Nine Challenges: What Are They?

Isolated Understanding
Must Come First

by Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, CTP, CMC, ACT, MCC, SCAC

from The Challenges Inventory™ Series
Part 3 of a 3-part article
after short review
Part 1 HERE Part 2 HERE

Graphic of a surprised man pointing to the presentation of a graph that takes a sharp downturnThe Challenges of the Inventory

The Challenges Inventory™ is composed of nine separate elements — The Challenges — designed to target nine specific areas which are particularly problematic for most human beings. 

They are quite often complete stoppers
for individuals with
Executive Functioning struggles
not just ADD).

The specific combination of particular Challenges make up a client’s Challenges Profile — a visual snapshot of implementation in the nine key areas relative to each other

WHY is that important?

Once we recognize and understand the impact of the relationship between these “underachieving” parts of our lives, we can better use each category to our ADVANTAGE rather than to our detriment, creating positive change in our lives.

The real power of The Challenges Inventory™

The power to improve your functioning comes from understanding each of the nine Challenges individually as well as their impact together. THAT will tell you how to translate the scores into information your can use to change your LIFE.

It is only through the understanding of how to sherlock the particular relationship between the scores that that you will have the information you need to develop the systems that will be effective with YOUR individual Challenges Profile.

At that point, you can begin immediately to prioritize a path of development that works with your strengths and works AROUND your areas of significant challenge.

AND YET, we must begin at the beginning.

Don’t forget that you can always check out the sidebar for a reminder
of how links work on this site, they’re subtle  ==>

      NINE Challenges: A Quick Overview before A Bit More Detail

         1.  Attentional/Focusing Issues
         2.  Hyperactivity: Physical & Mental
         3.  Stress Tolerance
         4.  Mood Swings
         5.  Impulsivity
         6.  Time Management Difficulties
         7.  Troubles with Transitions
         8.  Perfectionism and Black & White Thinking
         9.  Poor Organization/Task Completion Breakdowns

A Bit More Detail

1. Attentional/Focusing Issues

The Attentional category gives you a down-and-dirty measure of your ability to “track” with intentionality.  MOST of us are able to focus relatively well on areas of interest, so let’s not look at those.  For areas of importance but not fascination, consider the following:

a. Focusing on the Intended Object:
Are you able to shine the spotlight of attention where you choose when you choose?  Or does your mind drift away (or refuse to stay for more than what seems like a nano-second), regardless of what you tell yourself and others you intend to do with your time?

b. Sustaining the Focus:
Can you stay tracked as long as the average bear, as they say?  Or does your mind seem to “wear out” after a bit, taking it’s own little vacation if you don’t take a break?

c. Shifting Focus at will:
When interrupted or distracted, are you able to shift attention back to what was going on with relative ease?  Or, do you struggle, even to remember what it was you were thinking, saying or doing before the distraction?  (If your answer is usually along the lines of, “I was doing something before?” you don’t need an inventory to tell you that you have a problem in this area!)

For more on Attention, see the articles in that category on The Challenges Inventory™ LinkList.

2. Hyperactivity

Hyperactivity means more than a lot of people realize, and some of those people – sad and shameful! – are some of the ones tasked with identifying it diagnostically.

a. Gross Motor Hyperactivity [GMH]
GMH is the one most people look for.  Young boys present with this type, most typically.  It is still believed by some that, because GMH seems to disappear when life becomes more challenging with age, ADD itself “goes away” at puberty. Yeah, right!

b. Fine Motor Hyperactivity [FMH]
FMH is a form of hyperactivity that is easy to see, yet often overlooked.  These are the “fidget to focus” folks: the hair twoozlers, nail biters, foot jigglers, pencil chewers, rockers and bouncers and swayers – oh my!

c. Cognitive Hyperactivity [CH]
I’ve yet to meet an ADDer who doesn’t struggle with this one to some extent: a mind in overdrive.

