Finding Your Keystones: A Scientific Approach to ADHD and Personal Growth

Living with ADHD can often feel like navigating a fast-moving river, where the currents of thoughts, distractions, and impulses threaten to steer you off course. What if there was a simple way for you to stay on track? Finding your keystones—those core values and principles that define and ground you—can be like discovering a compass that helps guide you through the uncertain waters of life with purpose and clarity.

Values for a Company vs Values for a Person

Ever been on a website that has a clearly defined mission statement? There’s a reason for that. Mission statements articulate the essence of a company's ethos, guiding its direction and defining its standpoints. This clarity sets the tone, enriching interactions and fostering connections between employees and customers. Yet, the concept of articulating such foundational elements isn't often applied on a personal level in traditional education. Instead, many find themselves adrift, attempting to navigate their path by mirroring others, only to discover that what works for someone else doesn’t work for them, especially when you have ADHD. “Great” advice is often only great for people with neuro-typical minds, securely attached, and without adverse childhood experiences (trauma). This leads to cycles of vision boarding (or other kinds of visualization techniques) without results. 

The missing piece is having clearly defined values. For individuals with ADHD, understanding and applying this concept becomes even more crucial. The neurobiological differences between ADHD and neurotypical individuals mean that traditional methods of finding focus and direction might not always be effective. This is where keystones come into play. Keystones are the words you choose to define who you are and how you are going to show up in the world. Your keystones not only help to guide decision-making but also become an anchor to manage mental and emotional energies.

Priming the Mind for Success with Keystones

The emphasis on "clearly defined" values is not arbitrary. Words carry weight, and the meanings we attach to them often operate below our conscious awareness, influencing our perceptions and behaviors from the shadows of our subconscious. This programming influences our perceptions and behaviors in ways we may not fully realize.  To change them, you need to dive beneath the surface, examining the foundational thoughts associated with the language we use.

Consider the word "abundance," a common word people use in manifestation circles. When I hear someone use that word as an affirmation, if I have the time, I'll ask them to explain what abundance truly means to them. Most people don't know indicating a lack of personal connection to the word and not having a defined concept of abundance. 

An example that comes to mind is when a client who believed only selecting her keystones was sufficient. And you can probably guess what one of her words was... yep, "abundance." Of course since she was my client, we went deeper to uncover the mixed signals her subconscious associated with her chosen words. Upon deeper exploration, she realized her association with "abundance" equated to possessing lots of things. And the kicker was that she realized she had been manifesting her subconscious understanding of abundance… she was living in clutter.

The process of consciously defining your keystones does more than just clarify your values; it primes your mind by bringing subconscious thoughts to the surface and aligning them with your conscious objectives. This priming is critical, especially for individuals with ADHD, as it helps to navigate the often overwhelming stream of stimuli with intention and purpose. By thoroughly defining what each chosen word truly means, you lay the groundwork for a mindset that is prepared to recognize and pursue opportunities that align with your deepest values.

When you define "abundance" (or whatever words you choose) not just as an abstract concept but as a personal and meaningful keystone, you shift your perception and, consequently, your reality. This shift is not about mere positive thinking but about creating a powerful mental framework that supports your goals and reflects your true self.

How to focus with ADHD: Harnessing the Reticular Activating System (RAS)

At the core of why keystones are so effective for individuals with ADHD lies in the function of the Reticular Activating System (RAS). This network of neurons within the brain acts as a gatekeeper, filtering the vast array of stimuli we encounter and deciding what information gets attention based on what we consciously or subconsciously deem important. 

Imagine you're in a crowded coffee shop trying to read a book that you are eager to finish. Despite the surrounding noise—people talking, the sound of the espresso machine, background music—you find yourself able to concentrate on reading. This is the RAS at work, filtering out the extraneous noise and allowing you to focus on the task at hand. It selectively tunes into the pages of your book while tuning out other stimuli.

Tsd Coffee Shop Ras

By consciously defining keystones, you essentially program the RAS to be attuned to the things you want to be focused on. This simplifies decision-making as your brain is predisposed to notice and focus on the thoughts and actions you have already defined for your keystones, guiding your attention toward making decisions that move you forward rather than feeling stuck in overwhelm or analysis paralysis.

Moreover, the science behind staying focused, particularly how dopamine plays a role in motivation and attention, intertwines with the RAS's functionality. The RAS is one of the largest dopamine producing areas of the brain. If you suffer from ADHD symptoms frequently, dopamine production is at the heart of the problem. 

When your actions and environment reflect your keystones, it can enhance dopamine responses, reinforcing focus on tasks and goals aligned with your big vision for your future. This creates a helpful cycle, where your defined keystones not only guide your focus but also boost your motivation and satisfaction in pursuing them.

Reducing ADHD Symptoms Through Keystones

The influence of clearly defined keystones extends far beyond mere focus and filtering; it profoundly impacts our executive functions and emotional responses. Research within psychology and neuroscience illustrates that aligning daily life with one's core values can markedly improve emotional well-being, bolster cognitive flexibility, and enhance motivation—areas where individuals with ADHD often face significant hurdles.

Enhancing Emotional Regulation through Keystones

Living in harmony with one's keystones not only fosters a greater sense of self-integrity and coherence but also significantly enhances emotional regulation. This alignment stabilizes emotional states, enabling individuals to navigate through challenges with resilience and an adaptive stress response. Particularly for those with ADHD, where emotional dysregulation can significantly impact daily functioning, the integration of keystones into daily routines and habits provides some structure for managing emotions more effectively. This leads to reduced levels of stress, anxiety, and depression, while acting as a protective buffer against emotional outbursts.

Fostering Intrinsic Motivation through Keystones

Intrinsic motivation, the internal drive to do things, stands at the core of transforming how individuals with ADHD approach their goals and daily tasks. Imagine Sarah, a graphic designer with ADHD, who often found herself waiting to the last minute to complete her projects. The fear of disappointing her clients would spur her into action. When Sarah identified her keystones—creativity, connection, and growth—she experienced a profound shift. No longer was her motivation tethered to the fear of letting her clients down. Instead, Sarah found herself driven by the joy of creation, the fulfillment from meaningful collaborations, and the excitement of personal and professional development. This transition from extrinsic reliance to intrinsic motivation allowed Sarah to engage with her work authentically and passionately, transforming her challenges into opportunities for innovation and resilience.

