Negative thoughts can zap your performance. We have all experienced negative self-talk about our abilities, self-worth, future success, etc. This negative self-talk almost uniformly has a negative effect on performance. When we are engaged in goal focused activities we need adequate levels of the neurotransmitter dopamine in order to reach our goals or desired outcomes. When we are in a positive space and feeling confident, we have a higher likelihood that our brains will have adequate levels of dopamine present. When we are in a negative space and not feeling confident, we tend to have less of this very important chemical present. For adults with ADHD this phenomenon can be even worse. The reason it can be so much worse, is that people with ADHD already have a diminished amount of dopamine, so any reduction makes things far worse.
So how to do we create the patterns of thinking that lead to optimal performance?
The first step is to increase awareness. Awareness is absolutely critical to creating any change in thinking. We often take our thoughts as they come, never naming them or trying to change them. When we are not fully aware of our thoughts and feelings, we are prone to fall victim to unchecked negative thinking.
The next step is to start replacing negative thoughts with more adaptive an positive thoughts. For example, “I’m going to fail.” could be replaced with “I’m going to succeed.” or “I’m prepared and will do my best.” This obviously takes practice and for the best results it helps to work with a therapist who uses Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). The changes that result from CBT can be profound and last a lifetime. This is especially true for adults with ADHD as they tend to have a long list of negative experiences that drive an ocean of negative thoughts. In the video series Learn to Thrive with Adult ADHD, there is an entire module on CBT that has been shown to be very effective for all people wanting to change their thoughts, not just those with adult ADHD.
This has been very rudimentary overview of how thoughts can help or hurt your performance. If you want to understand things more, I recommend contacting a trained therapist in CBT. I utilize CBT methods with both my ADHD clients and those who just want to find optimal mental performance. After all, the Silicon Valley is performance pressure cooker, so any mental techniques to gain an edge are important.