3. Stress Tolerance 

A 2001 Gallup Poll reported that 80% of adults experienced periodic or frequent stress.  Wow.  I can’t imagine the other 20% do not experiences just as much “periodic or frequent stress” — they can’t ALL live in Ashrams, can they?

I have to believe that, for whatever reason, those 20% are more resilient.  They have somehow found ways of “bouncing back quickly” so that they don’t see stress as a problem when the little ole’ survey taker calls to ask the question.

  • Resiliency plays a major role in the stress tolerance picture, as does
  • the ability to tolerate a certain amount of frustration.

Most important of all,Low Stress Tolerancereflects the extent to which our coping mechanisms are already pushing our limits, so any additional input is too much.  It isn’t that the ability to deal with stress is substandard — it is that the body chemistry is already pumping at maximum volume, or so close to maximum volume that so there is no reserve to pump out when yet another crises appears.

4. Mood Swings

This is the category I wish every physician, drug rep, parent, and partner would take the time to understand completely.

Since they probably won’t, it is essential that each of you who suffers from what I term “ADD Mood Swings” understands what is going on with your own sudden shifts of emotion.

Otherwise, you are likely to “second guess” yourself and your diagnosis, wondering if the ADD clue-free might perhaps be right!

  • In BiPolar Disorder, Mood Swings are the result of a faulty neurochemical regulator. They seem to “come out of nowhere” because they can happen without a direct connection to whatever is going on in the individual’s life.
  • ADD Mood swings may appear to come out of nowhere, but they are the result of what is going on in the individual’s life on top of  the attentional elements that are invisible from the outside — “the [stimulation] straw that broke the [emotional] camel’s back.”
  • Because “neurons that fire together wire together,” you emotionally volatile  folks have developed a reactionary style that needs to be reprogrammed using ways and means the ADD clue-free don’t understand.

5. Impulsivity 

This Challenges category measures impulse control, in many ways another indication of our ability to contain (or at least tolerate) frustration.

In other words, the condition of our emotional brakes.

  • Individuals who are relatively balanced where impulsivity is concerned manage risk and drive behavior by weighing possible rewards against possible losses, which implies a short spate of reflection between impulse and action.
  • Some individuals who say they prefer staying with what’s comfortably familiar, avoiding risks and risky behavior are ABLE to make that choice because they have a relatively “low idle.” In other words, activation takes more energy than the norm, so they often get trapped in the gap between impulse and action.  While I’m sure they’re grateful for small favors, their lack of decisiveness costs them dearly in some arenas.  Same tune, different verse.
  • At the other end of the impulsivity scale are those frequently termed “risk takers,” supposedly because they are strongly attracted to and excited by what’s new and different, lured into action by the call of the wild. These are the folks who are normally labeled IMPULSIVE!   I have observed that those who are repeatedly reckless have emotional brakes that have never been connected or, in the presence of the excitement of the moment, brakes that fail.

6. Time Management Difficulties 

The Time Management Challenge measures your ability to manage your energy within time’s boundaries.  Many ADDers are like me.  We lack an inner sense of time: a minute and an hour feel remarkably similar.  

Duration, for us, is a factor of interest or emotion (how we feel about what we are doing determines how long it seems we linger in the doing).

Until I understood the relativity of TIME, I had no shot at effective time management.
And you don’t either.

Like trying to explain blindness to the sighted, hoping to garner understanding – or helpful information, even – from those whose inner regulator mechanisms tick-tick-tick reliably is an unrealistic expectation.

  • Many who have a reliable sense of time themselves cannot believe our experience is what we say it is, despite studies with children that affirm our self-observations.
  • Others may believe, but they can’t really get it. Their paradigm is a factor of their experience, and they are simply unable to step outside their paradigm.
  • Still others believe they get it, but they miss many of its implications that show up only as Time Management Difficulties. As a result, their tips, tricks, and motivational strategies rarely work for US.