By anchoring oneself in keystones, individuals like Sarah pivot towards a life where motivation comes from within, instead of seeking approval from outside themself leading to a grounded sense of self that creates forward movement. Setbacks become less about failure and more about growth, fostering a resilient and motivated mindset essential for navigating life's ebbs and flows with ADHD.

Improving Executive Function Through Keystones

Executive function, orchestrated largely by the prefrontal cortex, acts as the brain's command center for managing tasks like attention, memory, and impulse control. In individuals with ADHD, shifting to this kind of thinking is often difficult due to imbalances in the brain’s dopamine system, leading to difficulties in managing these executive tasks. Dopamine is crucial for prioritizing tasks, maintaining focus, and feeling motivated by achievements. Keystones, by providing a clear set of value-driven behaviors and thoughts, directly affect this neurochemical balance, offering a foundation upon which individuals can enhance their executive functioning.

When actions and long-term aspirations are aligned with personal keystones, it's more than goal-setting; it's engaging in a deliberate practice that reinforces dopamine production in a manner conducive to bolstering executive function. Take Alex, for example, a writer grappling with the common ADHD challenge of starting and finishing projects. By identifying "expression," "consistency," and "engagement" as his keystones, Alex approaches each writing session as an opportunity to transform tasks he usually procrastinated into meaningful expressions of himself. This alignment not only reduces stress and decision fatigue but also leverages the neuroplastic capabilities of the brain, particularly in the prefrontal cortex, to foster pathways that enhance focus, planning, and task initiation.

Nervous System Regulation Through Keystones

The journey of managing ADHD and enhancing executive function extends beyond the brain's cognitive processes to encompass the broader nervous system, including the critical role of the vagus nerve in regulating our stress responses. The vagus nerve serves as a key component of the parasympathetic nervous system—the body's counterbalance to the fight-or-flight responses of the sympathetic nervous system. Effective regulation of these systems is paramount in managing ADHD symptoms, as stress and anxiety can exacerbate challenges with focus, impulsivity, and emotional regulation.

Keystones (aka fostering a mindset aligned with personal values and aspirations) can significantly influence nervous system regulation. Engaging in behaviors and thoughts that reflect one's keystones activates the parasympathetic nervous system, encouraging states of calm and relaxation that counteract the hyperarousal often experienced by individuals with ADHD. This shift towards parasympathetic dominance reduces stress and anxiety levels, creating a physiological environment conducive to improved focus and emotional balance.

For instance, through the process of creating your keystones you identify thoughts and actions that align with your core beliefs. These behaviors (compassionate thoughts, mindful actions) can stimulate the vagus nerve, enhancing its tone and thereby bolstering the body's resilience to stress. This enhanced vagal tone supports a more balanced nervous system, enabling individuals with ADHD to navigate their daily lives with greater emotional equilibrium and reduced susceptibility to stress-induced distractions. 

Basically, what I’m saying is that by consciously thinking about things ahead of time, you’re more likely to do them even when you’re stressed because you have mentally rehearsed things. So instead of being stressed and repeating habits that you do when you’re stressed, such as productive procrastination, you don’t go into your stress response and instead activate the parasympathetic nervous system. The more time you spend less stressed and more relaxed, the less time you spend anxious or depressed.

Through the strategic definition and integration of keystones, individuals with ADHD can harness the power of their nervous system to support cognitive processes and emotional regulation, laying the groundwork for a life characterized by greater focus, fulfillment, and resilience.

Keystones help you thrive with ADHD

When you are living with ADHD symptoms, the journey towards personal growth and improved functionality hinges on our ability to understand and leverage our own neurobiology. Keystones are not just as a fun thing to do but a practical, neuroscience-backed tool for transformation. Through the process of identifying and integrating these keystones into our lives, we unlock a powerful mechanism for priming our minds, focusing our attention, regulating our nervous systems, and enhancing executive function.

The stories of individuals like Sarah and Alex illuminate the transformative potential of living in alignment with our keystones. They demonstrate that when we shift our motivation from external sources to the intrinsic values that define us, we not only find greater satisfaction and joy in the things we do but also cultivate ease in living despite the challenges.

This isn't merely about adopting a new set of habits or trying to fit into a neurotypical mold. It's about embracing our unique neurological landscape and using it to our advantage. By consciously defining our keystones and allowing them to guide our decisions and actions, we create a life that is not only manageable but truly fulfilling. We move from a state of constant reaction to one of intentional action, where each choice is a step towards realizing our true potential.

Remember, the path to managing ADHD effectively and achieving personal growth is not linear. It's a journey of exploration, understanding, and, most importantly, compassion for oneself. Your keystones are your compass on this journey, offering you direction when you feel lost and providing a sense of stability amidst the chaos.

You're not alone on this journey, and I’ve done the research, created a Keystones workbook and course and because I know how simple and effective it is, I give it away for free. 

By consciously choosing and living by your keystones, you're not just managing ADHD symptoms; you're setting the foundation for a life of purpose, fulfillment, and achievement.

Keystones Workbook Course

References:

Singh I, Filipe AM, Bard I, Bergey M, Baker L. Globalization and cognitive enhancement: emerging social and ethical challenges for ADHD clinicians. Curr Psychiatry Rep. 2013 Sep;15(9):385. doi: 10.1007/s11920-013-0385-0. PMID: 23933975.

NEUROSCIENTIFICALLY CHALLENGED - KNOW YOUR BRAIN: RETICULAR FORMATION

Martin, Andrew J., Emma C. Burns and Rebecca J. Collie. “ADHD, personal and interpersonal agency, and achievement: Exploring links from a social cognitive theory perspective.” Contemporary Educational Psychology 50 (2017): 13-22.

Shigemoto, Yuki, Blakely E. Low, Dominika Borowa and Christine Robitschek. “Function of Personal Growth Initiative on Posttraumatic Growth, Posttraumatic Stress, and Depression Over and Above Adaptive and Maladaptive Rumination.” Journal of clinical psychology 73 9 (2017): 1126-1145 .

Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), with its distinctive neural pathways, presents a divergent landscape that influences an individual's capacity to navigate attention, organization, and emotional regulation. While ADHD presents unique challenges, it also brings forth a set of cognitive strengths that can be harnessed for success, particularly in the realm of entrepreneurship and goal setting.

