My way IS the Highway?

ALL Kinds of Solutions
for ALL Kinds of Minds

© Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, CTP, CMC, ACT, MCC, SCAC
Reflections from posts from January 2012 and March 2015

Get up Early … Exercise to FOCUS! … Bite the Bullet … Eat that Frog
Give it your ALL … Connect with the Pain … Clean out your Closet
Throw out your ClutterAccelerate your willingness . . .

WHY won’t everybody else do what they should?

Yep! So many people think that everybody else needs to do everything their way. It’s as if they believe that exactly the same techniques that have been effective in their own lives would transfer equally well to anyone else’s situationif those slackers would only DO IT RIGHT!

Everyone’s problems would magically disappear with “simple” solutions, IF ONLY everybody else would:

 — or really wanted a solution and not simply a chance to complain!

As if everybody needed to do the same thing – right?

I know what works for you – uhuh, uhuh-uhuh

More than a few Success Gurus approach the subject of productivity and goal fulfillment from a paradigm that not only is unlikely to work for everyone on the planet, I believe that much of what they suggest does not work very well at all for citizens of Alphabet CityIn fact, it shuts many of us down.

These “experts” certainly don’t mean to shut anybody down – and many find it difficult to impossible to believe that they do.  Still, they speak in soundbites that encapsulate the cornerstones of their systems.

They tend to promote techniques in alignment with the claim that increasing commitment to change, demonstrated by “giving up your resistance” to whatever it is they are suggesting, is the single most important step that turns the tide for many of their clients, students and seminar attendees – and that it would work for you too, if you’d only give it a try.

Different folks and different strokes

  • Tortoises and Hares
  • Linears and Holographics
  • Detailers and Concepters
  • Prioritize First or Do it NOW propronents
  • DECIDE and Do or Follow the Flow

Does anybody REALLY believe that the same “success techniques” are likely to work effectively for each of the examples above?  Their ways of approaching life is at opposite ends of the spectrum.  Who’s to say that one style is the “right” approach and the other is not?

Taking different routes to work

How you get to a particular location in your town, for example, depends upon a great many variables: where you are coming from, the amount of gas in your tank, the time of day, what else you are trying to accomplish on the same trip — even the type of vehicle you are driving and the state of your tires.

I can recommend the way I travel as the most direct route, or the one with the fewest stop lights, or the most scenic.  But it’s not true that one or the other is “the best,” or that the recipient of my suggestion is intractable or doesn’t really want to get where they are going if they choose another route.

In a manner similar to how a city’s network of roads determines how various people travel to the same destination, the connections that make up the networks in our brains determine how our brains operate. Variations in the way we navigate our world – physically or mentally – are a product of our “equipment” and how life tends to work best for us.

Still, we all like to give advice, and it makes us feel great when people take it.  But it doesn’t mean that we know “better.”

During my 25+ year coaching career, I have worked very hard to jettison “I know better” thinking. I have been relatively successful moving beyond the temptation to spread judgment like a schmear on a bagel, but I still defend my right (and yours) to offer advice, raising our voices of experience to offer information and suggest solutions.

It’s not the advice that is the problem – it’s the misguided expectation that others need to take it!

Remember that you can always check out the sidebar
for a reminder of how links work on this site, they’re subtle ==>

In defense of advice and advising

I strongly believe that it is perfectly fine to offer respectful advice  – but we must be willing to leave respectful space for the other to totally IGNORE our advice whenever it is not a good fit for THEIR world-view, their values, or their way of approaching things.

We have to keep a close eye on our underlying thoughts, to make SURE we are not subconsciously “should“-ing all over them in our hearts!  They can usually tell.

In addition, we must do our best to keep in mind that it’s always a lousy idea to attempt to, in the words of Jungian analyst Robert Johnson, “teach an old man’s lesson to young men.”

It would probably also be a good idea to get permission before jumping in with our brilliant thoughts and opinions on the subject!  Sometimes people just want to vent!

What does SCIENCE have to say about it?

With technical advances like functional brain scans, science has discovered more about the brain in the last twenty years than in the previous hundred. And yet they are decades away from understanding how we do what we do.

BellCurveMeanwhile, scientists have undertaken studies that have allowed them to compile aggregates that attempt to explain human beings and their behaviors in a sort-of bell curve fashion — even though they also know that, individually, we are unique.

The one thing they know for sure is that each of us struggle through life’s challenges with brains that work slightly differently – and that some of us are doing very well with brains that are a whole lot more different!

Ironically, scientists have made as many breakthroughs by studying the behavioral and functional exceptions at the tail ends of the bell curve as they have about the so-called “normally” functioning brains that make up the center portion.

The initial question driving the American research in the recently launched Human BRAIN Initiative [Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies] do NOT center on sameness, in fact, but on differences.

The goal of the April 2, 2013 action, a proposed collaborative research initiative announced by the Obama administration, is that of mapping the activity of every neuron in the human brain.  The projected cost is over $300 million per year for ten years.

Which Means . . .

BRAIN Initiative scientists are asking, essentially, the following question:

How do the differences in the wiring and firing of human brains translate to behaviors, emotions, approaches to practical tasks, and thinking styles?

