Overwhelm – Over IT!

Conserving Cognitive Bandwidth
Learning to create the mental space in which to work

© Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, CTP, CMC, ACT, MCC, SCAC
from the Time & Task Series

Give me the Strength to . . .

ACCEPT the things I cannot change,

the courage to change the things I can,

and the wisdom to know the difference.

And NOW, what they left out . . .

Ahem!  Just a few important little pieces:

  • The INFORMATION necessary to be able to change a few things, once we’ve figured out which is which.
  • Encouragement inspiring hope to serve as wind beneath our wings.
  • And the cognitive bandwidth necessary to stay on track long enough to change much of anything.

Did you know?

Brain-space is not an unlimited resource (at least not in the bottomless well meaning of unlimited).  Yeah, sure, we have an almost unlimited number of pathways connecting billions of neurons — but what about all the new traffic lights and crossroads?

Our brain is designed to conserve cognitive resources.  Once it learns a few routes, it tends to like to stick to them, even once our life experiences have, effectively, rearranged more than a few roads.

As Tony Robbins is credited with saying,
If you do what you’ve always done,
you’ll get what you’ve always gotten.

If we want to get something different, we need to update our maps. 
(Group Coaching, by the way, is designed to help you do exactly that.)

Acceptance and Surrender

Let’s begin by taking a look at that acceptance part of the equation — before we surrender too easily.

When we devote a great deal of our time and attention to things we cannot change, we expend physical, emotional and mental energy that could be directed elsewhere more productively.

That’s true. It’s like pushing a rope – lots of side to side action, but no forward movement. But . . .

Just because we never have
doesn’t mean we never can.

Don’t take my word for it.

  • Ask Nick Verron or Clark Elliott — both of whom made “impossible” recoveries after brain damage they were told they would have to learn to live with until they died.
  • Or maybe you’d like to read about Dick Hoyt, who was told that his newborn son Rick would be an uncommunicative vegetable for the rest of his life.

Click those links to see just how impossible their situations turned out NOT to be!

Even the Wright Brothers were told that man could NEVER fly.

We do, however, need to change our strategies, develop new habits designed to keep our brains from overheating and shutting down on us, and put a few systems in place to keep us keepin’ on.

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

HOVER before clicking – often a box will appear to tell you what to expect

Accepting what we MUST:

There are many things we can’t control:

We are essentially powerless over what the insurance industry refers to as “acts of God,” for example: flash-floods, hurricane or tornado damage, among others.

We can’t control our height, for the most part, and we certainly can’t control the circumstances of our birth and much of what happens to us in the first few years we are alive.

When epidemics rage, some lives are forever changed as a result.  People are still born with disabilities they must accept and learn to work around.  Others are born into poverty, which limits what they are able to afford until they can change their circumstances. 

And each of us must accept that we have absolutely no control over the behaviors, thoughts and actions of anyone but ourselves.

The wisdom of the Serenity Prayer lies in exchanging a life of “if only” and “what if” for a life of hope inspiring the courage to to do what we can to learn to accept and work around those things we cannot change — to turn can’t into can.

Controlling what we CAN:

We each have the ability to exert some control over our environment:

We can take steps to beat back the clutter so we can focus and function.

We can learn to communicate kindly and effectively, dress for warmth, save for those rainy days, eat for health and make sure we are vaccinated for the major threats to it. 

Those of us fortunate enough to be born in first world countries can figure out how to pay our bills before services are turned off. We can devise some kind of schedule to get to the grocery store well before our cupboards are bare, so that we can make healthy choices about what we put in our bodies.

We can fill up our metaphorical gas tanks before we are stranded far afield,
creating problems that domino into still more.

So why don’t we?

Many of us are so overwhelmed by functional challenges of one type or another, we can’t figure out where to begin to bring more order and structure into our lives – or how to make ourselves begin – or how to keep at it when things bog down.

Life devolves into a demented cha-cha-cha of clean it up, mess it up, agonize over it!
Yet we can learn what we need to do to overcome those challenges.

Is it a choice not to change what we can when we don’t?

The choice to change the things we can:

. . . article continues after the box below . . .

No TIME to read all this stuff?

man-on-phoneCLICK HERE for the announcement of an upcoming Group Coaching opportunity based on the 12-week TeleClass on Modular Success Systems. As always, class size will be limited to allow for personal attention, so don’t miss the announcement if you want to make sure you sign up before the first group fills.

