ABOUT Activation

Activation — Inertia’s Handmaiden

by Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, CTP, CMC, ACT, MCC, SCAC
In support of the ADD Basics Series

Activation struggles
are a common occurrence in the ADD/EFD/TBI
(Alphabet City) population.

What’s going on when we wait until the last minute to begin something we’ve known about for months?

What is it about the last minute rush that busts a desperate case of  “I just can’t make myself” w-i-d-e open, uncovering a secret activator that we couldn’t, for the life of us, locate the day before?

Closely related both to motivation deficit and under-arousal, insufficient activation  is usually misidentified, mislabeled, and totally misunderstood.

Cascading from insufficient ACTIVATION

The lack of activity is notable, of course, but the person who is struggling with activation is almost always scrutinized in a black-and-white manner that seems to make things worse.

Next comes the internalization of the voice of the critic, developed from chronic exposure to the “tough love” theory of motivation.   What results is the development of an inner voice that shreds self-esteem and decimates resolve.

I doubt that many of us use the exact words and phrases below in the our
inner dialogue  —
but I’ll bet most of us recognize the message only too well!

  • You are totally unmotivated, undisciplined, and a chronic procrastinator!
  • Your will-power is under-developed, kid — your lack of resolve is infinite.
  • You’re selfish and self-centered, spoiled rotten, and
  • just plain lazy!

Besides black and white thinking, make-wrong, judgment and labeling, what’s going on here? Anything worthwhile?

More to the point, what’s needed instead.

In other words, how DO we self-activate?  What IS activation anyway?

The Concept of Inertia

Most dictionaries will define “inertia” in a manner similar to the following:

Unless affected by some outside force,
the tendency of matter to remain in a stable state of activity:
at rest if at rest, 
to keep moving in the same direction, if moving,

That’s what I was taught in school.  How ’bout you?

With apologies to the world of physics, let’s overlook the latest thinking about inertia so that I can use what most of us have always heard to jump-start a conversation to help us understand the CONCEPT of activation.

  • With the above caveat, the standard definition of inertia works well enough when we’re talking about matter, that is, physical objects — rocket ships and gyroscopes and such.
  • But does it have any value helping us get a handle on behaviors?  Possibly.

Inertia operates in psychological realms too 

1. The tendency to keep moving in the same direction dynamic makes for “human doings,”  not always with much to show for it. Hyperboles of hyperfocus — to the point that lives lack balance.

I call it trouble with transitions — either transitioning out of one activity to be ABLE to move on (some might say “stopping,” but there’s more involved), or transitioning into the next task on the list (“starting?”).

2. The  remaining at rest dynamic is a manifestation of getting stuck in the troublesome GAP in the transition between doing nothing and doing anything at all.

In behavioral terms, “some outside force” becomes necessary to move us through those transitions.

  • No – not the cajolers and reminders and punishers and reward-ers that surround most of us most of the time.
  • Some force outside the energy of the “stable state” but within our very own beings


But what IS it, exactly?  I’ve Googled and researched for days and still have nothing I didn’t already have.  Other than “activation and depression,” there’s not much out there about the nature of the activation phase of human energy systems, and I wasn’t able to find a single definition of the concept as it applied globally.

If anyone can find a clear explanation anywhere on-line, send me the link.

Meanwhile, I’m going to attempt a discussion of, apparently,
a concept that defies description!

In a series of articles to come, I will “unpack” the various concepts that are included and implied by the points above, along with introducing more than a few more.

Stay tuned — life can be so much better once you learn HOW to manage your energy so that it lines up with your intentions.

As always, if you want notification of new content as it is posted, give your email address to the nice form at the top of the column to the right.  [Stringent NO SPAM policy]

BY THE WAY: I revisit all my content periodically to update links — when you link back, like, follow or comment, you STAY on the page. When you do not, you run a high risk of getting replaced by a site with a more generous come-from.

About Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, MCC, SCAC
Award-winning ADD Coach Training Field founder; ADD Coaching field co-founder; [life] Coaching pioneer -- Neurodiversity Advocate, Coach, Mentor & Poster Girl -- Multi-Certified -- 25 years working with EFD [Executive Functioning disorders] and struggles in hundreds of people from all walks of life. I developed and delivered the world's first ADD-specific coach training curriculum: multi-year, brain-based, and ICF Certification tracked. In addition to my expertise in ADD/EF Systems Development Coaching, I am known for training and mentoring globally well-informed ADD Coach LEADERS with the vision to innovate, many of the most visible, knowledgeable and successful ADD Coaches in the field today (several of whom now deliver highly visible ADD coach trainings themselves). For almost a decade, I personally sponsored and facilitated seven monthly, virtual and global, no-charge support and information groups The ADD Hours™ - including The ADD Expert Speakers Series, hosting well-known ADD Professionals who were generous with their information and expertise, joining me in my belief that "It takes a village to educate a world." I am committed to being a thorn in the side of ADD-ignorance in service of changing the way neurodiversity is thought about and treated - seeing "a world that works for everyone" in my lifetime. Get in touch when you're ready to have a life that works BECAUSE of who you are, building on strengths to step off that frustrating treadmill "when 'wanting to' just doesn't get it DONE!"

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  22. andy wolmer says:



  23. Dema Stout says:

    Great post and so applicable to many of the individuals I coach. One young man even asked I send this to his father, who also struggles with activation…his hope was his dad would quit feeling so badly about things he didn’t get started. Thanks for all the great links, too.
    Dema Stout, MA, PCC, BCC


    • WOW – the empathy of the neuro-diverse always astounds me.

      Ironic, isn’t it, that clients who’ve struggled (and probably been “beaten up” for what they can’t or don’t do vs. acknowledged for what they DO bring to the party – for most of their lives) are so generous of spirit when they see others struggling?

      If the young man of your comment is NOT one of our club, double points for that kid!

      Hope for a world that needs it badly!

      Thanks so much for taking the time to comment, Dema – and only the best with your practice.



    • PS. to Dema – thanks for mentioning the links – reminded me I haven’t added any of the newer content related to activation in some time. Check ’em out again.

      REALLY appreciate comments about the links, btw – I spend a lot of time getting Related Content at the end my articles, and I sometimes wonder if anybody ever clicks the darned things!



  24. Nevea says:

    Umm, are you really just gviing this info out for nothing?


    • On this site, yes I am – very little here has a cost associated with it (The Peer Coaching TeleClass is cheap, but not free). I hope you find the information helpful and that, whenever my books are published you’ll have the thought, “Wow, if this is what she gives away, wonder what I’ll get if I pop for a book?”

      My other site will eventually be a membership site, so the content there will be available for about the cost of a magazine subscription — but this site will always be my gift.

      I struggled personally for many years because nobody knew what to do with ADDults, and my life will never be what it might otherwise have been as a result.

      I can’t change what happened to ME, but I can sure try to impact what happens to those who come after me. It’s healing to think that my sharing might shorten the learning curve for those diagnosed “behind” me or those who have yet to be diagnosed.

      If it helps, pay if forward!
      (In fact, reach out even if it doesn’t help – grin – it takes a village to transform a world!!)


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