Last updated: November 27th, 2019
Shiny object syndrome is something that everyone with ADHD must confront at some point.
Because, people with ADHD often lack self-control.
So, it’s extremely easy for people with ADHD to act impulsively, make “questionable” life decisions, and get caught up in short-term thinking.
I’ve personally made countless bad decisions in my life. And I’m sure you have too…
Let’s just say that most people with ADHD love shiny objects.
Anything that’s new, exciting, or risqué attracts our attention.
So, this article is designed to help you make better decisions pertaining to how you use your time, money, and energy.
In this article, I will explain why you should prioritize investing in things like:
- Your health
- Your life experiences
- Your self-growth
But, I’ll also cover the things that you desperately need to avoid, like:
- Status symbols
- Various other shiny objects
This is an important article that could change how you live your life.
FIRST: You must know why your executive function is “different” when you have ADHD
Your executive function is responsible for your ability to exercise self-control.
And, according to Dr. Russell Barkley, people with ADHD have an impaired executive function.
So, it’s absolutely crucial for you to understand that your executive function is different.
If you have ADHD, then you might not be fully aware of the reasons why you act so impulsively, and without much care for long-term consequences.
This is why people with ADHD need to be extra cautious about investing time, money, and energy into different outlets.
You must do everything that you can to make sure that you’re using your resources wisely.
But, if you can commit to prioritizing your personal health and well-being above all else, then it’s REALLY hard to go wrong.
You have to forget about shiny objects, and start focusing on your personal health.
Why you must always prioritize investing in your health (and not shiny objects)
Your health is the most important asset that you will ever own.
Without your health, you don’t have the ability to work, play, or function in society.
So, most of the decisions that you make in life should revolve around improving your health.
> Everything that you eat is a health-related decision
> Everything that you drink is a health-related decision
> Everything that you buy is a health-related decision
> The type of people who you surround yourself with is a health-related decision
(Your friends make you feel good, right? Or do they dump their personal problems and complaints on you?)
See how most of the decisions that you make either help or hurt your health?
Whenever you’re thinking about pursuing a bright, shiny object – try to think about whether your investment will help or hurt your mental, physical, and emotional health.
Here are some examples of “healthy investments” that will generally improve your mental, physical, and emotional well-being:
> Joining a group fitness class
> Eating good fruits and vegetables for ADHD
> Having an awesome social circle of friends who you can always reach out to (requires some effort to build up)
> Staying physically active (walking, running, biking, whatever)
> Shopping at a good grocery store (sounds silly, but having access to quality food is super important)
Most of the decisions that I make revolve around living a healthier lifestyle. I dedicate the vast majority of my resources towards living a healthier life. I do this because good health will always give you the greatest Return on Investment (ROI) in life.
If you spend a good chunk of your resources on living a healthier life, then you’re probably on a great path in life as well.
But, the problem is that there are so many tempting, negative influences that people with ADHD can easily fall victim to. This is where shiny object syndrome comes into play. Over time, these negative influences or shiny objects can wreak havoc on your health and well-being.
Here are some examples of shiny objects that can rob your health, if you aren’t careful:
- Drinking too much alcohol (vodka sodas are always tempting)
- Fast food (this is a major “shiny object” located on every major street corner in America)
- Drugs (cannabis probably won’t hurt you, but it won’t exactly help your ADHD either)
Obviously, there’s nothing wrong with occasionally drinking some alcohol, eating fast food, or eating a weed brownie (if you live in a cannabis-friendly state)!
But, whenever you make a purchase, invest your time and energy in a person, or consider any other significant life decision – you have to think about the impact that your “investment” will have on your health.
Your health is always your #1 priority. Never forget this. Because without your health, you don’t have much else in life.
Why you must always invest in your life experiences (and not shiny objects)
Your life experiences are the second most important “investment opportunity” that you will ever have (after your health).
Here’s a good example why. Let me ask you a question:
What do people who have had near-death experiences value most in life?
