Published on: November 30th, 2019
It’s a common belief that people with ADHD can’t pay attention.
To be fair, having ADHD doesn’t actually mean that you’re incapable of paying attention.
It’s just extremely difficult for those of us with ADHD to sustain our attention for long periods of time.
To control your attention span, you have to know:
- Where your attention is going
- Why you’re giving your attention to something in the first place
- What the reward is going to be
In other words, you have to control your attention units and make sure that you’re steering your attention in a direction that actually matters to you.
This article ultimately exposes why people with ADHD have so much trouble paying attention in modern day society.
This article also explains why it’s possible for people with ADHD to pay attention to things that matter.
Let’s get started…
First, you must know that attention is the currency of the modern era
Let’s imagine you’re at a shopping mall for a second.
You feel hungry, so you decide to check out the mall’s food court and grab a quick bite to eat.
When you enter a food court, what do you see first?
- You might see a few restaurant employees walking around the food court handing out samples of food
- Maybe your eyes bolt to a large sign that reads: Chicken Teriyaki & Rice Plate: $7
- Maybe you see a pizza stand advertising slices of BBQ chicken pizza for $3 (and there’s a huge line…which is a pretty good sign)
You run the calculation in your head.
“Only $3 for a slice of BBQ chicken pizza. Awesome deal. Sold.”
In each of these example scenarios restaurants had to compete for your attention and capture your attention before they could sell you food.
If a restaurant is not able to capture your attention first and foremost, they aren’t able to sell you food.
And they will quickly go out of business for good.
The world revolves around attention
Attention is the currency of the modern era.
By giving someone your attention, you’re giving that person access to your thoughts and decision-making process.
Your attention exposes you to all kinds of possibilities:
- And everything in-between…
You’re constantly being bombarded by people and businesses who demand your attention.
This is only going to happen more frequently in the future, as society becomes even more technologically advanced and hyperconnected.
The main issue here is that you only have a limited amount of attention units each day. And in all likelihood, everyone is fighting for your attention units except for you.
As someone with ADHD, you are the person who needs your attention most of all…
As someone with ADHD, you have to become vigilant about how you manage and allocate your attention units.
For example, here’s how most people on this planet start their day:
Let’s imagine you typically sleep very well at night, and start the day feeling invincible.
So you start the day with 100 attention units.
But then you check your smartphone and browse Facebook in bed for 20 minutes. That’s 5 attention units gone. You have 95 attention units remaining.
Next, you turn on the TV and watch the news for 30 minutes as you drink your coffee. That’s 5 more attention units gone. You have 90 attention units remaining.
Then you check your email inbox (big mistake). Which feels like you’re having your energy absolutely sucked out of you. 10 more attention units gone. You’re down to 80 attention units.
By the time you eat breakfast, get dressed, drive to work or school, mix and mingle with colleagues, reply to more emails and phone calls, you’ve lost at least 30% of your attention units.
This is assuming you slept really well the night before and you’re having a great day.
This is how most people operate every single day. At best.
If life is a “competitive sport” then most people start their day at a major disadvantage. Worst of all, they don’t even realize this is happening!
This is a big part of the reason why you are able to achieve your life’s vision even with ADHD.
Even when it feels like the odds are totally stacked against you.
Even if you aren’t always able to pay attention.
You can still win big in life with ADHD.
There is going to be competition out there.
But there isn’t much serious competition out there.
Maybe 1% of the general population is an actual threat to your future dreams and livelihood.
99% of the time, how you choose to manage your own mind and resources is the only obstacle getting in the way between your current place in life and the dream-like existence that you envision for your future.
This concept of managing your attention units is an extremely simplified way for you to think about how to manage your mind, attention, and energy with ADHD.
As someone with ADHD, each attention unit that you possess is essentially gold.
So don’t give away your attention units so easily!
- Social media
- Cable TV programming
All of these things take attention units from you, and sabotage you from pursuing your life’s vision.
When you give your attention units to social media, cable television, gossip or any other source of negative dopamine-inducing stimulus, you effectively “spend” those attention units, and won’t be able to spend those same attention units on something more productive, like achieving your life’s vision.
You have to eliminate anything that’s stealing your attention units from you without giving you anything back in return.
As a general rule, if a particular activity doesn’t help you achieve your life’s vision, you should consider cutting the activity out of your life.
This might sound kind of harsh…
But if you have a wonderful vision for your life, then you have an obligation to do whatever it takes to arrive at your final destination.
In summary, most people with ADHD have difficulty paying attention because they’re pursuing activities that aren’t very rewarding or meaningful.
If your ADHD brain perceives something as rewarding, then you will find a way to pay attention to that activity.
If something isn’t perceived as rewarding to you, then you won’t want anything to do with it.
Isn’t it funny how ADHD works?
Of course, attention is an extremely complex topic that can’t be simplified in a single article.
If you spend any amount of time browsing ADHD Boss, you’ll come across plenty of free content designed to help you live the best life imaginable with ADHD.
By the way, make sure to read the action steps below to start taking control of your attention units today…
- Write down where your attention units are currently being “spent” each day (TV, social media, email, work etc.)
- Strike the activities that are moving you further away from your life’s vision
- Circle the activities that are moving you closer to your life’s vision
- Over the next few weeks, make note of all the activities you’re spending your attention units on
- Keep refining your list until you know exactly which activities need to be eliminated from your life, and which activities are worthy of your attention