By Geraldine Markel, PhD, Guest Contributor

It’s good to finally have a diagnosis of ADHD after all these years, but my life is still a mess.  I’m miserable. I have great ideas, but then I forget to follow up on the details. I just want to be successful and happy, but I don’t see how that’s possible.

Carl arrives for his first coaching session, feeling hopeless. As an MBA/CPA, he’s a genius at developing out-of-the-box solutions to complex problems. However, years of battling undiagnosed ADHD and dealing with various failures have eroded his sense of well-being, in the workplace and in social settings. Like many who face special challenges, he wonders, “Can I be happy despite my condition?” Fortunately, the answer is, yes, a person can be happy, with ADHD.

Learning the habits of happiness takes concerted effort, and, for Carl, a three-prong support team; a physician for medication, a psychologist for anxiety management strategies, and a performance coach, who plays a unique role in helping clients like Carl find greater happiness and productivity.

Clients with ADHD are coached to see the bigger picture, move away from emotions of guilt and shame toward optimism and logic. Aristotle’s philosophical approach provides profound, yet easy-to-understand principles that clarify the big picture, and add a framework of support for action-oriented coaching strategies (Madvin & Markel, 2012). His principles are ancient, yet consistent with contemporary psychological views on the “ways and means” of happiness (Lyubomirsky, 2008; Seligman, 2010), where happiness is defined as enjoyment of sustained life satisfaction or the capacity to flourish.

What does it take to be happy?

According to Aristotle’s basic tenets you:

  1. Realize that happiness isn’t a state; it’s a continuous, active process and includes the understanding that no one achievement (for example, prestige) guarantees happiness for life. How do you currently think about and pursue happiness?
  2. Assume personal responsibility for your actions. Are they productive or counter-productive? Stop “blaming and shaming” yourself and others.
  3. Stop and rebalance when any area of life is becomes unbalanced.
  4. Use rational thought and reason to reduce emotional responses and facilitate balanced decision-making. Use logic and strategies to avoid letting life’s pitfalls become an emotional roller coaster.
  5. Be mindful of—and attempt—to “do the right thing, at the right time, for the right reason, in the right way.”

Five steps to help clients with ADHD gain happiness

  1. Assure clients that seeking happiness is important for each person, regardless of a condition or disability. Why? Recent research shows happiness is closely tied to work productivity, social relationships, and physical and mental health.
  2. Help clients assess the current level of happiness with work and overall life satisfaction. A simple set of questions using a 1 to 5 scale (with 5 as the most satisfaction is useful.
  3. Discuss Aristotle’s definition of happiness includes reflecting on the pursuit of happiness and taking action to achieve it. Thus, individuals contribute to their own satisfaction and society.

Also discuss how ADHD symptoms present barriers to Aristotle’s ideas and methods, emphasizing that barriers can be overcome.

  1. Describe self-management strategies for achieving better life balance. Demonstrate how to use logic to counteract certain ADHD responses, and problem-solving techniques to “do the right thing, in the right way, for the right reason, at the right time.” Instead of a rigid thought, such as, “I’ll never get it done,” the client may use a learned response: “Stop. Use my logic. I have techniques to overcome that barrier.”
  2. Help the client develop an action plan for making appropriate choices, in spite of challenges.

The chances of developing a realistic plan rise when coach and client answer questions like those in a chart.

Action Plan

Doing the Right Thing, at the Right Time, for the Right Reason and in the Right Way

Situation What is the Right Thing to do? The Right Reason? The Right Way? What are Possible Barriers? What You Need to Say? What You Need to Do?


Carl needed help focusing on his greatest strength: the capacity to create vision and plan big as a venture capitalist. He also needed to stop insisting on doing everything himself, especially in light of his tendency to not follow through. Carl learned to use logic—not emotions of inadequacy—to avoid areas where ADHD interfered with his performance. He overcomes barriers by taking time to think about “the right thing to do,” visualize his next steps, and take pride in his strengths as he follows up. Carl feels in greater control and is more satisfied.

Aristotle’s principles are useful for coaches since clients can see their life goals in new ways, and then move from intention to action. Clients are relieved and hopeful when they realize can take active responsibility for their relationships, productivity, and ultimately, their happiness.


Lyubomirsky, S. The How of Happiness: A Scientific Approach to Getting the Life You Want, New York: Penguin Press. 2008

Madvin, G. & Geraldine Markel, Finding Happiness with Aristotle as Your Guide: Action Strategies Based on 10 Timeless Ideas. Bloomington, IN: iUniverse, Inc. 2012

Seligman, M. E. P. Flourish: A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well-Being. New York: Simon & Schuster. 2010

GeraldineMarkelGeraldine Markel, PhD, is co author of Finding Happiness with Aristotle as Your Guide: Action Strategies Based on 10 Timeless Ideas, and the award-winning, Actions Against Distractions: Managing Your Scattered, Disorganized and Forgetful Mind. Geri is CEO of Managing Your Mind Coaching and Seminars and a board-certified ADHD and executive coach, specializing in leadership, workplace and academic productivity. An educational psychologist, Geri helps clients to identify core issues and apply strategies to move from good intentions to productive actions. Contact her at or