Brain Networks The Success Doula

Neurobiological Aspects of ADHD

Understanding the neurobiological aspects of ADHD is crucial for individuals to recognize that the executive dysfunction they experience is not a deficit or disorder, but rather a different way of thinking. ADHD is characterized by differences in brain structure and function, particularly in areas related to attention, executive function, and emotional regulation. 

Individuals with ADHD may experience variations in the levels of the neurotransmitter dopamine. In particular dopamine plays an essential role in transitioning from the Default Mode Network to the Central Executive Network and how individuals with ADHD process information and engage in goal-directed behavior.

The Default Mode Network (DMN) is a collection of interconnected brain regions that are active during resting states. It is largely responsible for self-reflection, introspection, and inner thought processes. The DMN is often referred to as the “Task Negative” network, as it is active whenever an individual is not engaged in some sort of goal-oriented task. This network is responsible for facilitating default tasks that do not require active thinking, such as daydreaming, mind-wandering, and memory retrieval. The DMN is believed to be the foundation of our sense of self and plays a crucial role in our daily behaviors by retrieving memories and taking actions based on the outcomes of those memories.

On the other hand, the Central Executive Network (CEN) is a set of brain regions that become active when an individual is engaged in goal-oriented behavior. It is the network responsible for executive functions, which are cognitive abilities that allow us to manage and organize our behavior. The CEN is often referred to as the “Task Positive” network, as it helps individuals complete their to-do lists and engage in logical information processing. This network is the foundation of how individuals interact with the external world and is crucial for sustaining attention and detecting stimuli in the environment.

When our senses detect something in our environment that we should pay attention to, the salient network (also known as the attention network) shifts the brain’s focus from self-referential thoughts towards external goals. The shift requires dopamine. 

If there is not enough dopamine in the brain, the ability to switch from the default mode network (DMN) to the Central Executive Network (CEN) is hindered if not impossible. To the outside observer, it might look like someone can’t stay focused or lacks motivation, but in reality, this represents a fundamental difference in how the ADHD brain manages and allocates attention and energy. This understanding is vital, not only in reducing the stigma associated with ADHD but also in tailoring approaches to productivity and goal achievement that align with this unique neurobiological makeup.

Goal Setting Brain Networks Dmn Cen Sn Brain Illustration The Success Doula

Research from West Virginia University has shed light on the cognitive advantages of individuals with ADHD in entrepreneurship, challenging traditional views of ADHD as a deficit and highlighting the unique cognitive strengths possessed by individuals with ADHD. Associate Professor Nancy McIntyre’s research emphasizes the development of “resource-induced coping heuristics,” where individuals with ADHD effectively manage and utilize vast amounts of information, potentially leading to entrepreneurial success [1] . 

Individuals with ADHD possess a unique blend of curiosity, creativity, and innovation, which are often key drivers of success. This creativity and innovation, combined with their predisposition to speedy cognitive processing and quick decisions, enable individuals with ADHD to continually scan their environments and swiftly shift their attention from old data to new. Moreover, their high degree of adaptability allows them to change course when necessary, challenge their own assumptions, and double-check their comprehension about a problem or task. These attributes collectively contribute to the entrepreneurial potential of individuals with ADHD, challenging traditional views and highlighting the cognitive advantages they possess in the realm of entrepreneurship and beyond[1].

Challenges in Goal Setting for Individuals with ADHD

Individuals with ADHD face unique challenges in setting and achieving goals, often due to the neurobiological underpinnings of their condition. These challenges can manifest in various ways, significantly impacting one's ability to pursue and attain personal and professional objectives.

Productive Procrastination 

Productive procrastination, a common experience for many individuals with ADHD, involves engaging in seemingly productive activities that are unrelated to their primary goals and intentions. Imagine needing to work on an important project for your business, such as writing the content for the sales page of a new program you’re launching. The overwhelming importance of the task can lead to intense feelings of stress and uncertainty. This stress may stem from a fear of failure, a lack of confidence in one’s abilities, a deep-seated concern about not meeting the expectations of being a successful entrepreneur, or a thousand other unhelpful thoughts. This internal pressure can create a sense of overwhelm and contribute to a subconscious avoidance of the task at hand.

Imagine you need to do an important project for your business, such as writing the content for the sales page of the new program you're launching (task positive. You are super excited about the new project. It is fully aligned with your keystones and the big vision you have for your business and life.

As you open ChatGPT to start working on your content, you remember that you wanted to learn how to use ChatGPT to create an image for your blog post about your new program. So you go to YouTube, do a few searches and 2 hours later you have a decent image and a half written blog post. 

While this activity may have some value, it ultimately serves as a distraction from the primary task at hand. Subsequently, you might find yourself drawn to other seemingly productive tasks, such as folding laundry or organizing your workspace, under the guise of creating a conducive environment for working on the sales page. This pattern of engaging in secondary tasks to avoid the primary one is productive procrastination.

It’s important to recognize that productive procrastination is not simply a matter of poor time management or lack of discipline. Instead, it is often a manifestation of the stress response cycle, particularly in individuals with ADHD. When faced with a task of overwhelming importance, the stress response can lead to a decrease in energy available to handle the situation effectively. This can result in a tendency to engage in activities that provide a sense of accomplishment or control, even if they are not directly related to the primary task.

Moreover, productive procrastination can be exacerbated by the unique cognitive profile of individuals with ADHD. The constant influx of information and the predisposition to rapid cognitive processing can contribute to a pattern of shifting attention from one task to another, leading to difficulty in maintaining focus on the primary goal. This cycle of avoidance and distraction can hinder progress on important tasks, despite engaging in seemingly productive activities.

Analysis Paralysis

Analysis paralysis is a common challenge experienced by individuals, particularly those with ADHD, where the individual becomes stuck in a state of overthinking and uncertainty, unable to decide on the best course of action. 

This often stems from a fear of making the wrong decision or from being overwhelmed by the possibilities. The “Freeze” stress response, or analysis paralysis, is an active state of stress where the person knows they are stressed and overwhelmed, yet they struggle to take action. The lack of dopamine to facilitate the transition from the default mode network to task-positive thinking further exacerbates this state, making it challenging to shift focus and engage in decisive action [2] [12] .

