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The Gaslighting Nature of “Just do it!”

“Just do it!” These three words usually come out in a fit of frustration when someone with ADHD is trying to get something done but not succeeding. Parents say it to kids, teachers say it to students, and we, as folks with ADHD say it to ourselves. Have you ever stopped to think about how short-sighted and messed up that is for our brains?

Oftentimes it comes in the context of “Oh [that thing you’re trying to do] is easy! It’s simple, it’s not that hard. Just do it!” Do you think we didn’t think of that?!

If it were easy, you would be doing it already. FULL STOP. 

If you’re not doing it or avoiding it, it’s hard for a reason. 

So what if the next time you noticed yourself *not* doing the thing you’re trying to do, you were first validated that it *is* hard? “I am having a really hard time getting this thing done.” “Yes, I can see that. This seems hard for you.” When I pause to do this with clients, I can see their shoulders visibly relax, knowing they won’t have to defend the realness of their struggle.

Then after acknowledging that the project/homework/housework *is* hard, what if you got to explore (with another person) what exactly is hard about it? I want you to read the question “What’s hard about it?” not in a judgmental way, but in a kind and curious way. Is it boring? Is it complicated? Is there missing information? Is there fear or even trauma involved? And then what if those reasons were taken seriously?

What if the person you were talking to could also explain the context for what’s going on in your brain that makes that particular environment/strategy hard and what environment/strategy makes it easier, aka giving you legitimate reasons why you do things in the way that you do them?

Then, together, what if you got to brainstorm creative solutions that take into account the hardness of the original strategy + ADHD context and found a way that actually helped you get that thing done without trying harder? I tell my clients, “I’m not going to ask you to try harder because I know you already have been trying as hard as you can. But I am going to ask you to try different.” Because trying different works. 

These hypothetical questions add up to what we do in coaching. To recap: Validating it’s hard + exploring what’s hard about it + adding ADHD context = finding solutions that actually work. 

Remember, the first part is always acknowledging/validating that doing [the thing] is hard for that person with ADHD. Parents, you can do it for your kids; teachers, you can do it for your students; we can recognize and do it for ourselves; and as coaches, we do it every day for our clients. 

If you are…

  • Frustrated by always trying harder and not getting anywhere
  • Drowning in a sea of “hacks” or “tips and tricks” that basically amount to “just do it!”
  • Never really finding out what reliably works for you

I would encourage you to try out ADHD coaching. Many of the coaches (including me!) have ADHD, so we get it. In my coaching group, Adulting with ADHD, the feedback I hear is that group members didn’t realize how much they needed validation of their experience/daily struggle and to know/feel that they are not alone. 

You are not alone. Your struggle is legitimate. And life can get better when we stop trying harder and start trying differently within the context and knowledge of ADHD. Coaching can help you get there. If you’re curious to learn more about individual or group coaching, schedule a free Zoom call with me or any of our coaches to start your 2023 journey of trying different. 

Riley Karbon PCAC

Riley Karbon, PCAC

ADHD Coach and Life Coach, Executive Skills Coach