This is a simple concept: be conscious of what you are doing and what is going on around you. It’s one of those simple things that are not always easy! Part of my ADD is that I can have hyper-focused tunnel vision; I’m so intent on what I’m doing that I don’t notice that something else really needs my attention. When my kids were little, my husband used to say to them often, “You have to get your mother’s attention, first.” At least I’ve been told that’s what he said; I wasn’t listening!
When I got into recovery, I needed to look closely at my behavior that hurt other people and identify what “character defect” it represented. I don’t think I’ve ever intentionally hurt people (I’m not a vengeful sort), but when I don’t pay attention to what others are doing, or think about what they’re thinking, I can unintentional hurt a lot of feelings. Like a bull-dozer, I’ve been known to flatten people who are in the way, without even being aware of it.
So, what do I need to pay attention to?
- Where my body is–
Am I about to trip over a curb because I’m reading my e-mail while walking?
Is my shirt sleeve currently soaking up gravy while I’m talking to my friend?
If I make that grand gesture, will I knock over a lamp?
- How I look or sound to others–
Am I talking too loudly for the room, just because I’m excited?
Am I using language that’s appropriate for my audience?
Am I thinking judgmental thoughts that inevitably show on my face?
- How I’m feeling–
Am I sick or in pain? If so, can I change something?
Am I experiencing uncomfortable thoughts? If so, can I deal with them instead of stuffing them down?
- What’s going on around me–
Am I interrupting someone’s story or line of thought?
Is someone trying to get my attention?
Do I need to stop what I’m doing to address something more important?
I’ve found that I can learn how to pay attention by practicing it for a few minutes, regularly. I just pay attention to my surroundings, letting go of any thoughts that try to take me out of that context. If I find myself writing a shopping list, I tell myself, “I was thinking about shopping. Now, what’s going on around me?” And if I start making movies about the future, or beating up myself or others for the past, I again bring myself back to the present. Just a few minutes of this and I’ve exercised my attention muscle.
As I’ve gotten better at living consciously, I find that the good times are much more fun and the hard times are easier to face and deal with.
As an adult with ADD, trust me on this: it is possible to learn to pay attention. Really!