For example, imagine needing to make a crucial decision for your business, such as choosing the marketing strategy for your new program launch. As you sit down to evaluate the options, you find yourself overwhelmed by the multitude of possibilities and the fear of making the wrong choice. This state of heightened uncertainty and overthinking prevents you from taking decisive action, leaving you feeling stuck and unable to move forward.

In this state of analysis paralysis, the individual experiences a heightened level of self-referential thinking. Also known as self-referential cognition, refers to the process of focusing on oneself, one’s own experiences, emotions, and thoughts. It involves interpreting external events and information in relation to oneself, often leading to a heightened self-awareness and introspection. This type of thinking can be characterized by a strong focus on personal experiences, beliefs, and emotions, and it often involves evaluating oneself in comparison to others or to certain standards.

In the context of analysis paralysis and ADHD, self-referential thinking can contribute to overthinking and rumination, leading to a heightened level of self-criticism and self-doubt. Individuals experiencing analysis paralysis may find themselves caught in a cycle of self-referential thoughts, where they continuously evaluate their own abilities, decisions, and potential outcomes, often leading to a sense of being stuck and unable to move forward.

The unique cognitive profile of individuals with ADHD, characterized by rapid cognitive processing and difficulty in maintaining focus, can further exacerbate the challenges associated with shifting focus and engaging in decisive action. Recognizing the underlying factors contributing to analysis paralysis can empower individuals to develop tailored strategies for managing their cognitive responses and effectively addressing their primary goals and intentions.

Future Fantasizing aka Maladaptive Daydreaming

Future fantasizing, also known as maladaptive daydreaming, involves indulging in elaborate and vivid fantasies about an extraordinary life without considering the practical steps needed to achieve those aspirations. It often entails immersing oneself in a rich inner world, neglecting the current reality and responsibilities. For instance, it could involve spending hours searching on Pinterest or scrolling through Instagram, daydreaming about the future and all the things one will do once their goals are achieved.

Dreaming of fun, exciting things in the future feels good. This behavior can lead to a false sense of accomplishment and fulfillment without taking tangible steps toward actualizing those dreams. Moreover, future fantasizing can contribute to toxic positivity, where individuals focus solely on positive thoughts and dismiss or invalidate any negative emotions or challenges. This can create an unrealistic and unsustainable mindset, leading to a lack of motivation to address real-life tasks and responsibilities.

The role of dopamine is crucial in this context. Low levels of dopamine can keep individuals in a daydreaming state, preventing them from transitioning to task-positive actions and productive thinking. This can hinder their ability to focus on present tasks and engage in goal-oriented behavior, ultimately impacting their productivity and overall well-being.

When it comes to setting goals, having a habit of future fantasizing makes it difficult to set realistic goals particularly because the needed details to accomplish the goals are usually missing. In the world of productivity, people are often told to create SMART goals (Specific, measurable, actionable, realistic, and timely) but nearly every part of setting a SMART goal is unrealistic for someone with ADHD. 

However, having a clear understanding of your big vision is essential in creating goals. Luckily, with a little practice and direction, someone with ADHD will excel at seeing the possibilities in the future and can use intrinsic motivation to stay on track towards achieving their goals. 

Dopamine Chasing and Time Blindness

Often called “Shiny Object Syndrome”, dopamine chasing is a common challenge for people with ADHD. This condition is characterized by an insatiable pursuit of newness—be it a groundbreaking idea, a hobby, or a business venture—often at the expense of current commitments and responsibilities. But what exactly propels this relentless search for the novel, and how can those with ADHD navigate this terrain?

You probably guessed it by now… dopamine! Well, the lack of dopamine. 

For entrepreneurs and creatives with ADHD, this need to explore new things can be a double-edged sword. On one side, it fosters innovation, resilience, and the ability to think outside the box—traits invaluable in the entrepreneurial world. On the flip side, it can lead to a cycle of unfinished projects, missed deadlines, and a pervasive sense of dissatisfaction. The thrill of the new often overshadows the commitment required to see tasks through to completion.

The impact of low dopamine levels on time perception is significant, as the constant seeking of dopamine-inducing activities can lead to unrealistic time perception. Low dopamine levels disturb the connectivity within and between regions of the DMN, specifically the medial prefrontal cortex and the posterior cingulate cortex. This can result in a disconnect between the perception of time and the actual time required for goal-oriented behavior and task completion 

The interplay between dopamine-seeking activities, time perception, and goal setting in individuals with ADHD underscores the need to consider the impact of dopamine deficiency on time-related tasks and the formulation of realistic goals. 

Tailored Approach to Goal Setting for Individuals with ADHD

Navigating the landscape of ADHD requires a nuanced understanding of its challenges, but it also calls for innovative strategies that capitalize on the unique strengths of a neurodivergent mind. The key to successful goal setting lies not in fighting against ADHD but working with it. Here’s how:

Structured and Flexible: Creating a strict schedule with very little room for distractions or changes isn’t going to work. Not having enough structure and routines isn’t going to work either. Spending time to create and develop an ideal weekly schedule and a minimal schedule with a realistic timeline will help you stay on track.

Focus on Wins: Celebrating small victories provides little boosts of dopamine and keeps the momentum going while building confidence in one’s ability to achieve bigger objectives.

Leverage Hyperfocus: While ADHD can make it challenging to sustain attention, it also allows for periods of intense focus, known as hyperfocus. Identify areas of strong interest or passion and align your goals with these areas to take advantage of this unique state of concentration.

Create a Supportive Environment: Surround yourself with people who understand and support your journey. Whether it's a mentor, coach, or peer group, having accountability partners can provide encouragement and remind you of your goals when distractions arise.

Neuro Reprogramming: Our limiting beliefs and self-talk can sabotage our goals before we even start.  By becoming aware of disempowering stories and reframing them, we can rewire our brain's neural pathways in support of our goals.

Refine and Reflect: Regularly review your goals and the strategies you’ve employed to meet them. Reflecting on what works and what doesn’t allows for continuous refinement of your approach, making each attempt more effective than the last.

A New Perspective on Goal Setting with ADHD

By recognizing the strengths inherent in ADHD, such as creativity, resilience, and the ability to think outside the box, individuals can harness these qualities for success. The journey toward achieving one’s goals with ADHD is not about adhering to conventional methods but about finding and refining strategies that align with one’s unique cognitive style.