We don’t have the cognitive bandwidth to process each of the inputs of the of our senses, piece by piece, every single time we need to make a decision or recombine information to learn something new.  So the way in which we approach much of anything at all is determined by what science has decided to call our connectome – the wiring and firing of brain cells that make up our cognitive maps.

And STILL we try to categorize

It’s what our brains have evolved to do – beginning way back when only those who could quickly answer the following question survived to pass their genes along to us.

Do I eat it, or does it eat me?!

As the cerebral cortex evolved – that outer layer, the brain’s conscious thinking portion – there wasn’t a whole lot of room inside our skulls to allow for our brains to get much bigger, or our heads would have to grow so large our necks would snap.

So the “category method” was conserved for its efficient use of resources, which indicates that the brain is a pattern matching machine of sorts.

Similar to the way most of us store items in our silverware drawer – forks with forks, spoons with spoons – our brains store different inputs differently. When it comes time to retrieve information to be able to use it, the brain attempts to sift through the “drawer” where it usually keeps information of that type, rather than its entire “kitchen.”

Categories aren’t Constants

Based on a combination of genes, environment, experience, usage and personal preference, we each categorize according to our unique perceptions of our inputs.

Something as simple as an apple, for example, could be “filed” in any one of a great many categories:

Foods, healthy foods, foods I like (or don’t), or foods that are gluten-free or low calorie.

Or maybe we categorize by object: objects that are round, those that are red or of a certain size, and so on.

Thinking logically, given the vast number of connections we must make to explore intellectually (much less accomplish even a very simple task), one person’s cognitive map could not possibly be the same as his neighbor’s — even if we are comparing two so-called neurotypical maps from the fat portion of the bell curve.

Why ELSE would resources as great as $300 million per year for TEN years have been dedicated to discovering how we do what we do?

Also working against the logic of the reality of diversity is our brain’s addiction to certainty: we want to be able to size up our world and our fellow human beings quickly and once and for all!

It’s even more dramatic with loved ones

We like to believe that anything we say to people we care about is “for their own good,” don’t we? Especially where anything diagnostic is concerned, we really want to believe we’re the clear thinking ones who know better.

And while that’s not completely false, it’s not exactly true either.
We don’t want to worry about them.

And we certainly don’t want to worry about the impact of their decisions on our lives.

We want them to take CARE of themselves (so we don’t have to worry about the impact of their diagnosis and decisions on our lives).

We want them to learn HOW to take care of themselves so we don’t have to worry about taking care of their lives for the remainder of ours.

And we really do think we know better, don’t we?

And Stand Back Jack if we can pull RANK!

If we happen to be PROFESSIONAL advice givers – doctors, lawyers, therapists (coaches?) – we’re not used to having our pearls of wisdom scattered around the pigpen.

We may be among the best examples of charge-neutral and lack of attachment in our respective fields, but when it comes to those in our personal lives, not so much. We can be some of the worst “do it MY way” folk anybody knows.

What about PARENTS?  Aren’t we supposed to take their advice to heart?

Even in cases where that does not mean, “Do what I say, not what I do,” God didn’t hand-inscribe a set of universally relevant tablets for parents to deliver to the subset of the masses to whom they happened to give birth.

But, especially when a loved one has a diagnosis, we tend to forget that little detail.

And there is no rank higher than the one who got there first:  those “I’ve been through this myself and let me tell you that . . .”  folks.  (gulp – guilty as charged!)

Unless, of course it’s the really, really old dudes and dudesses looking back on their lives. (Depending on the age of the advice-ee, “really, really old” could be as young as forty!)

If they’d ONLY . . .

Most of ALL, it seems, we don’t want to have to take precious minutes from our lives to finish what they start.

Fair request, but where is it written we must?

We have to remember that just because WE need work honoring our own boundaries, it does not mean the fall-back is permission to tell our Beloveds HOW to finish what they start.

Unless we are twins separated at birth, we probably don’t have a clue about their best way to do much of anything.

Nor does it mean they MUST finish what they start, even if we live with them and can barely walk through the house without tripping over unfinished project detritus.

Boundaries, boys and girls, THAT’s the segue here: setting them, expressing them, honoring them, restating them, bribing others to honor them . . . all in the upcoming articles.  Stay tuned.

Meanwhile, if you ring in with some examples of where your diagnosed Beloved is making your life crazy, I’ll try to work some possible solutions into the Boundary posts – no “advice” here, just a few little concepts and techniques that have been known to work for a great many others.

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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!"

38 Responses to My way IS the Highway?

  1. Pingback: Back to Boundaries | ADD . . . and-so-much-more

  2. This is positively fabulous!! Thanks you!! I came here from MakeItUltra.


  3. swamiyesudas says:

    Very good, my Dear Madelyn! Certain basics remain the Highway, though, like Decency, Care and Concern, Involvement as against Apathy, and things like that. …And I do believe the People ‘know’ what is good for them as overly over-rated! 🙂 …Love and Regards. Keep up Your good work. 🙂


  4. michnavs says:

    I had so much fun reading this article..