Sorry for bringing up this depressing question. But, this is a super important question for you to think about right now.
(I promise this is going to help you).
Because, I’ve heard from multiple people who have had near-death experiences.
And, all of these people who have had near-death experiences share similar stories about the things they thought about before they almost died.
These people who’ve had near-death experiences all recall having “near-death flashbacks” about:
- The amazing times they shared with friends and family
- The people they loved
- How everything else was just one big lie (the silly arguments, the stupid fights, and all of the pointless complaining)
The recurring theme here is that it’s the people and shared experiences that matter most in life.
The people who you love, and the good times that you share with people, are the essence of your life.
So, let’s just refer to these things as your life experiences.
Once you realize that your life experiences are more important than just about anything else in your life, you’ll hopefully start to prioritize:
> Taking more vacations
> Watching more comedy
> Laughing more often
> Not taking life so seriously all the time
> Not taking ADHD so seriously all the time
> Loving people
> Attending more events (get-togethers, house parties, road trips, etc.)
Of course, investing in life experiences doesn’t mean that you should quit your job right this second, and go wild.
But, you should make it a point to start checking items off your bucket list this month rather than later.
It’s honestly impossible to suffer from shiny object syndrome when you invest your time, money, and energy in life experiences.
Because, when you invest in life experiences, you create life-changing memories that you can talk about with friends and family for years to come. You will very rarely regret any of the life experiences that you embark on.
If you happen to encounter some “bad” life experiences (they will happen) then you’ll simply learn from those bad life experiences and move on.
And to be perfectly honest, even the bad life experiences make for some amazing stories to tell further down the road. So, you really have nothing to lose here. And everything to gain.
Write down all of your ideas, but focus on just one or two ideas at a time
There was a time when I thought that I could work on multiple websites, take on different writing jobs for clients, travel the world, launch different businesses, and get extremely fit all at the same time.
Unfortunately, the reality is that you’ll spread yourself extremely thin if you try to pursue too many things at the same time. Trying to do too many things at once is shiny object syndrome at its absolute core.
Ever since confronting my own shiny object syndrome, I’ve made it my life mission to ensure that people with ADHD are able to gain every single advantage that’s available to them.
Want to know what the best “ADHD advantage” truly is?
Focusing on just one or two ideas at a time.
If you can focus on just one or two ideas at a time, then you’ll have the mental capacity to actually make some noticeable improvements in your life.
Better yet, if you can enter a state of hyperfocus while focusing on just one idea at a time, that’s an even more powerful advantage to have.
Hyperfocus is your greatest “unfair advantage” that comes with having ADHD. But, hyperfocus really only works when you can limit your distractions, and focus on just one or two important ideas for your life.
So, make sure to write down ALL of your ideas (because you might pursue your ideas at a later date) – and focus on one or two important ideas at a time.
And, what might these “important ideas” be? Well, you might choose to focus on:
- Getting in amazing shape
- Getting an awesome job
- Starting a new “side business” (this is really fun)
- Setting aside a full year to travel the world
- Mastering a new hobby
You should focus on ONE or TWO of these ideas at a time.
If you try to focus on three or more ideas at the same time, there are still ways to make life work.
But, you will have a much more difficult time in comparison to the person who pursues just one or two ideas.
Momentum is everything when you have ADHD.
You want to keep your momentum going as long as humanly possible. Pursuing too many ideas at the same time will make it extremely difficult for you to to build momentum.
Don’t be a slave to status symbols (the ultimate shiny object)
I’d like to preface this section by making it clear that there’s nothing wrong with owning status symbols if you genuinely enjoy the item for what it is.
> If you enjoy the quality and appearance of a status symbol because you personally like it, that’s definitely OK (like driving a BMW)
> If you purchase a status symbol because you think it will make you look better in the eyes of other people, this may not be a good thing (like being addicted to designer clothing)
I realize this is a controversial viewpoint.
But, I promise you that I’m just trying to save you loads of time, money, and frustration here.
