Know What You Are Running Toward
Springtime is also an opportunity to take stock of how the year is progressing as far as making progress toward life goals.
For neurodivergent individuals, it can be hard to gauge if one is on track with academic and professional intentions. Not only is it difficult to evaluate the success of steps already taken, but it also can be tricky to do the planning necessary to have a road map in the first place.
According to Yogi Berra, the Hall of Fame catcher for the New York Yankees in the 1950s and ’60s, "If you don't know where you're going, you'll end up somewhere else."
In other words, if you don’t have a clear goal in mind, slow down and take a pause.
As a person with ADHD, I was moved by listening to a recent episode of The Science of Happiness podcast through UC Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center, where scientist and autism advocacy leader Temple Grandin reflects on how she needed to first discover what she was passionate about in order to understand how school endeavors could actually help her get there. I could relate!
“I was absolutely not motivated to study. I had basically just messed around and not done any studying. Then my science teacher came along, and what he did, is he gave me the motivation to study because now studying was a pathway to a goal of becoming a scientist.”
Identifying her aspirations inspired Grandin to develop study skills — not for the sake of using them — but so she could leverage academics to get where she wanted to go.
Being in touch with one’s interests is crucial for neurodivergent people to access academic motivation. Finding something she loved to do helped Grandin recognize that school could be relevant.
Curiosity supplies students with a self-generated reason to learn. Helping them explore what may spark their interest is the best way to reach them — and discovery can be a long process.
Knowing yourself takes time.
Speed is one thing. But if you don't know where you are going, it might be better to postpone big decisions until you gain more clarity. I've had students in the past few years who needed to pivot due to unforeseen life circumstances. Whether it was pandemic challenges, a family loss, or an unexpected health crisis, it became clear to several families that their student needed to temporarily pause an academic pursuit, regroup, or at the very least, slow down.
Keep goals simple.
Know your limits and your bandwidth, and tackle one goal at a time. People with executive functioning struggles can get easily distracted from their most important needs. Recognizing what is most significant requires self-inquiry and wisdom.
Your inner wisdom is your best ally.
The things that make you unique are also your greatest gifts. This is especially true when it comes to excellence in academia and the workplace. Take time to get quiet and explore things at a slower pace, if you aren’t sure what brings you joy. Take a long walk, experiment with something new, and get to know what inspires you.
Mentorship played a key role in helping Grandin find her connection to academia. “I cannot emphasize enough how important mentors are. Without my aunt and without my science teacher, I don’t think I would have gotten through high school.”
Looking for support in discovering what makes you tick so you can move forward on your goals? Schedule a complimentary information session.
Subscribe and get notified of future tips.
As an executive function coach and academic tutor, I specialize in helping individuals with learning differences exceed their goals for academics, organization, and college transition.