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Léa says:

    Good analogy Madelyn! As an infant, I didn’t fit in and somewhere early on, decided it wasn’t for me. Perhaps being the black sheep and an introvert made it easier? I don’t even think that is the right word but perhaps you can understand? I knew that no matter what I did, it wasn’t acceptable, that I wasn’t acceptable. While I wanted acceptance, I couldn’t be other than who I was. It was trying to wear shoes many sizes too small.

    One of the great beauties in this life is variety. Unfortunately it is often controlled by those with a sheep mentality. Fortunately, I failed miserably!


    • Thanks, Léa. As I like to say, “If the shoe doesn’t fit, don’t blame the FOOT!

      How wise you were to figure out the value of individuality and being who you are so young – I struggled for many years before that idea dawned on me. Congrats on flunking out of sheep class early – I tried to hide my maverick under a bushel for a few years. Finally it became impossible. WHEW!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Léa says:

        Not exactly. You give me far too much credit. I was born into a ‘family’ that no matter what I did it was no good. While I still craved acceptance but I knew I would never be that silk purse… xx lf


        • Well you are certainly finding i-net acceptance, for whatever that’s worth. And I give credit where it is due. Others in your situation sank – you swam the backstroke!
          xx, mgh

          Liked by 1 person

          • Léa says:

            I-net acceptance, perhaps a little. The only social media I am on is LinkedIn and even though my blogs say they are connected my work doesn’t show on my account? I’m too low tech to figure it out. I am ready to drop LinkedIn altogether.
            Perhaps I’m tougher than I thought. I do remember making one choice very young and that was never to hurt anyone as I had been hurt. To never cause pain to someone else. I knew how it felt. Yes, those who used and abused me had been victims themselves but I believe that we make a choice. xx, lf


            • I think those of us who have been hurt go one of two ways – empathy or retribution on people who don’t deserve it. And I agree – it is a CHOICE. My mother stopped abuse in a single generation – kindest woman I’ve ever known. Can’t say much nice about HER mother, and I’m sure I don’t know the half of it.

              With you about LinkedIn – too many use it as a way to flood my email with their MANY “special offers” – and I don’t think anybody has ever even visited my blog, even tho’ my content notifications autopost on my homepage (or whatever they call it). Ditto FaceBook.

              But then, except for Pinterest, I hate social media on general principle. *Especially* FaceBook. I have better things to do than to spend my time clicking “like” on what people are planning for dinner – OR following angry political arguments that cross the border into nasty.

              What HAS our world become?

              Liked by 1 person

            • Léa says:

              With social media one can have hundreds of ‘friends’ and never really connect with anyone.


            • Yep – what I hate about it. I don’t tweet either! xx, mgh

              Liked by 1 person

  6. Léa says:

    How true! Alas, those of us fortunate enough to have ADD, yes I did say fortunate, are not sheep. When one is forced by circumstances to live among sheep, we are considered odd, stupid, lazy…

    “If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away.” Henry David Thoreau

    Liked by 1 person

    • Great comment. I often say, “In Heaven everybody gets to have ADD.” 🙂

      While it is certainly true that any dx represents “a difference,” and that there are many good things that ride along with ADD in particular, we also must be willing to admit that, as long as we are expected to follow vanilla rules and live up to vanilla expectations, it is also a disability.

      We don’t encourage short people to set their sights on professional basketball, even if the rare exception might make it despite the odds. The basketball field is set up for height, and in that context it’s stacked against somebody under 5’ll”. Doesn’t mean shorter people are “lousy athletes” — or that they don’t have a good shot at other professional sports.

      I also know that when we hear the same thing over and over again in our lives, it’s far too easy to take it as gospel, leading us to doubt our own thinking. Using Thoreau’s analogy, we hear the OTHER music so loudly we find it difficult to hear our own.

      I write articles like this one to remind us all that just because the music is LOUDER doesn’t mean it’s the tune that’s best for OUR dancing.



  7. PorterGirl says:

    My grandad always said to me ‘Only take financial advice from millionaires’, by which he broadly meant to be aware of WHO I was taking advice from, as much as the advice itself. He also told me to always listen to what a person had to say, as even if 99% of it was rubbish, there might be 1% of pure gold in there. Wise chap, my grandad, and one of the few people I have met who properly understands the notion of giving people the freedom to reject advice. He is sadly gripped by dementia now, so my opportunities for harvesting his great wisdom are now few and far between, but he taught me both how to give and take advice and I know he would nod along in agreement to this fabulous article.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you so much for a wonderful comment. I wish I’d had a wise grandad, and I’m sure you must miss yours very much – both sad and scary to have to stand by as sharp minds fade.

      My father was more a “Do as I say” and “WHAT were you thinking?” parent – even as he was an inspiration intellectually. My mother – probably ADD sans dx with FAR too much on her plate with 5 kids, a husband who was gone a great deal, and practically yearly moves – didn’t have time to dispense wise advice often, but most of it was golden.

      My sharp-tongued grandmother (Mom’s mom) – oh let’s not go there. Mostly I learned what NOT to do from my observations of her.


      Liked by 1 person

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