See, here I am still working!!! Love your blog, but damn it I gotta go play now!


    • Gosh, Dan, I can’t imagine forgetting to PLAY (says she, still at her computer at 5:33 PM on a SATURDAY!) 😮 In my self-defense, I did take some time to put together a big pan of banana-fig bread pudding – in the oven as I type – so when the timer goes ding! guess where I’m headed?

      I’m still playing catch-up from missing the entire month of January, so I have to time-slice until after the ACO conference in late March or there will be no roof over my inner-three-year-old’s head, but I AM “forcing” myself to vary the activities a bit. So far, the kid’s cooperating.

      SPEAKING of work – any interest in doing a little more? I’d love a guest post from you that talks about how it looks from the male perspective, maybe bringing in some of your expertise from your niche. No deadline pressure – slow cook it.

      Thanks for including me in your stops around the social networking track!


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