I can help you sort through the available success modules to design an action plan guaranteed to be more effective than how most of you are currently doing things – a much cheaper alternative to hiring my personal coaching services (the FIRST time I announce a new class or group is always your least expensive option).

If you already know that this is something you are going to want to be part of, leave me a comment below and I’ll save you a seat (fill in your name and email on the comment form or I won’t be able to contact you).

What happens and why

As we move through life, one of the most important lessons is learning to respond rather than react to the words and actions of the people around us and the circumstances in which we find ourselves.  Responding necessitates accessing the most recently developed cognitive (overt thinking) part of our brain, the Cerebral Cortex.

It is only once we do that are we truly at choice.

Think FAST!

Reactions are products of what some of the transformation gurus refer to as “old tapes” – those knee-jerk thoughts and behaviors that are, in a very real way, a product of impulsivity.

They are most frequently the result of the flight-or-fight stress response pathways in what used to be referred to as the Limbic System, activated by our old friend Mr. Amygdala.

The amygdala, remember, is that part of the brain that activates your fight-flight-freeze programming in response to any threatening stimulus – like the idea of change, for example. That, in turn, shuts down the PFC (pre-frontal cortex), the higher order thinking/decision-making part of the brain needed to figure out the problem and work through the steps to solution.

Mr. Amygdala can respond in fractions of a millisecond. Your PFC is outclassed in that race! The amygdala reacts to your level of stress, the alarm is sounded, and the race is off — LONG before the sound of the starting gun ever reaches your PFC (in brain time).

Once the amygdala has sounded the alarm, attempting to exert your “will” power won’t change much of anything at all.

Will power is a function of the higher-order cognitive skills modulated by the PFC – which is taken off-line by the activation of the more primitive circuits of the brain (which is Mr. Amydala’s turf).

What you see doesn’t have to be what you get

Understanding that all of a person’s thoughts, behaviors and actions are a product of how their brains are wired from birth and are re-wired as they go through life is a reality that I wish I could zap into everybody’s awareness.  One of the most important concepts of the past fifty years is Neuroplasticity.

Neuroplastic change

Neuroplasticity: The brain’s ability to reorganize itself by forming new neural connections throughout life.

Neuroplasticity allows the neurons (nerve cells) in the brain to compensate for injury and disease and to adjust their activities in response to new situations or to changes in their environment.
~ MedicineNet.com

According to Wikipedia, “Neuroplasticity has replaced the formerly-held position that the brain is a physiologically static organ, and explores how – and in which ways – the brain changes throughout life.[2]

Change your brain, change your LIFE

We truly aren’t stuck with our existing brain wiring, keeping us tethered to ways of thinking, hearing, reacting or responding — motoring ahead behaving in ways that have lost their relevance to the lives we want to live today.

Our genes may provide the blueprint, but our ENVIRONMENT – repeated exposure to positive and negative experiences, substances and thoughts – can change gene expression, essentially changing brain specs on the fly.

ALL of our environmental influences combine to determine how we interpret new influences going forward, however – unless we consciously set about to change what might seem like default behaviors we don’t particularly care for.

The only things we can truly change, which will change our brains in response,
are our thoughts and our actions.

Changing those will allow us to embrace new information and experiment with unfamiliar techniques, as we develop new habits that will, in turn, change our experience of living.  Life really doesn’t have to be so darned frustrating all the time!

I hope each of you will consider joining the Coaching Group forming to aid you in the process of changing the things that you most certainly CAN, I promise.

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IN ANY CASE, do 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!)

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For links in context: run your cursor over the article above and the dark grey links will turn dark red;
(subtle, so they don’t pull focus while you read, but you can find them to click when you’re ready for them)
— and check out the links to other Related Content in each of the articles themselves —

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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!"

15 Responses to Overwhelm – Over IT!

  1. Pingback: 5 Tips for better Executive Functioning – Part 1 | ADD . . . and-so-much-more

  2. Pingback: Recent study shows ADD *IS* brain-based | ADD . . . and-so-much-more

  3. Pingback: Can you hear them NOW? | ADD . . . and-so-much-more

  4. bsa blog says:

    Also, thanks for liking my post

    Liked by 1 person

  5. bsa blog says:

    Fantastic work! I know my brain can be my worst enemy if I let it. There were so many things growing up I avoided because of phobias, but I’m forgiving myself and making every effort to be more open and self-aware. Thanks for posting

    Liked by 1 person

  6. tmezpoetry says:

    Good stuff!

    Liked by 1 person

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