By shifting the narrative from one of deficit to one of difference, we open up a world of possibilities where the ADHD neurodivergent mind is not a barrier but a bridge to achieving remarkable goals.


Get the FREE Goal Setting with ADHD Checklist

Goal Setting with ADHD Checklist

References:

  1. Lanivich, S.E.Moore, C. and McIntyre, N. (2024), "The effects of neurodiversity on cognitive attributes of entrepreneurs", International Journal of Entrepreneurial Behavior & Research, Vol. ahead-of-print No. ahead-of-print. https://doi.org/10.1108/IJEBR-12-2022-1079
  2. Franklin, M. S., Mrazek, M. D., Anderson, C. L., Johnston, C., Smallwood, J., Kingstone, A., & Schooler, J. W. (2017). Tracking Distraction: The Relationship Between Mind-Wandering, Meta-Awareness, and ADHD Symptomatology. Journal of Attention Disorders, 21(6), 475-486. https://doi.org/10.1177/1087054714543494
  3. Weissenberger, Simon & Schönová, Kateřina & Büttiker, Pascal & Fazio, Raffaele & Sebalo Vnukova, Martina & Stefano, George & Ptacek, Radek. (2021). Time Perception is a Focal Symptom of Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder in Adults. Medical Science Monitor. 27. 10.12659/MSM.933766.
  4. Theodor-Katz, N., Somer, E., Hesseg, R. M., & Soffer-Dudek, N. (2022). Could immersive daydreaming underlie a deficit in attention? The prevalence and characteristics of maladaptive daydreaming in individuals with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 78, 2309–2328. https://doi.org/10.1002/jclp.23355
  5. Sônego, M., Meller, M., Massuti, R., Campani, F., Amaro, J., Barbosa, C., & Rohde, L. A.. (2021). Exploring the association between attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder and entrepreneurship. Brazilian Journal of Psychiatry, 43(2), 174–180. https://doi.org/10.1590/1516-4446-2020-0898

The Intersection of Trauma and Entrepreneurship

First things first, let's talk about what we mean when we say "trauma." Trauma is not just "Big T" stuff, like major accidents or devastating life events. It includes "Little t" experiences—those repetitive stressors or microtraumas that we may not even realize have an impact on us. Trauma gets stored not just in your brain, but in your entire nervous system.

What does this have to do with business? When you embark on the journey of entrepreneurship, you don't get to compartmentalize. If you have unresolved traumas, they are coming along for the ride, impacting your decisions, reactions, and even your business success. And let me tell you, they're especially persistent when you have ADHD.

The ADHD Factor

When you have ADHD, your neurobiology already presents unique challenges. Your brain is already working a bit differently, affecting motivation, focus, and resilience. Add some unresolved trauma into the mix, and it can become a complex web affecting your business efforts.

Why Not Just Any Coach Will Do

Alright, strategy is essential. No question there. But if you're not addressing the underlying traumas that influence your mindset, no amount of strategy is going to get you where you want to go. A trauma-informed coach integrates awareness of how your body and mind respond to stress and tailors the coaching to help you navigate through it.

How Trauma Responses Affect Your Business Decisions

Whether your most practiced stress response is fight, flight, freeze, or flop, each has its own implications in a business context. Let's say your default is "flight." You'll excel at planning but might struggle with follow-through. On the flip side, a "freeze" or "flop" response can result in procrastination —definitely not what you want when you're trying to grow a business.

The Holistic Approach to Entrepreneurship

You're not a machine programmed to execute tasks. You're a complex, beautiful being with a mind, body, and spirit. You deserve a coaching approach that honors all of these aspects. A trauma-informed coach can guide you through not just the strategy but also the emotional and physiological aspects of running a business, particularly if you have ADHD.

In Conclusion

If you find yourself struggling to get your business off the ground, consider this: It might not be a lack of strategy or even a mindset issue; it could be unresolved traumas that are throwing a wrench in the works. A trauma-informed coach can help you identify, process, and navigate these challenges, providing a fuller, more holistic approach to entrepreneurial success.

So, take a moment today to connect with your "big why." Revisit your business goals, align them with your soul's purpose, and if you find gaps or blocks, perhaps a trauma-informed approach is the missing piece of your puzzle.

Stay incredible, and until next time, keep owning your journey!

Are you struggling in your business? If so, don't worry - you're not alone. Many entrepreneurs and coaches fail within the first two years of business. In this blog post, we will discuss four of the most common reasons and how to fix them.


By taking the courageous first steps of wanting to create a business you immediately activate two of the most primal responses: fear & survival. It's your business so whether it succeeds or fails is all on you. That's a pretty hefty weight to carry but when you look around on social media it seems that everyone and their mother have started their own business. Surely if they could do it, you can too.

And you can. There is no reason why you can't create a successful business. The fact that you're reading this post already proves you're intelligent! 😉

If all that was required in creating a successful business was hope and a desire to make an impact on the world, there would be too many millionaires to count. Creating a successful business takes more than a good heart. It requires taking action and continuing when things get uncomfortable.

Maybe you're good at getting started but find yourself stuck and unsure what to do when things seem a little too far out of your control. Or maybe when funds start to get tight you research until you find the best program that is going to help you develop the strategy that is going to get you money fast. Or if you've been at this awhile, you may feel like giving up and trying something else. This is your stress response in action!

I'm sure you've heard of fight or flight but there are 5 stress responses and they all show up in business, ESPECIALLY when you're creating your own business. The stress response gets activated whenever there is uncertainty. And there's a whole lot of uncertainty during the first couple years of building a business.

The fear of failure (or success) creeps in and haunts many small business owners. They don't realize that the actions they are taking are based in fear and are basically trauma or stress responses. The 5 main reasons that I have seen over and over again that cause businesses (not just coaching businesses) to fail within the first 2 years are rooted in fear.

Reasons businesses fail

The reason businesses fail is because all functional areas of business are not being developed: operations, marketing/sales, management, finance, research & development. Why don't business owners work on all the areas? It all comes down to fear and survival responses.

Reason #1: Too much time spent on Research & Development

The most common reason I've seen that causes coaching businesses to fail is because they spend too much time on Research & Development (consuming information to help them be the best coaches they can) and not enough time in the other areas of business.

