Motivation and ADHD

Recent research has documented a brain chemistry difference that helps explain why motivation and attention can be especially challenging for some individuals with ADHD.

Radioactive neuro-imaging has demonstrated lower levels of certain proteins in the brains of individuals with ADHD as compared to those without. The proteins are part of the dopamine transport system. Dopamine is a chemical messenger in the brain that has a number of functions, including processing signals in the brain related to motivation and reward. 
If you have ADHD and are having trouble with motivation, it is important to know that you’re not a slouch.  You are a person dealing with a physiological challenge. What you need is to develop some effective strategies to manage motivation. 

So, what’s a person struggling with motivation to do? Here are some approaches that can help: 
1.  Seek medical treatment: stimulant medications, often used in the treatment of ADHD, enhance levels of dopamine in the brain.

2. Take time to plan:   
  • Set small goals, or break larger projects into smaller, more manageable pieces, or chunks so that effort has to be sustained for shorter periods of time.
  • When starting an activity seems daunting, tell yourself you only need to do it for ten minutes at a time. If you feel like continuing after the ten minutes, fine. If not, just schedule another ten-minute slot some time later.
  • Brainstorm varied ways you might accomplish a tough task: ask for help, delegate, make it into a game for yourself…
3. Create support for yourself:

  • Ask someone to be nearby when you are doing a tough project. The presence of another person can sometimes help with staying on task.
  • Consider whether music or the TV will help you along or distract you.
  • Engage adrenalin: race against the clock.
  • Create accountability for yourself by telling someone when you’ll complete a project (or a step in a project) and checking back in with them. Pick someone who will be firm but non-judgmental for this role.
4. Engage your best self: 
  • Use positive self-talk to keep yourself on track: “I can do this” is more motivating than” I hate doing this” or “I’m no good at this”.
  • Tell yourself, repeatedly if need be, how good you’ll feel when this task is done.
  • Look at the big picture: why is this task important? What values do you have, or what larger goals, does this task contribute to? Hold this big picture in mind as you work on the task.
  • Incorporate exercise and physical movement into your day to keep yourself energized.

5. Reward your efforts:
  • Reward yourself in some way for achieving each of the steps involved in a project: a cup of a favorite tea, listening to a favorite song, a walk around the block…. 
  • Take time to notice and celebrate your success when the project is done! Each success paves the way for more. 
An AD/HD Coach can help you discover what strategies might work best for improving your own motivation.  A coach can also provide support and accountability as you work on following-through with plans. Coaches love to help you celebrate success!

If you are interested in learning more about coaching, please see my website ( or contact me today at

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