When you live with inertia (stuckness) that often accompanies ADHD – then you know how it feels to want to do something, but being unable to get moving – right?
The problem is dopamine. Let me explain (don’t worry about the fancy scientific words, there won’t be a quiz).
So here’s the deal; dopamine is a neurotransmitter in your brain that’s responsible for a lot of important stuff, such as motivation, reward, and decision-making.
Now, when you’re dealing with ADHD, dopamine tends to get a bit out of whack. According to research by Volkow and colleagues (2011), people with ADHD tend to have fewer dopamine receptors in the striatum. And you know what that means? It means less motivation, less pleasure, and less ability to get stuff done.
But wait, there’s more! Cortese and colleagues (2012) found that ADHD is also linked to problems in the prefrontal-striatal circuitry, which can mess with your ability to regulate yourself, remember things, and get started on those big old goals of yours.
And, if you need even more proof, check out the study by Paloyelis et al. (2016), which showed that folks with ADHD tend to have less activity in the ventral striatum, which is the part of your brain that processes rewards. This can make it tough to get motivated when there’s no immediate payoff in sight.
So, bottom line is this: dopamine plays a big role in the inertia that comes with ADHD. But, awareness is the first step in making some positive changes.
An important thing to understand is that you can do something about this. All you need is a strategy. In fact, I’ve started creating custom workbooks for my 1 to 1 clients – which includes content like the information you’re reading now. Including a step-by-step worksheet to help with implementation. You can read more about this by clicking here.
Creating a sense of Urgency can increase your motivation
As you likely know, urgency can be a big-time motivator for people living with ADHD. I’m not making this up – there’s some research to back me up. According to a study by Barkley et al. (2002), people with ADHD tend to be more sensitive to punishment than they are to rewards. This means that the fear of negative consequences can be more motivating than the promise of positive ones.
Now, think about it – when there’s a sense of urgency, you’ve got a deadline or some important event looming, and you know the outcome if you don’t get your act together. That’s a punishment in itself, right? But it can also give you that “oh crap” moment that can push you toward action.
But hey, don’t just take my word for it. A study by Chronis-Tuscano et al. (2013) found that adding a contingency for response cost (that’s just a fancy way of saying, “you’ll lose some good stuff if you don’t keep up”) helped motivate kids with ADHD to stay on task.
So a sense of urgency can be a pesky thing, but it can also be an ally in your motivation arsenal.
Without further ado – here are some ways to create a sense of urgency and increase motivation for people with ADHD:
1. Use positive reinforcement: People with ADHD often respond well to positive feedback and rewards. Celebrate small achievements along the way and provide supportive feedback to keep up the momentum.
2. Break down tasks: Large tasks may seem overwhelming, leading to procrastination and inaction. Breaking down tasks into smaller, more manageable steps can help individuals with ADHD stay motivated and feel a sense of accomplishment as they complete each step.
3. Use visual aids and reminders: Visual aids such as flowcharts, diagrams, and checklists can help individuals with ADHD remember tasks and stay on track. Use them to create a clear plan and set goals, and place them where they can be easily seen as a reminder.
4. Set rigid deadlines: Establishing clear deadlines and working towards them can create a sense of urgency and focus. This helps individuals with ADHD stay motivated and work towards an achievable goal.
5. Prioritize tasks: Prioritizing tasks and focusing on the most important and time-sensitive ones can help individuals with ADHD feel more motivated and achieve their goals more efficiently.
6. Physical activity: Engaging in physical activity, such as a brisk walk or quick workout, can help individuals with ADHD release tension and increase focus, thus helping to increase motivation but it increases dopamine.
These strategies and tools can help create a sense of urgency and increase motivation for people with ADHD, but it’s important to remember that everyone with ADHD is unique, so it’s important to adapt these strategies to one’s specific needs and preferences.
That’s why its great to have a mentor like me working with you. I keep you accountable and support you every step of the way so you can actually implement strategies like this. It’s the difference between knowing what to do and actually doing it.
- Nigg, J. T., & Casey, B. J. (2005). An integrative theory of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder based on the cognitive and affective neurosciences. Development and psychopathology, 17(3), 785-806.
- National Resource Center on ADHD. “Motivating the Child with Attention Deficit Disorder.” Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 28 Aug. 2019, cdc.gov/ncbddd/adhd/teachers/motivating.html.
- Cortese, S., Kelly, C., Chabernaud, C., Proal, E., Di Martino, A., Milham, M. P., & Castellanos, F. X. (2012). Toward systems neuroscience of ADHD: a meta-analysis of 55 fMRI studies. American Journal of Psychiatry, 169(10), 1038-1055.
- Paloyelis, Y., Mehta, M. A., Kuntsi, J., & Asherson, P. (2016). Functional MRI in attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews, 68, 786-807.
- Volkow, N. D., Wang, G. J., Tomasi, D., & Kollins, S. H. (2011). ADHD, dopamine, and motivation. The Lancet Psychiatry, 4, 539-550.
- Barkley, R. A., Fischer, M., Smallish, L., & Fletcher, K. (2002). Young adult follow-up of hyperactive children: antisocial activities and drug use. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 43(05), 643–655. https://doi.org/10.1111/1469-7610.00054
- Chronis-Tuscano, A., Molina, B. S., Pelham, W. E., Applegate, B., Dahlke, A., Overmyer, M., … Kipp, H. (2013). Very Early Substance Use Among Conduct Problem Youth. Journal of Child and Family Studies, 22(1), 92–103. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10826-012-9580-z