ADDing to Subtract

How much change can you tolerate
before you STOP trying to cope?

©Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, CTP, CMC, ACT, MCC, SCAC
from the Intentionality Series

We HATE to give things up

Have you ever tried to convince a kid to give away a toy – even a toy s/he no longer plays with and, truth to tell, never cared much for in the first place?

Most kids will take quite a bit of convincing, and some will throw a fit and refuse.

Truly clever Moms and Dads replace the toy with something new – putting the emphasis on what their kids are getting rather than what they are giving up.

And most parents who follow the “one-in/one-out” rule figure out very quickly that the swap needs to be agreed upon UP FRONT.

If they can get the child to fork over the old toy before they receive the new one, so much the better.

An Overwhelmed Brain says NO!

Have you ever allowed yourself to get in over your head?  In your home, for example, have things ever gotten so messy that you begin to doubt your ability to ever clean it up?

I refer to it as being “over my limit.”  Finding myself over my limit happens to me regularly.

  • It happens every single time I move to a new home, for example, or the times I’ve been too sick to have the energy to do much beyond making it to the kitchen or the bathroom and back to bed.
  • It also happens during (and following) any period where the serious illness of a close friend or family member shifts my priorities.
  • Things seem to get worse every day.

Suddenly – or so it seems – I can’t cope any more.  EVERYTHING seems to be everywhere.  I can’t see the items for the clutter, and life becomes a scavenger hunt of epic proportions.

The professional organizers would probably tell me to start pitching things left and right to “clear out the clutter” – but which things?

What the neurotypical never seem to understand is that overwhelm shuts down our capacity to make effective decisions.

  • I don’t know about you, but the few times I’ve allowed myself to be pushed to toss against my better judgment have ended badly.
  • In a couple of cases, it took me months to jump through the hoops to replace something I’d tossed that I actually needed – and that’s after I’d spent a great deal of time looking for it.
  • As I grow older, I am less and less willing to throw those months under the neatness bus!  Especially since I’ve learned the hard way that “neat” and “organized” are two completely different things.  I’ll bet you have too.

Fear of Tossing?

No, I haven’t developed “fear of tossing” as a result, like some of my clients, but I HAVE learned not to jump in pitching when I’m overwhelmed.

And I’ll bet you have too – whether it is the result of a conscious decision or merely what looks like intractability to anyone watching.

  • What’s the worst thing that could happen? they ask, in their ignorance.
  • Are you kidding?  I’m barely hanging on NOW – my goose is cooked if things get worse.

Don’t forget that you can always check out the sidebar
for a reminder of how links work on this site, they’re subtle ==>

Life Imitates Clutter

When we over-schedule, saying yes when we need to say no, we find ourselves “over our limit” in a similar manner.

I call it BOGGLE. We feel like we’re suddenly flailing, and most attempts at “help” when we are in that state usually makes things worse. (Click that BOGGLE link at the start of this paragraph for a description of what others believe will be helpful!)

As I said in the article linked in the paragraph above:
Once you have Boggled, any additional stimuli will only
serve to lengthen the time you will spend in that state.

What you NEED is a complete shut down of incoming stimuli so that you can re-center.

When things change, we need to juggle anew

Those of us who struggle with kludgy Executive Functioning frequently find it difficult to initiate and follow through: what I refer to as intentionality.

With a well-structured life – with effective systems in place, we do relatively well. We tend to flounder otherwise.

Changes, even good ones, toss our salad.

We are suddenly forced to develop new systems that help us integrate new and different elements into the ones we are juggling already.

For most of us, that tends to impact activation negatively – we find ourselves struggling to make ourselves do what we know we need to do.

Before we know it we’re SO behind we can no longer do it in the amount of time we have available, with a to-do list that is now over our limit.

Is our first instinct to slow down and pare down?

No-siree-bob!  An overwhelmed brain says NO.  Like kids, we don’t want to give up a single thing.

So we find ourselves soldiering through in the face of what, for us, are overwhelming odds against getting it done.

We speed up – if only in our brains, but often by rushing around in unproductive fugues.

At least, we do until we’ve taught ourselves a way to do things differently.

Productivity is a HABIT

Unfortunately, so is lack of productivity.

We will find it extremely difficult to develop a new habit until we get rid of the unproductive one that is keeping us stuck. That means CHANGE – and change always means giving up the old.  Uh-oh.

As I told you in a prior article, Brain-based Habit Formation:

UNLEARNING and Relearning

The latest research indicates that habits are ingrained in our basil ganglia so well they might as well be hard-wired.

We keep acting in accordance with those old habits even when we no longer benefit from them, or when they are in direct opposition to what we say we want to do instead.

Apparently, unlinking – extinguishing a habitual response – is a process our brain resists.

  • When we encounter a CUE, we respond as readily as Pavlov’s dogs salivate at the ringing of a bell.
  • Unless, that is, we link something else to the cue — and repeat it often enough that it becomes a HABIT.

When we create a new habit, our brain creates new neurological pathways that allow us to more easily use the new response again — because, after a few repetitions, the new behavor requires less “cognitive energy” than recalling the old.

So, the most effective way to change your habits is to replace them with new ones.

Work with your brain like you work with a child

With children – if the goal is to get rid of old toys — it works better when they can trust that a new toy is coming.  But your brain doesn’t respond to promises – you have to fork it over FIRST.

You need to add the new behavior
or you’ll never be able to take away the old one:
ADDING to subtract.

If you want to know how to DO that, read through the the Articles of the Habits, Decisions, Attention Series in order.

If you do the work suggested – as you go – by the time you get to the end of the series, you will find that your productivity problem is a-whole-lot-MORE manageable!

If you want my coaching help to make SURE you do the work, click Brain-based Coaching with Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, submit the form at the bottom of the resulting page.  Once we’ve had a short talk on the phone to check the fit, we’ll get you started developing your whole new life! (and don’t miss the content in the Related Articles linked below if you flying coachless or working with a coach who doesn’t understand ADD/EFD).

Things don’t have to be so hard!

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IN ANY CASE, stay tuned.
There’s a lot to know, a lot here already, and a lot more to come – in this Series and in others.
Get it here while it’s still free for the taking.

Want to work directly with me? If you’d like some coaching help with anything that came up while you were reading this Series (one-on-one couples or group), click HERE for Brain-based Coaching with mgh, with a contact form at its end (or click the E-me link on the menubar at the top of every page). Fill out the form, submit, and an email SOS is on its way to me; we’ll schedule a call to talk about what you need. I’ll get back to you ASAP (accent on the “P”ossible!)

You might also be interested in some of the following articles
available right now – on this site and elsewhere.

For links in context: run your cursor over the article above and the dark grey links will turn dark red;
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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!"

2 Responses to ADDing to Subtract

  1. Great article as usual, Madelyn. As you requested, I’m letting you know that Overcoming OCD: A Journey to Recovery has launched and is now available through the publisher’s website (order via my blog and save 30%):

    It’s also available through all major book retailer websites, including Amazon:

    Thanks once again for all your support!


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