Motivation That Works!

“When are you going to remember to take the laundry out of the washer?”

“How can you lose a phone that was in your hand fifteen seconds ago?”

“You screwed up again!”

There was a time when I would yell at myself whenever I screwed up . . .

What was that about? Why would I do that?

In her book, "Your Brain is Not Broken," Tamara Rosier explains that people with ADHD sometimes yell at themselves as a subconscious means of stimulating themselves to take action. 

This is because almost any intense emotion — positive or negative — can activate our brain.


Researchers have shown that we ADHDers need interest as a motivator, and yelling at ourselves works because it increases interest.


While the outcome of yelling at oneself can be better focus or motivation, the other component of it — being self-critical — is not at all helpful to our ADHD brains. 

But if yelling at ourselves works so well,

why should we stop?

We need to find other ways to motivate ourselves because when this technique is used frequently over many years it can compromise our physical and mental health.

That's what happened to me.

By the time I was thirty five I was suffering depression, had digestive problems and had heart beat problems that interfered with my daily life.

But how else can we create the momentum we need?

One way is by learning to celebrate the things we do well! 🤗

😒Wait, do you think that you don’t do anything well?

Dark-haired woman with finger to cheek and looking up and to the right as she ponders a question
Woman looking up and to the right as she ponders a question

If so, you are not alone. ( I used to feel that way, too ). 

Did you know that is also true for many ADHDers?

We are excellent at noticing everything we do wrong but often are terrible at acknowledging (or even noticing) what it is we do well.

But we can make things easier on ourselves!

We can ignite our interest and increase our motivation by learning to notice our successes.


(Think about it: Whose health has ever suffered because they were too kind to themselves? 😆 )

... But do we do that?

That’s the ”The $64,000 Question!”

Green tone photo of old time game show host under sign reading $64,000
Photo of old time game show host under sign reading $64,000

The first step (and often the most difficult) is to notice when we are yelling at ourselves.

According to James Clear, in order to eliminate one response [yelling at ourselves] to a trigger [screwing up] we need to replace it with another response [in this case it will be remembering a success instead].** 

Unfortunately just knowing that we need to do that is not enough.

This is because when we do that we are trying to leverage the importance of not yelling at ourselves, and our ADHD brains are not sufficiently motivated by the importance of doing something.

What we can do instead is use the Challenge and Novelty interventions suggested by William Dobson, MD***  to reinforce any progress we make in noticing our successes.

For example we can Challenge ourselves to replace criticisms with acknowledgment of our successes by trying something like: 

Or we could try to associate our success (in replacing self-criticisms with wins) with something Novel to celebrate with like:

I can’t come up with any more ideas at this moment . . . plus I am pretty sure my ideas will sound silly to you (although they might work for me!😁) 

What are your celebration 🥳 ideas?

Email them to me at:

I know it is not easy to change our self-talk,

But the rewards of doing so are worth it!

If you celebrate your wins, you have everything to gain and nothing to lose!

Green-toned photo of Kool & The Gang performing, "Celebration!" with words in white over the bottom of the picture that say "Celebrate good times, come on!"
Green-toned photo of Kool & The Gang performing, "Celebration!"


*I was lucky enough to be supported by a therapist who was knowledgeable about women with ADHD. She helped me to learn how to notice when I was being hard on myself and choose another way to “react.”

** James Clear, “Atomic Habits”

***See my post,