Don't get me wrong, it's essential to spend time in R & D but not at the cost of growing and developing the other areas of your business. If you find yourself spending hours researching and taking course after course on development (whether for your clients or your own development) but still unsure about which part of your business to focus on next, then you're probably stuck in a fear/stress loop.

A fear/stress loop is when you have some thought based on fear (fear of failure, fear of success, fear of disappointing people, etc.) and this stresses you out and your fear increases. One way to alleviate some of the stress felt and possibly reduce your fear is to enroll in a new course, sign up for a program, binge watch YouTube videos about a certain topic, or purchase several books (don't ask me how many books I've bought and haven't read in the past) . So you embark on a new journey of personal or professional development with the hopes that this time you'll learn the thing that is going to magically help you feel confident and certain in the path you've chosen.

You assure yourself that this is the best thing to do because logically you can justify anything. You feel like you're taking action in your business and that feels good. It feels less stressful. But unless that information you're collecting doesn't actually end with you taking action to work on the activities that actually bring in business (aka marketing & sales), then you're not growing your business.

Reason #2: Underpricing

When your prices are not set at the right level you will inevitably feel overworked and underpaid. That's just a fact.

Overtime, this creates resentment in your business but even much more importantly, you chip away at your self worth. When you are not paid what you are worth you can't help but feel your self worth plummet.

Feeling valued is essential to our well-being. When we don't feel valued, it impacts everything in our lives including our health and relationships. Feeling valued is a basic human need. When we feel valued we feel secure. We aren't subconsciously worrying about getting kicked out of the tribe or being abandoned.

When you are not making as much money as you would like or working a lot of hours for very little pay, you don't feel valuable. It's hard not to feel discouraged and start wondering if you can keep it up. You know that working your butt off for little money is not sustainable. Your relationships suffer. Your mental health suffers. And on top of that, it can be really tough to stay motivated to get things done when your business feels like it's a money pit.

Your worth and value come from within you. They come from your relationship with yourself. No matter what is happening in your business, you are still worthy and valuable. And it is so important to remember that!

Reason #3: Messaging

Marketing messages are the foundation of all businesses. You must be able to communicate the value of your offers in a way that makes your ideal clients eager to give you their money so you can help them.

Much like spending too much time in research and development, most people have a messaging problem because they have not truly connected to the value they provide. They are unsure of their worth or they unsure of the value of their offer or both.

Marketing requires a level of vulnerability when you are a coach selling your expertise as a service. As a coach, people aren't exchanging their money for a product, they are exchanging their time and money to work with you. And more often than not, you are selling the hope that you can help someone overcome the obstacles in their way. In order to show them that you can help them, you must connect emotionally. Emotions create the intent or interest to purchase, logic only provides the "permission" to go through with the purchase.

Fear of being seen and rejected keeps many, many coaches playing small. But when you learn how to connect with your ideal clients by sharing your journey, speaking to their pain, and showing them that you can help, they will enthusiastically hand over their money.

So before you go and change your offer (once again), take the time to get your messaging on point. There isn't a problem with your offer because what you offer is valuable (and often times priceless). If you don't have enough sales then there's a problem with your messaging.

Reason #4: "Icandoitbymyselfitis" syndrome

Yes, it's true when you start a business on your own, you're on your own. But that doesn't mean you have to do everything by yourself. I have noticed that people that are very proud of their independence feel like they must prove that they can do everything by themselves.

Maybe they were given attention and praised when they figured out how to do things on their own. Maybe their parents rewarded them for spending time alone. Honestly, there are billions of reasons that can cause someone to wear their independence like a badge of honor.

But in business, it's not a good strategy.

I guarantee that you have amazing talents and gifts. But I also guarantee that you have things you struggle with. We are not built to be amazing at all things at all times.

In the corporate world, people have teams around them where everyone has their specialty (or two or three) that they focus on. They come together, brainstorm, create action plans, and then the tasks get delegated to the appropriate people.

As a solo entrepreneur, you don't have an executive team to rely on. So you buckle down and force yourself to do the things that you aren't very good at (or maybe even downright hate). The only other two options are to give up (aka fail within the first 2 years of business) or hire someone else to help.

But if you are constantly needing to prove that you are capable of doing everything, if you feel like only you can do things right, then you're going to struggle. You will need help. We all do. Asking for help is not a sign of weakness.

Reason #5: Cashflow inconsistencies

In the beginning there isn't any money coming in so most entrepreneurs focus on getting their first sales (rightfully so). Ideally, they relatively quickly put out an offer and depending on their initial sphere of influence, they get sales.

But this is when the cashflow problems start.

They're scrambling to deliver what they offered and neglect the marketing and sales areas of business. Then their programs end and they're stuck with no money and no new prospects.

If they're able to, they're setting up systems as they go so they can attract and support the next inflow of clients easily.

But not everyone is great at setting up systems. Not everyone has a tech background. Some people find tech intimidating, especially people pleasers that worry about everything being done perfectly. And sometimes, tech mishaps can derail even the most seasoned developer (oh, the tears I've shed because things haven't worked right).

Luckily for me, I have a huge toolbox and years of experience to rely on to help me out of frustrating tech failures. Also, I can create nearly anything when it comes to an online business. Need a new course that comes with a physical product? Sure, not a problem. Want to create a sophisticated automation to track user experience while they go through the course to improve course completion and increase referral rates? Easy.

Systems are the key to consistent cashflow. Well, more specifically, systems tailored to the way you work are the key to consistent cashflow.

We all get energized and lit up by different activities. Some people love creating new content and throwing together courses and they don't mind creating all of the new marketing materials to get those courses sold. Others like to work 1:1 and would much rather spend their time perfecting an automated sales funnel that doesn't require them spending much time on social media. Or what about the people that love running challenges, drumming up excitement about their program, and then bringing in a group of people to take through their framework at the same time.

All of these are great ways to create a successful business but they all require different kinds of talents and energy levels. They also all require developing systems so that there is predictable income.

How to fix the 5 common reasons businesses fail

Fix #1: Get clear on your Big Vision

It is REALLY hard to go somewhere when you don't know where you're going. Sounds obvious, right? You could wander around aimlessly and by chance get to where you wanted but it's so much easier if you get a map.

You might get lucky and come across the perfect strategy that helps you develop your business in exactly the way you want but that's not very realistic. When you're on your way building a business, it's much more effective if you develop a plan of action that takes you in the direction of where you want to go.

