Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Planning for Every Life Chapter

guest blog by Wilma Fellman, MEd, LPC

We have volumes of materials on how to deal with the symptoms of ADHD in school and in the workplace. But have we considered ADHD in the so-called retirement years?

More people than ever are retiring from their major life’s work and wondering what to do with the rest of their lives. Since many are leaving their careers at younger ages, analysts predict that this group will not be seen rocking on the porch waiting for its favorite game show to start. This high-achieving group has no intention of fitting in to the old image of a retiree. Instead, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that “due to the aging baby-boom generation, workers ages fifty-five and older are expected to make up over one-quarter of the labor force in 2022.” 

If we think about the lifespan in chapters, we see that there are five:
  • The Young Student
  • The Post High School Student
  • The Young Worker
  • The Major Work Achiever
  • The Post Work Selector
 Most folks are used to planning for chapters one through four. Those of us with ADHD know all too well the necessity and value of careful planning for those first four chapters in order to get to that Major Work Achiever stage as comfortably and effectively as possible. But few of us give any thought or preparation to the fifth chapter.

Many adults with ADHD have spent years with tutors, coaches, medication, counseling, and strategies in order to maximize our strengths while minimizing our challenges. Yet all too often we totally ignore doing any planning, creating any support systems, and giving any thought to what will make the fifth chapter—the "retirement" years—the best one yet.

Time to reevaluate ourselves!

As we did for chapters one through four, adults with ADHD need to undertake a systematic process and reevaluate ourselves, noting current strengths and then mapping out a plan that will do more than simply fill time.

If we were wise early in life—or had the benefit of others around us who were wise—we systematically gathered facts about ourselves. This information pointed us toward an area of life work that would allow us to shine and be the best version of ourselves. With such knowledge, we'd be self-aware enough to know what works for us and what doesn’t—and (equally important) why. We would then be able to make better life and career choices and accomplish more of our goals.

A systematic approach to career and life planning would look like this:
  1. Understand how our interests, skills, and accomplishments together match with certain job clusters in the World of Work.
  2. Evaluate our personality, values and aptitudes in order to identify how these factors add into the layers in #1.
  3. Identify how our early career dreams, energy/focus patterns and school/work habits add into the mix of #1 and #2.
  4. Look at our success/challenge patterns to see how they have affected schooling and/or work histories. Identifying patterns (using #1- 3) is essential to problem-solving and conquering the barriers.
  5. Develop a concrete plan based upon the “hard data” of putting layers 1-4 on top of each other, with the knowledge that there is now sound reason to believe the plan will work.
  6. Establish a plan for long-term support, identifying strategies, accommodations, and modifications needed for continued success.
If the systematic approach to career and life planning works for chapters one through four, wouldn't it enable folks retiring from their main career to begin their next chapter with a fresh look at what currently makes them tick? Is it instant? No. It takes roughly eight to ten weeks to collect, synthesize, and understand what makes us tick. But the payoff is huge in terms of finding what really works for us.

Wouldn’t taking the time to reevaluate our strengths and challenges again result in better and more exciting choices? Think of the possibilities!

A longer version of this post appeared in the February 2015 issue of Attention magazine, available through our free app, which you can download on the App store. Current CHADD members can access it through the app at no extra cost.

You can also start or join a conversation about ADHD and "retirement" on Attention connection, your social network for all things ADHD!

Wilma Fellman, MEd, LPC, has been a career counselor specializing in ADHD, learning disabilities, and other challenges, for more than thirty years. She is the author of Finding a Career that Works for You: A Step-by-Step Guide to Choosing a Career (Specialty Press/ADD Warehouse, 2006).

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