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Categories: 2013, February
by Craig Surman, MD, and Tim Bilkey, MD, with Karen Weintraub
OFTEN WHEN CLINICIANS DIAGNOSE ADHD, they look for obvious signs of impairment such as being dismissed from jobs or poor grades at school. But this focus on external consequences misses what it’s like to live with these characteristics every day. It fails to capture the most common burden of what we call FAST MINDS traits: the extra time and effort it takes to compensate—such as late hours at work making up for the constant distractions during the day, or last-minute cramming on projects that won’t get done without deadline pressure.
People with FAST MINDS may be living with the constant stress of being reactive rather than proactive—handling demands at the last minute, under stress, rather than being prepared and feeling confident. They may spend their time constantly double-checking themselves to make sure they haven’t made a mistake. This extra effort may get them by at work or school but leaves little time and energy for themselves or a social life. They may suffer demoralization, anxiety, or other distress because of the impact of FAST MINDS traits on their lives. Yet often, only those closest to them know how hard they work to succeed.
FAST MINDS explained
FAST MINDS is an acronym for the challenges of living with ADHD.
When reading the following traits, see if they reflect your experience (or those of someone you care about).
Know how you function best
We like to ask people to tell us about moments of success, when their interests and actions are aligned and they feel like they’re ﬁring on all cylinders. These are periods we think of as full engagement, or what some psychologists call ﬂow. For one individual, it was giving speeches in front of giant crowds; for another, it was chatting up clients.
Think about how you felt the last time you were doing something you truly love: You were in the moment, not criticizing yourself or worrying that you might be doing something wrong. You just did it. Hold that thought. We want you to brieﬂy note at least three of these moments: Maybe they happen when you’re running, or solving a tricky problem, or working with your hands, or teaching someone else what you know.
Then, dig into those experiences a bit to better understand what helped them work, what context got you ﬁring on all cylinders. Consider, for example, how the event or situation was different from ones that were less successful. Did the context play to your strengths? Your interests? Did it minimize challenges? Were other people involved?
How did you make it happen? Do this with a few experiences, and look for patterns. What do you notice about how your interests, strengths, or challenges inﬂuence where you are successful?
Principles for thriving with FAST MINDS
It helps to know the factors that help you engage—the more of your life that has the characteristics you identified above, the better. Medication for ADHD can also help eliminate challenges. But it also takes personalized strategies to thrive with FAST MINDS. Here are some common principles that underlie those strategies:
We have been honored to learn these principles from thousands of people that explored their own strengths and challenges with us—and thrived as they implement the strategies that are highest yield for them.
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