Celebrate Every AchievementIn her book My Stroke of Insight, the author and Harvard brain scientist Jill Bolte Taylor documents her remarkable story. At the age of 37 years old, she suffered a stroke and then spent the next eight years making a full recovery. This involved learning to do the basics such as sit up in bed alone again, walk, talk, feed herself, drive, recall her memories, etc. The book is inspirational and also has some amazing pearls of wisdom. One of these pearls is how important it was for her to celebrate EVERY achievement no matter what the size. I found this attitude a wonderful one and would love all adults with ADHD to adopt too. She didn’t say, “Oh, you can sit up on your own now, big deal, you could do that when you were one years old.” That would have been discouraging after all her mental and physical effort it had taken. It would have also zapped her motivation to move on to the next step of her recovery.

I notice how easy it is for adults with ADHD to both minimize their achievements – “Well, anyone could have done it.” – and to focus on what they haven’t, didn’t, couldn’t do, rather than on what they DID do. If you made a difficult phone call or a big effort to arrive to a meeting on time, congratulate yourself and say, “Great job!” Allow yourself to bask in the warmth of this success for a minute before moving on to the next task. This is a much more effective method to encourage future successes than saying, “Well, I should be able to pick up the phone,” or “everyone else arrived on time.” This self-talk devalues your achievements and efforts and de-motivates you for future successes.

As well as positive verbal encouragement, also give yourself physical rewards. Celebrating wins, or victories, no matter how small, also does wonders for your mental well-being. Just like a small child or pet, adults love to be acknowledged for their achievements, and there is no better person to recognize your achievements than you.

When I use the term “reward,” thoughts automatically go towards something naughty. Like food that is bad for you, or alcohol. However, there are many ways to reward yourself that are fun, enjoyable and healthy. A bath after you have worked out at the gym feels amazing, curling up in bed with clean sheets after a physically demanding day. Often what feels like a reward is in contrast to the activity you have been doing.

The bigger the accomplishment, the bigger the reward. Graduating with a degree would quantify a BIG celebration, to acknowledge the big accomplishment. However, you should also reward yourself for every assignment you hand in on time and ever exam you sat on at a smaller level.

Positive self-talk will change your life! Not only will it make you feel good in the moment, it will also lift your self-esteem over time to new heights. That, in combination with a physical treat, makes pushing the mental or physical pain barrier even sweeter!


  1. Every time you do something that is a bit tricky, give yourself lots of praise.
  2. As well as verbal praise, give yourself a physical reward too.
  3. Match the size of the reward with the achievement.
  4. Think ahead of time a few of your favorite healthy treats you would like to give yourself as a reward.
  5. Notice how much more fun life is!

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