Most coaching and business programs show you effective strategies that those business owners used to create THEIR business. But is their life as it is exactly aligned with your vision of your future? What about how they got there?

Defining the keystones of your business and getting clear on your vision for your life, will bring you motivation when things get rough. Being a business owner is one of the hardest things but it's also one of the most satisfying things... especially if you love personal development. You either grow and evolve or struggle and quit. There aren't many other options in the entrepreneurial game.

Fix #2: Develop Radical Self Partnership

Self Partnership is the term I use for the process I outlined in my book "Get Unstuckable" and I work with all of my clients to develop self partnership skills. Self partnership is about using proven techniques that are based in neuroscience to rewire your thought processes so that you experience less overwhelm and more self love and compassion.

Radical self partnership is when you fully commit to creating a life you love. After you're committed, you need to identify the emotions you're experiencing, figure out what you really want to feel instead, and create new neural pathways of thoughts that are no longer based in fear but come from your authentic true nature (this is easier to do once you have defined them along with your big vision).

When you are excited to get up and start your day, grounded in the body felt belief that you are impacting the world with your gifts, and have created a plan of action, then it's nearly impossible to be scared of failing. Failing is no longer viewed as failing. You will make mistakes but your mistakes become little mini experiments to learn and grow. When you release your fears around your business, you'll find yourself eager to tackle the projects that you've been putting off.

When using the Unstuckable Method, I've seen first hand how people that have avoided facing their finances, getting on social media, or recording video feel ready to handle it all. These changes don't always happen overnight but they happen as long as you show up and commit to creating a life you love.

The entire process creates a deep knowing and believing in your worth. You become so confident in your ability to help transform people's lives that you can't wait to create the marketing materials that will let people know about your offers. You can't wait to create the systems that will help you support your clients.

That is the power of self partnership and knowing your worth. As a business owner, it is the #1 thing you can do to prevent failure and truly succeed.

Fix #3: Focus on your messaging

You can have the best program or course in the world but if no one knows how it really is going to help them, no one is going to buy it.

Unlike other industries, defining coaching offers can be challenging. If you're a transformational coach (meaning you help people through a big transformation such as improving their relationship, get healthy, build a business, etc) like most of my clients then unless you've been in business awhile, you probably don't have an easily defined offer.

Everyone knows they should take better care of themselves, focus on improving their relationships, and take action in their business. But why should they work with you specifically?

If you can't tell someone in less than 2 minutes exactly how you help them, you have a messaging problem.

You need to be clear on what you're offering, why people should buy it, and how their life will be better. If your messaging isn't clear, people will be confused about what you do and why they should work with you.

If you aren't bringing in cold leads and converting them into sales then you have a messaging problem. If you aren't focusing on nailing down your marketing messages then you're business is going to struggle until you do.

When you're first starting out, it can be difficult to know exactly what you should offer your clients. You might feel like you need to offer everything under the sun in order to attract people's attention. But that's not the case at all! It's much more effective to focus on a couple of things and do them really well than to try to be all things to all people.

When you're clear on your messaging, it becomes much easier to focus on what's important and attract the right clients who are a good fit for what you offer.

Fix #4: Get a team

Creating a team comes with it's own set of challenges and if you don't have experience hiring qualified people and managing other people, creating a support staff can be a very daunting task. Which is why so many solo entrepreneurs feel like they need to do everything themselves.

But, if you want to scale your business and create more time for the things you love to do, then creating a team is a must.

When you have a team in place, you can delegate tasks that someone else can do just as well or better than you. This frees up your time so that you can focus on the things that only you can do or that help bring in the most money and that will move your business forward.

It will require that you develop some project management skills, especially if you're hiring a Virtual Assistant (VA) rather than an agency. If you're lucky, you'll find someone that is great at their job but most of the time you're going to find people that are getting started and still figuring things out. So expect a bit of trial and error and frustration until you find the right fit.

I also want to mention that I have yet to meet a successful coach that hasn't hired other coaches. Don't get me wrong, not all coaches are great but it's a whole heck of a lot easier to build a business when you have someone to talk to. Specifically someone that can help you achieve your goals. Even if all you get is a sounding board to bounce ideas off of, having someone around to get those thoughts out of your head and into action is invaluable.

Fix #5: Create Systems

Personally I don't believe that everyone should have to set up their tech and systems. While learning new tech, developing systems, and creating automations comes easily to me, there are other things that I struggle with. I've also been working on my tech skills for over 20 years so I would hope it's easy for me!

I choose to spend time in my zone of genius or excellence because that's what keeps me excited to show up for my business, for my clients, and for myself. If I spend too much time doing things that are in my zone of competence or incompetence I get frustrated easily. Resentment towards my business and clients builds up. And even worse, I snap at my kids and argue with my friends and family (and I have been known to snap at a stranger or two when I'm completely stressed out). When I get help I'm a much more grounded, productive entrepreneur, and definitely a better mom and overall person.

If setting up systems is not easy for you or you dread doing it, it doesn't really mean anything other than that you haven't developed the skills or because troubleshooting technology doesn't feel fun to you. Yes, you can develop the skills but if you really do not like doing it, why would you want to spend so much of your precious time doing it? To save money? At what cost? Less time with your loved ones. Less time in nature. Less time doing the things that you know fuel your soul.

Don't want to wake up 2 years from now still struggling and regretting not getting help sooner.

What should you focus on?

I wish there was a cut and dry answer but there isn't. If you have yet to get clear on your big vision and your values start there. Then take a realistic look at what you're good at and what you aren't and then figure out which area of business you can tackle first (hint: you probably don't need to focus on more research and development, you probably need to focus on marketing).

If you're interested in working with a trauma-informed coach that will meet with you weekly to help you strategize, work through the roadblocks that come up, and develop and create your systems (website, sales funnels, and automations) for you so that you can focus on supporting your clients and doing the activities that bring in business, then I'm inviting you to apply to work with me in my "Utterly Unstuckable" program.

Do you ever find yourself stuck in a negative thought spiral? It can be tough to break out of that mindset, especially if it's been going on for a while. One way to start changing the way you think is by using affirmations. Affirmations are statements that you either repeat to yourself or write. They help to reprogram your brain and change the way you think about yourself and your life. In this blog post, we will discuss how to use affirmations to change the way you think!

