To be human is to be confronted with choices. Each choice, like a fork in a path, takes us in a different direction. Some choices are inconsequential while others are, literally, life changing. Collectively these choices make up who we are at any point in time.

We live our lives as if we know that a particular choice will lead us in a particular direction. In actuality we do not know this with any certainty. All we can do is imagine where it might lead. [note 1] Each choice can, at best, be seen as possibly improving the probability that we will reach our imagined endpoint but, again, it is a probability, not a certainty.

For A.D.D.ers, the human condition can be a living hell of choices. Since their defining leitmotif is an inability to make choices, A.D.D.ers may follow a path and then, frightened as to where it may lead, suddenly switch to a different path. After years of switching paths, A.D.D.ers become profoundly aware of, and profoundly afraid, of the effects of their choices. They prefer to keep all options, that is, all choices, on the table thereby, in effect, choosing nothing.

Now that I am on the other side of fifty years old, I am still confronted with choices. But the number of choices has shrunk to a mere handful. On the one hand this relieves me of the burden of choosing from an overflow of choices. On the other hand it means that there are many lives that I will not live, paths that I will never be able to follow. I am also profoundly aware that, at this stage of life, there is no time for a do-over, no time to double back and try again. I cannot leave all options on the table. This is depressing and liberating. Depressing because of all the lives I wanted to live and will never be able to live. It is liberating because, for once, I believe that I am following a single path.

{ ========== AFTERTHOUGHTS ========== }

  • We need a new phrase to capture the human condition, something like esse est facere electio which roughly translates as, “to be is to make choices.”
  • The is the quintessential existentialist.
  • For a fascinating story (allegory?) of life’s paths, see Borges The Garden of Forking Paths.  A complete translation is here (sorry, link to translation is no longer valid) and an interpretative plot summary is here.
  • One way to achieve happiness is to make your dreams conform to your current reality.

  1. This “imagination” is the essence of visualization as a method of guiding one’s life.
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  • DrCharlesParker

    Thanks for this very interesting post, and the labyrinthine references!

    - Great illustration and challenging perspectives, which I have attempted to solve for myself and others with the following thinking, related to both quantum physics/time, and what happens in life.

    We must be careful that time cannot be, as you so accurately point out, retreaded. Decisions made resolve the conflict of thinking too much [riding the 'thinking' pony] – arising from ADHD and cognitive anxiety. Decisions made compulsively [riding the 'doing' pony], also arise from diminished executive function.

    The balance point is itself mercurial, requires timing, practice, and riding both ponies for awhile to see when it is best to walk alone. Pain will teach you when to get off.

    This is the Zen, the existentialism of ADHD recovery, not just thinking, not just doing, but simultaneous thinking and doing in the moment with appreciation for all the variables, but doing what you can nevertheless.

    So many who suffer with other multiple addictions find themselves lost, wandering the world on either pony – and fear that next transformational step:

    The resolution is at once complex and simple: walk alone, stay with the Higher Order accepting change, and don’t linger on possible consequences. The negatives no longer rule, the affirmatives point the way.

    Thanks for the interesting story, glad we didn’t have to kill anyone to make the point!

  • Jeff


    Be sure to read the Borges story. A very interesting take on the concept of time.

    The “thinking” and “doing” ponies are a good metaphor. There are times when it definitely feels like one is going for a ride…and one is not in control of that ride.

    I found this comment to be interesting: “The balance point is itself mercurial, requires timing, practice, and riding both ponies for awhile to see when it is best to walk alone. Pain will teach you when to get off.”

    I wonder if there ever really is a balance point. It is, to some degree, like trying to balance an object on a knife edge. Yes…it can be done. But finding that perfect central point is damned near impossible.

    And thank you so much for your thoughtful comments.

  • ginapera

    Interesting conversation, guys.

    Nice to “see” you here, Dr. P.


  • ginapera

    P.S. I will read that Borges piece. Thanks Jeff.

    Indeed, it seems that many people with unrecognized ADHD are prone to making decisions on the basis of their symptoms rather than their goals or desires. I think of a 45-year-old man who expressed bewilderment at finding himself in a job that bore no relation to his interests or skills. From the sound of it, he had simply kept slipping down the slots into the sort of job where his symptoms posed fewer impediments.

    But, frankly, do you think that most humans put all that much thought into their goals and their path? Most just go along with the current, it seems to me.

    At any rate, you’ve gotten me thinking about my own choices (we are probably close to the same age). After I finally finished my book and dealt with the endless EF-zapping tedium required to get it before the public, it hit me in a sort of post-partum whammy: I’d devoted almost TEN YEARS of my life to advocacy and producing the book.

    Was it the best thing I could done with a decade of my life (and a good portion of my savings)? Some days I think YES, NO REGRETS! Other days, I think, uumm, I could have traveled more and gotten a personal trainer instead. It probably depends on the amount of accounting paperwork I face that day.

    But this I do know: My fate was sealed. When I came to deeply appreciate the impact of unrecognized ADHD on individuals and society-at-large, it just seemed too big, too profound, to walk away from.

    Mostly, when it was presented, the choice felt like one of the “slender threads” that Jungian analyst Robert A. Johnson writes about in “Balancing Heaven and Earth.” I grabbed the thread, not knowing where it would take me, second-guessing myself all the way. And here I am, feeling honored to have made a contribution, however humble.

    Now I see that Johnson has written another book that seems apropros: “Living Your Unlived Life: Coping with Unrealized Dreams and Fulfilling Your Purpose in the Second Half of Life.” Thanks for being the catalyst to my discovering that, Jeff.

    Happy New Year! And remember, 50 is the new 30.

  • Jeff


    Thanks so much for your thoughts. Just two points I want to make.

    First (and most important) I agree wholeheartedly: 50 truly is the new 30!

    Second, you wrote the following: “But, frankly, do you think that most humans put all that much thought into their goals and their path? Most just go along with the current, it seems to me.” I agree. Most humans just go with the flow. However, A.D.D.ers have great difficulty in doing that because they see (know?) that going with the flow is, itself, a choice. Non-A.D.D.ers may not see it as a choice…but I would wager that most A.D.D.ers do.

  • ginapera

    I hear you, Jeff. And I didn’t mean to minimize the impact of unrecognized ADHD on a person’s life choices. Not at all.

    As with the example I mentioned, the middle-aged man was just starting to learn about ADHD, including the fact that he had it. And he looked truly bewildered, as if the past 45 years or so were just starting to come into focus with rather painful perceptions. So, I completely, utterly sympathize with that.

    I guess, to put it more accurately, it seems plenty of people without ADHD “go through the motions” more than “go with the flow.” “Flow” sounds easier and more agreeable than the chains of mindless conformity many people (ADD or not) find themselves in at middle-age. :-)


  • Scott Hutson

    Jeff, this post and your thoughts are things I think about alot:It truly is a choice of depression or liberating at this point of my/our life, and the choices we could have made.

    Dr.Parker, your comment shows me that you have great insight and know how I/we think to much, and “Ride” a sometimes confused pony/ponies. I love that “Pony Ride” metaphore. I wish I thought that one up(LOL).

    Gina, I can only say: For me and the whole world, you have done the best thing, for the last decade of your life! But you already know I think that. And a great example of learning at middle age, and looking back seeing ADDD/ADHD.

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