THEN there are the exacerbating factors of the rest of YOUR individual Challenges Profile that mandate a you-based approach to Time Management, only one of which may be Trouble with Transitions.

7. Troubles with Transitions

It is a trick of language that promotes the fallacy that we transition from one task to the next like one image dissolves into another at the movies.  Suddenly realizing that it’s time to begin one task before we have fully completed the first is at the heart of trouble with transitions.

The reason transitions are so tricky is that we have only one word to describe two processes:

  • completion — transitioning out of (“putting away your toys”), and
  • preparation — transitioning into (“getting out the pieces of the new puzzle”)

If that weren’t tricky enough, THEN, we have to deal with the gap!

Unless you deliberately plan things another way, between the period where you “put away the toys” you used in the prior activity and get out new puzzle pieces, there almost always a brief period that is “toy free”  —


  • For some people the gap is the place where the transition breaks down.
  • They get stuck in that between-task “space of nothingness” far longer than the few moments it takes for others to move through it.
  • Some experience so much difficulty transitioning from doing nothing to doing something  that even the nano-seconds of most gaps might as well be quicksand.

There is a way to teach yourself to navigate Troubles with Transitions, regardless of where the process breaks down for you, but FIRST you have to understand what you’ve got working for you and what you are going to have to avoid or overcome in the rest of your Challenges Profile.

8. Perfectionism and Black & White Thinking 

Regardless of the reality that those of us with the ADD brain-style are among the most COLORFUL thinkers on the planet, without conscious cognitive retraining, most of us are also black and white thinkers.

Decisions involve shades of gray; absolutes are easy: all in or all out.

  • Perfect or worthless
  • Always or never
  • In my corner or not really my friend
  • Totally understanding or unbelievably judgmental

In this case, black and white refers to extremes of thought that reflect unrealistic expectations in a world where few things are absolutes on either end of a continuum. The trickiest thing about Black and White Thinking, is that none of us think WE do it until or unless it is pointed out to us, example by example.

Although it does not provide much information that will help you change self-defeating black-and-white thoughts, much of the information you will read about black-and-white thinking will identify it as “a type of cognitive distortion” – effectively a mistake in thinking: a logic error.

Unless you are simply fascinated with logic itself, I find it much more useful to think of all cognitive distortions as unfortunate habits of thought.   Habits can be changed.

I define “unfortunate habits” (vs. “bad” habits) as ineffective habits:  habits that take us anywhere but where we say we’d like to go (experiencing a life where we are successful, happy, healthy, and self-fulfilled, as we personally define those terms in our own unique manner).

Again, what you need to DO to make a dent in the unfortunate black and white habit depends on how and where it shows up in your life, along with the impact of your other Challenges in combination — illuminated by your Challenges Profile.

9. Organization and Task Completion 

Poor Organization and Task Completion Breakdowns are usually the result of struggles with more than one of the other categories.   In addition to other factors, struggles with sequencing, prioritizing, activation, follow-through, mood, memory and focus. EACH play a part in what shows up as poor organization and task completion.

This category considers arena as much as difficulty. Difficulty is assumed with Executive  Functioning dys-regulation. The magic happens when you see how Organization and Task Completion (Org & Task) fits into your Challenges Profile.

As always, if you want notification of new articles in the ADD/EFD Challenges Series – or any new posts on this blog – give your email address to the nice form on the top of the skinny column to the right. (You only have to do this once, so if you’ve already asked for notification about a prior series, you’re covered for this one too). STRICT No Spam Policy

IN ANY CASE, stay tuned.
There’s a lot to know, a lot here already, and a lot more to come – in this Series and in others.
Get it here while it’s still free for the taking.

Want to work directly with me? If you’d like some one-on-one (couples or group) coaching help with anything that came up while you were reading this Series, click HERE for Brain-based Coaching with mgh, with a contact form at its end, or click the E-me link on the menubar at the top of every page. Fill out the form, submit, and an email SOS is on its way to me; we’ll schedule a call to talk about what you need. I’ll get back to you ASAP (accent on the “P”ossible!)