Why Affirmations Don't Work

Before we begin I want to say that affirmations are a great tool if used correctly. However, most law of attraction methods are flawed in the way that they recommend using affirmations.

Affirmations only work when you your subconscious believes the affirmation. If your affirmation is not aligned with your unconscious or subconscious mind there is no way that you can make the affirmation work for yourself. When you read or say an affirmation that you do not believe your body responds based off the memories that are stored in your body.

No matter how much your conscious mind wants to believe what you are saying if your body is giving the signal to your subconscious mind then your subconscious will not believe it and will not take action.

All thoughts have two components: emotions and feelings. Emotions are the physical state of your body. Feelings are how we interpret the physical state (emotions). When your emotional state does not match your feelings, the brain knows that there is a disconnect. This disconnect is perceived as uncertainty and your brain is designed to reduce uncertainty.

That means you need to align your emotions and your feelings in order for affirmations to work. Affirmations work when paired with embodiment and neuro reprogramming

5 Steps to Optimize Affirmations

1. Pick affirmations that you resonate with.

If an affirmation sounds like bullshit or wishful thinking, it doesn't do you any good to write or say it. Pick affirmations that are aligned with your values. Don't worry about whether it is stated positively or not. Your mind is smart enough to understand what you are intending.

For example, it is perfectly fine to say "I will not let my clients take advantage of my time" instead of "I will create healthy boundaries with my clients." If you are not very good at creating and upholding boundaries, then repeating an affirmation about boundaries isn't going to work. On the other hand, your mind can get behind the notion of not letting your clients take advantage of your time because you know how valuable your time is.

2. Identify your emotions and feelings about the affirmation.

It's time to do a little embodiment practice. Take a breath (whatever kind is your favorite) then say the affirmation aloud. Notice how your body feels. Do you feel any tightness anywhere or are you relaxed?

If you feel tightness or anxiousness, you can either do some journaling on why you feel this way (which you should do at some point of time) or you should pick another affirmation. Maybe you need to rewrite it so it resonates more deeply with you.

When you breath and notice a relaxed or energized (confident, secure) sensation then you know that the affirmation is aligned with your emotional state attached to the meaning of that affirmation.

3. Think about what thoughts you would need to think if you really believed the affirmation.

The whole point of using affirmations to change the way you think is to create new thoughts. If you don't take the time to think differently, you're going to think the same as you always have. You will take the same actions and fall into the same habits that you are trying to break.

Take a few moments to think about what kinds of thoughts someone would think if they believed the affirmation. For example, let's say your affirmation is "I attract clients easily." You might need to think thoughts such as "There are plenty of people ready to learn how I help them change their lives," or "people are talking about how amazing my program is."

4. What thoughts would you have to give up if you believed the affirmation?

Spend a few moments to identify which thoughts you often have that go against the affirmation. This is an important step because once you become aware of the thoughts that you think that are not aligned with the life you are trying to create, then you will notice them when you have those thoughts.

When you do think one of these thoughts (and you will because it takes time to change your thought patterns) you'll be able to replace it with the new thoughts. You might not catch yourself in the moment, but whenever you do notice the thoughts you want to give up, acknowledge the thought, be kind to yourself, then think about your new thoughts.

5. Think about what actions you would take if you truly believed the affirmation.

Now that you know what thoughts you want to have and which thoughts you don't want to have, it's time to think about the sort of actions that someone would take that believed the affirmation.

How would things be different? What kinds of boundaries are needed? What would you say "yes" to? What would you say "no" to?

Purposeful Affirmations are powerful tools that can change the way you think. They work because they force you to confront your beliefs and root out any unhealthy thoughts or behaviors. The best part is, affirmation statements don't have to be positive in nature- it's what you feel about them personally that matters most. By using affirmations to create new thought patterns, eventually those old negative thoughts will disappear all together!


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Purposeful Affirmations
Purposeful-Affirmations

The human mind is an incredibly complex and powerful thing. Our minds are not just our brains, but rather a combination of many different things that work together to create something much more than the sum of its parts. The three types of minds: conscious, subconscious, and unconscious each play a part in our functioning lives.

Consciousness defined simply is awareness. When you are able to be mindful and recognize that you are thinking about something or someone that is our conscious mind. The conscious mind is incredibly important, as it is our ability to be aware of our thoughts and feelings that allows us to interact with the world in a meaningful way.

Most people use their conscious mind when they are thinking about their future, creating a vision board, or planning out their goals because the conscious mind is active when we are being creative. It is the part of our mind that holds our dreams and desires.

We are not conscious all the time but the unconscious mind is recording every moment of every day. This allows us to function in life. It's the reason we're able to do complicated things that require multiple simultaneous processes like drive a car or type.

The unconscious mind is always taking in information from the environment. For example, when you are asleep, your unconscious mind is still aware of everything that is happening. It allows you to sleep on a bed without falling off yet wake up when there is an emergency.

But unlike the conscious mind, all of the moments that are recorded through the unconscious mind are not accessible through your memories. Instead the subconscious mind acts as the bridge between consciousness and unconsciousness.

The subconscious is not always active but when it does become activated, it will make its presence known by entering your thoughts like an intrusive voice or idea without warning (usually). It is the driver of the reactive thoughts we have to events. All the negative talk and self-doubt comes from your subconscious.

It is interpreting the memories of past events of your life (even the ones stored in the unconscious mind) and assigning meaning to everything. This meaning making aspect of the subconscious is how we develop feelings about things. Your subconscious reactions and thoughts are what keep you from taking the action you consciously want to take. Your subconscious is the part that of your mind that reinforces your self doubts and reduce self confidence. To create changes in your life, you must engage in activities that help you alter the subconscious brain patterns.

Mindfulness is the key to switch from reactive subconscious thinking into creative conscious thinking. Meditation is not the only way to achieve mindfulness. Although it is a very useful tool, it is just one tool among many that help you learn how to be mindful.

The Unstuckable Method that I write about in my book "Get Unstuckable" and guide people through in the Unstuckable Membership program is another method that teaches you to be mindful. If you do the Unstuckable Method each week, you learn how to gain control of your subconscious thoughts in a simple yet effective method. While it was designed to help you be productive, it was based on neuroscience principles that work at rewiring your subconscious.

By becoming more mindful, we can access our conscious mind so that we can create a life by design instead of depending on our subconscious to drive our actions.

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