Setting Yourself Up for Success as an Adult with ADHD

February 19, 2022

Setting Yourself Up for Success as an Adult with ADHD

You can cultivate the success skills and attributes shared by successful adults with ADHD by understanding what they are and how they can lead to increased success.  You can implement opportunities for developing these by learning about them, understanding them, and working to develop and hone them.  Here are some ways the success skills from the previous page can manifest in your life.

Control: The successful adults with ADHD in the research studies took control of their own lives and were proactive, rather than reactive.  You have to be the one in charge of your own life, the one who “designs” your own life.  You can’t just let things happen, or let others decide for you what your life is going to be like.  You have to step up!  You have to choose your path.  You have to take action.  You are your own best activist.

Desire to succeed: The people in the studies knew what they wanted and that they wanted to be successful.  They decided and defined what success was to them and they went after it.  They worked for it (in their best ways).  You have to want it.  You have to know what you want and raise the bar for yourself.  You need to tell yourself that you deserve a successful life.  Figure out what that means for you.  Devise your own definition of success and how you will go about achieving it.

Self-awareness: It all starts with self-awareness.  Everything we do, every change we make, every goal we set, etc., it all begins with self knowledge.  You have to take the time to get to know yourself – your likes, dislikes, wants, desires, strengths, weaknesses, and everything else.  You can’t really embark on life changes without knowing where you are, where you’re starting from, who you are, what you want, and so on.  Embark on an ongoing self-discovery journey.

Reframing the disability: It’s also helpful to really understand what ADHD is, what it is for you, how it affects and impacts you and your life.  You need to understand that ADHD is a part of you, but it’s not all of you.  Make your ADHD work for you.  Work with your ADHD, not against it.  Appreciate the good parts of it.  Everyone learns and thinks differently, and having ADHD can make people more creative, innovative, empathetic, determined, and enterprising.  Look for your special gifts and strengths and put them to use.

Self-acceptance: This is about giving yourself some slack, some credit, some positive regard.  Be kind to yourself, while also setting the bar high.  Accept who you are, love and respect who you are, while also working to improve who you are.  We’re all works in progress.  No one in this world is perfect and without things to improve – no one!

Creativity: People with ADHD tend to be creative, and many successful adults with ADHD have used this creativity to their advantage.  They have found a way to turn their creativity into something useful and from which they could launch successful careers, businesses, and more.  They have embraced, honed and utilized their ADHD to create successful lives that use their talents.  Find ways to leverage your creativity, to develop, hone and use it.  Use this creativity to build a successful life.  Look at the big picture.  Use your capability to look at things in novel ways, to innovate, and invent new things. 

Discovering, developing and using strengths:  Focusing on strengths is the key to a successful and satisfying life as an adult with ADHD.  Focusing on our weaknesses and trying to remediate them is discouraging and ineffective.  Yes, there are some things we have to do that aren’t in our wheelhouse, but there should also be lots of things we do that utilize our strengths. 

Passions and Interests: Along with talents and strengths, successful adults have found subjects about which they are passionate and/or very interested.  That allows them to dive deep into the topics, hyperfocus on them, and become experts on them.  By combining these special interests and passions with their strengths, many have created niches that are perfect for them.

Compensating Productively: As adults with ADHD, we’ve learned to compensate (and often overcompensate), which can be exhausting, but also helped us get to where we are today.  It’s enabled us to get by, get things done, and live (and maybe thrive) in a world that doesn’t always seem designed for us.  Compensating is a must, but there are positive and negative ways to do so.  Successful adults with ADHD have figured out positive and productive ways to compensate. 

Perseverance: Many adults with ADHD have developed the art of perseverance.  They keep going.  They don’t stop.  They learn from their mistakes and find new ways of doing things.  Other words that go along with this are persistence, grit, tenacity, and determination. 

Resilience: This is something adults with ADHD have developed over the years.  Resilience is what makes us carry on and still believe we can do better.  It’s that ability to “bounce back” from setbacks, to get back up again after falling, to learn from mistakes, and to shake it off.  Resilience allows us to grow, and continue to take chances.

Emotional Stability: This involves managing our emotions even in tense, stressful, and frustrating situations.  It’s how we keep our cool and carry on even when we’re disappointed, sad, angry, stressed out, exhausted, or overwhelmed.  It’s remaining calm in stressful situations, being realistic, not overreacting or being hypersensitive.  It involves coping strategies, stress management, anger management, self-control, perspective, and resilience.  We can increase our emotional stability through practice.  It’s important not to suppress our feelings, but rather to express them in healthy ways.  Some ways to do this include writing our emotions down, and then coming back to them later to assess, analyze, and manage them. 

Social Systems and Support and Relationships: Many successful adults with ADHD have become good at creating solid social systems and building relationships with supportive people – in their personal lives, professionally and more.  They might have a partner (such as a spouse or friends) with complimentary skills, strengths, and characteristics, or hire service providers to do tasks that aren’t in their skillset.  In their career or business, they might outsource things they’re not good at, or hire an assistant or employees to take on those things.  They also spend time with people who inspire or motivate them.  These adults have developed self-awareness, and a good understanding of themselves and their strengths and limitations.  This way, they can focus on the things they do well, rather than spending so much extra time trying to do the things they know are weaknesses.

Goodness of Fit and Niche-Picking: Successful adults with ADHD have figured out what their strengths are and how to use them to fit into and/or create environments in which they thrive, rather than choosing a situation that regularly exposes their weaknesses.  Goodness of Fit means the actual fit of a career or job and how well the person’s talents, strengths, and skills work with that job, career or environment.  Niche-picking refers to the adults’ seeking out or creating such opportunities.  Many of them have chosen career paths that involve creativity, innovation, and entrepreneurship. 

Get the Adult ADHD Successful Adult workbook and guide here

In upcoming posts, I will talk more in depth about each of these adult ADHD success traits.  Be sure to check back at and join my newsletter for updates.

You can also find helpful ADHD resources here.


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