Discounting orthodox advice and trusting my process

In the last of this series of posts about listening to and working with my brain, I’d like to catalogue some of the orthodox advice my brain has rejected. Before my ADHD diagnosis I was caught in a cycle of inspiration, implementation, failure and giving up. I banged my head against the “should” wall sporadically, forgetting how much it hurt the first time, telling myself that I could find a way through if I just tried harder. More post-it notes! More reminders! A better system! More reprimands. More shame.

Advice predicated on a typical brain is toxic for me. Self-help books and well-intentioned suggestions from neurotypical friends and teachers have taught me that I am faulty and incompetent. As Jessica McCabe says, “if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid”. After a lifetime of falling from trees I listened to other fish and learned how to swim.

I now have a healthy relationship with my brain. Instead of coercing it, I refer any advice to it for approval. Here is some of the advice that has ended up on the rejection pile:

Advice: Go for an early-morning run
Rationale: It is easier to get out of door first thing and sets you up for the day. My brain’s verdict: Rejected. You do your best translations in the morning so don’t waste that time. Exercise is for the afternoon when I am foggy and need a boost. Also, if you don’t open your laptop straight away you may get distracted and struggle to get down to work.

Advice: Establish a 9-5 routine Rationale: This enables you to plan and have work-life balance.
My brain’s verdict: Rejected. You hate routine and your focus varies through the day. Sometimes I need connection, fun, exercise or sleep to reset and this isn’t always predictable. Sometimes I want to translate on a rainy Saturday. As a bonus, your lack of routine means you can be flexible for clients.

Advice: Create an office space Rationale: It puts you in the right frame of mind for work My brain’s verdict:
Rejected. Advice that keeps you tied to one place doesn’t work for you or me. You need comfort and movement and I need novelty. Translate from bed, your sofa or cafes. It might not be ergonomic but you never get a sore neck since you move around a lot.

Advice: Shop at Aldi and shop around for bargains
Rationale: You save money My brain’s verdict:
Rejected. Decision-making and sensory overload when shopping put pressure on me, making you less productive. Doing your food shop from home limits the risk of impulse buying from the middle aisle which will save you money in the long run. It will also save you time so you can focus on translation.

If you love your brain, set it free! What advice does your brain reject? Do you listen to it?

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