Related articles here on

Articles in the Challenges Inventory™ Series

Linklists: Easy for me to keep updated for access from ALL related articles
– easy for YOU to jump to the article you want –
(hover before clicking on any link to see more)

A FEW Intro Articles about Individual Challenges
with links to more at the bottom of each

  1. ABOUT Distractions
  2. ABOUT Hyperactivity
  3. About ADD/EFD & Stress
  4. BOGGLE – when Moods come out of nowhere
  5. ABOUT Impulsivity
  6. ADD/ADHD/EFD and Time – will ANYTHING work?
  7. Trouble with Transitions
  8. ABOUT Black & White Thinking
  9. ADD & Organized?

A Few LinkLists by Category (to articles here on

Related articles around the web

BY THE WAY: Since is an Evergreen site, 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!"

27 Responses to Nine Challenges: What Are They?

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  23. mac says:

    Undeniably believe tnat which you stated. Your favorite justification appeared to be on the internet the easiest thing to be aware of. I say to you, I definitely gett annoyed while people think about worries that they plainly don’t know about. You managed to hit the nail upon the top and defined out the whole thing without having side effect , people could take a signal. Will probably be back to get more. Thanks



  24. Madelyn, (MGH), I’ve just begun to scratch the surface of what you’ve done here. It is amazing!

    I focused on a tool you developed that I’ve been using to successfully for years: the Challenges Inventory; especially after that first “beta class” on advanced use of the Challenges Inventory you held in 2000, I think.

    It only took me a second to figure out how to navigate your site to go into the sub-headings on new pages, and as usual, I learned something new or that I’d forgotten right away. It’s very ADD-friendly.

    I use the “inventory” to break the ice with new clients and it is a great avenue for them to begin to see areas where they are the champions as well as identify those cracks in the sidewalk they consistently seem to trip over and thus learn to avoid.

    As usual, your genius when it comes to ADHD amazes me. You, Kate and Peggy were an inspiration to me in the 90’s and your wisdom continues to shine. I can’t wait to have time to read the rest of your site and pick up a few new wrinkles on what you taught me so many years ago.

    Glen Hogard glenhogard dot com
    MGH COMMENT to READERS: above means “” – my “request” is to generally avoid “live” links in comments from being trashed by Akismet as link spam before I can see them to approve. If the links are not “clickable” Akismet passes the comment on to me to approve or trash manually.

    Check out the spam counter in the green box near the top of the skinny right column for why I need to do this (or shoot myself) – NO way to keep up manually, personally wading through all the link-spam – generally ONE “live” link will get though okay, sometimes even two, but better safe than sorry).

    ALSO – many sites you will visit have a “Don’t-send-folks-off-MY-site” policy, so it’s a good habit to get into if you want your comments to get seen!


    • Thanks, Glen – tons to come in this realm — all in good time. TIME – omg, everything can’t happen NOW, but the kicker is prioritizing appropriately so NOW doesn’t fall on your head!! As I said, more to come here. xoxoxo


    • Thanks, Glen – your check is in the mail (kidding!). Now it’s time to sing “We belong to a mu-tu-al ad-mir-a-tion society – my baby and me!” (Never-mind the fact that I’m dating myself and that most of you reading this comment have probably never heard this tune!)

      Glen is not only an OFI grad, he served as our Dean of Students for several years, and has gone onward and upward to become an award-winning “ADD Expert” colleague. The two of us are aligned on our ADD Coaching philosophy so we could go back and forth with the compliments forever, no doubt.

      So how ’bout a guest post, Glen? Check out how I’ve decided to do that to “share the hits” by clicking on Community Support in the MGH Funhouse category. We’ve talked about this, but then again . . . can you spell A-D-D?!

      ====> UPDATE: CLICK HERE to check out Glen’s guest post


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