Tapping into What Makes You Tick

Guess what’s one of the things that most frustrates someone without ADHD about their loved one with it? The fact that something deemed as important is not usually enough to get them into action. I’m not talking about important to only one of the people but to both.

That’s right. Just because the bills HAVE to get paid doesn’t mean they will. And even though they know it’s important to clean out the cat box, in no way does that ensure it’ll ever get done, forget about every day.

For the non-ADHD person, their regulatory system subconsciously handles a lot of decision making for them automatically. They don’t have to manually set the wheels in motion like someone with ADHD does. Working to override the ADHD system’s natural instinct, to just notice what is interesting to them, takes a lot of mental effort. A non-ADHD person also have a good supply of dopamine that helps the reward center’s operation, which does consider concepts like importance.

The person with ADHD does not have importance influencing them. They can intellectually know that the house should be cleaned, that mail and such should be organized, dishes washed, shelves dusted, floors mopped and vacuumed, but none of that is interesting and because it is not interesting to them their brain doesn’t identify it as something to engage in.

They know it’s important but that knowledge doesn’t ignite them. In this, we can begin to understand how shame develops at a very early age. Shame comes from knowing that what you are “supposed” to do is different from what you do.

The low levels of dopamine found in the ADHD brain contribute to this differentiation. When taking ADHD stimulant medication, dopamine levels are increased because dopamine production is stimulated. When you have optimal levels of dopamine, you feel more calm, focused, and your reward center functions better. This doesn’t mean you have to use the stimulant medications, but they do help in the area of motivation.

If you have ADHD, a great strategy is to tap into your natural interests, and curiosity, or use challenge and urgency to drive you into action. Ask yourself, “How can I get curious about the things I find mundane?” Often people can make play out of what’s boring.

  • How fast do you have to get to beat your personal best?
  • What color of objects do you choose to run around and pick up first?
  • How many baskets of mail can you fill from what’s laying around the house?
  • When you’ve finished that boring task, what’s the reward you’ll give yourself?

Creating an external reward system is helpful when the internal one isn’t going to do the trick. We see this in schools where they use star charts. So, what stars can you create for yourself that will help you do the things you want to do?


  1. Hi Nora,

    Creating external rewards is tough as an adult because our toys are more expensive than what a child appreciates getting from the dollar store. Have you tried working with an accountability partner yet? A friend or family member (or coach) can help in holding you responsible for doing the things you want to get done.

    ~ Jennie

  2. That is a yes and no statement though mostly no.

    I have a therapist but i only get to see her 10X a year. She is more than willing. I need a methodology that gets me to something measurable. Then another one that trains me up to send her updates. I pretty much need a coach to train me up for my coach. LOL

    My method or getting things done is to take a class. I seem more motivated if there are others doing it too and i have weekly class to be prepared for.

    I have learned my ex-spouse, beloved roommate is NOT the person to hold me accountable. Some relationships need to exist outside that paradigm IMHO.

    It is hard to create external rewards when there is little money, I am on a diet and time strapped.
    I have yet to find a daily schedule that really works beyond 2 events. So KISS works. Micro managing does not… well occasionally i can do it when i am traveling and have to change planes and eat and call people but it is hard.

    Change of topic:
    I am frustrated by the tapping thing because i did put heat and soul into it but either i have not the knack or I am taping resistant. i do feel silly doing it and not in a fun silly way. No idea why. I can do other alternative healing and feel like it works even if there is no science behind it yet.

    Everything seems to work a bit backwards for me. I have pretty much accepted that.

    Thanks for the comment. I do admire your book.


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