Purchasing status symbols for the wrong reasons is frustrating, because I’ve been down this road before.
In college, I wore all of the Southern Tide, Southern Proper, and Vineyard Vines clothing that I could buy. But, the problem was that I wasn’t wearing that clothing for myself. I was wearing that kind of brand name clothing for other people.
I wasn’t being true to myself.
(If you attended a “Southern” college in the USA, then you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about).
Now, I wear whatever clothing I like. And life is so much better.
This essentially comes down to just doing what you want without taking into consideration what other people will think of you.
Yes, I know this is extremely hard to do. Humans are social animals, and we’re wired to constantly think about what the rest of the “tribe” will think of us.
You just have to try your best to resist this biological urge.
Status symbols are literally designed to hijack your brain’s reward system. So, you will always think that you need status symbols.
But you really don’t need them. I promise you.
Why you should invest in personal growth (it’s a healthy addiction)
Growth is happiness. Plain and simple.
If you’re investing in your skills, relationships, personality, or future success – then you’re making true progress in life, and you will feel happy about this.
Here are some examples of investing in your personal growth:
- Moving to a new city that challenges you to adapt to a different culture
- Connecting with new people
- Attending a seminar that helps you learn about new opportunities in your industry
- Writing a book, learning graphic design, or pursuing any other creative talent
- Taking dance lessons
- Taking an improv class
- Nurturing your spirituality (if this is something you’re interested in – it’s optional)
But, believe it or not, investing in personal growth is actually pretty rare. This is because investing in personal growth requires a decent chunk of time, money, and energy. Unfortunately, It’s much easier for people to avoid personal growth.
Here are some examples of activities that are usually devoid of personal growth:
- Gossiping about people
- Complaining about small things that are easily fixable
- Worrying about things that are out of your control
The main point here is that you need to be conscious of whether you’re investing your time, money and energy into growth or stagnation.
If you’re mostly on a path of personal growth, then you’re probably doing awesome things in life, and you don’t need to worry.
But, if you’re stagnating, then it might be time for you to revisit your life’s vision, and make sure that you’re doing everything that you can to live a growth-oriented lifestyle.
Think long-term (and fight against your executive function)
Pursuing just one wrong shiny object can actually lead you down a terrible path, and leave a lasting negative impact on your life.
For example, if someone offers you a job that doesn’t feel quite right, and you impulsively accept the position regardless, this can cause you to spend years dealing with negative emotions and unnecessary drama. Worst of all, you would waste years of your life (in this hypothetical situation).
These types of impulsive decisions happen all the time to people with ADHD.
If you accidentally waste your money purchasing a silly shiny object, then it’s not such a big deal.
You can always return your items for a refund. Or, you can always earn more money in the future, to replace the amount of money that you lost.
But, wasted time is the worst feeling of all, because you won’t be able to get your time back.
So, even with an impaired executive function, people with ADHD absolutely need to find strategies to think long-term about the decisions that we make.
These strategies might include:
- Using a decision matrix
- Waiting 48 to 72 hours before acting on significant life decisions (remove emotions from the decision-making process)
- Having trustworthy people in your life who you can speak to about major purchases, opportunities, and other significant life decisions
There are no easy solutions here, because many people with ADHD will always have a difficult time thinking about long-term consequences.
But, with some persistence, you will get better at investing in your health, life experiences, and self-growth – while also avoiding unnecessary status symbols, wasted time, and misplaced energy.
If you have ADHD, then your brain is probably wired to act impulsively, and without much thought for long-term consequences.
While this unique trait can absolutely be used as an advantage in certain cases, it’s also a double-edged sword that can cause you to waste your time, money, and energy on anything that seems attractive in the moment.
Shiny object syndrome is real. And it’s tough for people with ADHD to shake off.
But, if you can spend most of your time and energy investing in your:
- Life experiences
- Personal growth
- Anything that genuinely benefits your life in the long-term
Then you will go extremely far in life. Even with ADHD. And a brain that follows every shiny object in its path.