A.D.D. GUY: Taming Impulsivity

By Bob Ossler with Janice Hall Heck

Being an impatient person and living in an impatient world caused frustration for me and those around me. As an young adult in the military, my distractibility caused me to go in so many directions at the same time. I was unfocused, unpredictable, and impatient.

My long-term goal was to become a paramedic. I trained and worked in X-ray technology in the military for well over a year.  In my restlessness to learn more, I applied for a position in a military mental health clinic in California to expand my portfolio.

Dr. B., a psychiatrist and my direct supervisor at the clinic, became my personal mentor and friend. He seemed to understand my different learning style and my restless nature. He spent time talking me through my various life schemes.

In our frequent one-to-one meetings, my mind raced in all directions. I had a million questions and competing thoughts and interrupted Dr. B often to mention them.

Yes, I wanted to be a paramedic, but I also wanted to be a pilot, a better tennis player, and a better chess player. I wanted to study pharmaceuticals, collect stamps and coins, make stained glass articles, and play drums in a band. I tried out occupation after occupation and hobby after hobby in my head. They all seemed equally interesting. I wanted to try them all. And I wanted to be the best at everything I tried.

Dr. B. patiently helped me channel my wandering mind and gave advice on the more practical paramedic track.

One day, in my off hours, I rumbled around looking for something to do. I decided to check out the local arts and crafts store. There I found a book on oil painting and flipped through it. Sunrises. Sunsets. Sailboats on water. Lighthouses. Mountains.

Hey, I can do this. It’s can’t be that hard.

I bought canvases, oil paints, brushes, and other supplies and went back to my

Seascape by Bob Ossler

Seascape by Bob Ossler

dorm and started painting.  My very first painting was brush strokes on a canvas–no image in mind. It was awful, so I trashed it. I didn’t like oil paints They took too long to dry. I was much too impatient. I wanted instant results. I switched to acrylics and liked that better.

I learned by trial and error. If I didn’t like the way something turned out, I just threw it away and started on the next painting. I loved the challenge of reproducing a scene that people could recognize. Despite the noise and movement of others in the dorm, I found comfort in painting. I hyper focused on my work and shut everything else out.

After seascapes and sunsets, I ventured out into farmland scenes and river scenes. I found I could look at other paintings and reproduce them.  People complimented me on my work, and I made a few bucks here and there selling the paintings.

With my new-found talent, I was ready to chuck my long-term goal of becoming a paramedic to become a full-time artist. But even then, reality dawned. I knew I would never be a Picasso. I could hear Dad’s voice in my head, “Bob, you need a real job with a steady paycheck.” I had better keep my original goal.

I did stick with the painting but only in my free time. Painting tamed my jumbled mind and brought a measure of calm into my life.  For once, my impulsivity led me to a new, satisfying creative outlet which other people seemed to appreciate. My impulsivity was not always so kind to me.

How about you?

What do you do to tame your impulsivity?

Has your impulsivity led you to a new creative outlet?

I’d love to hear from you.


Bob Ossler is coauthor with Janice Hall Heck of Triumph Over Terror, a book about Ossler’s experiences at Ground Zero after the 9/11 terrorist attacks on New York City.

Triumph Over Terror is available on Amazon.com


This entry was posted in A.D.D./A.D.H.D., attention deficit disorder and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to A.D.D. GUY: Taming Impulsivity

  1. Reblogged this on Janice Hall Heck and commented:

    How do you handle impulsivity?
    Bob Ossler, my coauthor of Triumph Over Terror, shares how his ADD impulsivity led to a new creative outlet.


  2. Suzanne says:

    I too am ADD and I unfortunately interrupt people. I try to wait to ask the questjon by writing it down, cause I will forget what my train of thought was.

    When my son was diagnosed with ADD, I went to many CHADD meetings to find out everything I could about it. It help me understand him better and later about me and why things were so much harded for me.

    I did graduate with a BS in Business Administration, but I had to study much more than my husband did. He listened in class and made a B on a test without studying. I really studied and made a C. I thought that he was just smarter than I was, but that wasn’t necessarily true. When I found out that I was ADD it helped me not be so hard on myself and taught me coping skills.

    Just know. Bob you arenr alone.


    • (This is a joint blog with Janice Heck and Bob Ossler.)

      Thanks, Suzanne, for your comment. It’s so nice to hear from you.

      Interrupting is a big problem for us ADDers. My wife complains about it from time to time. She says, “You don’t listen to what I am saying, and then you start talking before I finish.”

      I try to control this by repeated to myself “listen, listen, listen.” Sometimes, Sue touches my face and makes me look at her. She says, “Focus, Bob!” That helps. She is gentle in the way she supports me when I need reminders.

      Sometimes it takes all my energy to focus–to shut out the clutter in my brain and listen intently.

      Another strategy I use is to ask questions. If I ask questions about the topic, then I am able to engage with the person who is talking. I also try to see how their topic is connected to me in some way or compares to something I already know. If I can connect with them by asking questions, I can stay engaged. But it is constant work.

      It’s nice that someone can connect with my personal ADD turmoil, but I wouldn’t wish ADD on anyone. I wondered, too, when I was in school why I couldn’t learn like everyone else. I could see the other students catching on to some new information or process, but I always had to go to the teacher after class to get an extra help. Even then, the learning was elusive. I thought, “Okay, I’ve got this.” Then ten minutes later, I wouldn’t have a clue. This frustrated the teachers and me as well. I had to overlearn everything and figure out my own strategies for remembering.

      I finally found academic success as an adult in part-time, independent, programmed learning and self-paced external programs. I learned quickly that way, although it took a longer time. It took me 17 years to get my doctorate in pastoral ministry! I could never have done that in traditional classroom settings. I would have gone bonkers.

      I hope these blog posts will be helpful to people going through what I have been through. I hope to collect ideas from other people, too.
      Thanks again, Suzanne. It’s helpful to see that my ramblings connect with others.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s