Book Review: View from the Cliff - A Course in Achieving Daily Focus
by Lynn Weiss, PhD

Reviewed by Lew Mills, PhD, MFT

Some books are just too hard to tackle when you are an adult with ADHD, even if they are intended for an ADHD audience. After a couple of excursions into multiple theories and a lengthy examination of the research, we have checked out.

There are two styles of books that are more effective for ADHD Adults. The more common style is to be very stimulating, with lots of variety, pictures, cartoons, sidebars, cute stories and so on. This can work well at engaging and keeping your attention. I personally enjoy reading these. A fun example is Time Management for Unmanageable People.

The downside of this style is that it can spin you off into more tangential thoughts and plans than you are ever going to be able to follow through on. While it appeases your ADHD curiosity, it also plays to all of its distractibility. You can have a lot of fun reading it, but at the end, you are not sure what you are going to do about what you learned.

The second style for Adult ADHD books is more rare and, I think, more useful. This gives you a very simple clear-cut executable plan for addressing problems and maximizing the assets of having ADHD. Weiss' book falls clearly in this second category. On the surface, it may seem relatively dull. But if you pick it up and read a page or two, you find yourself instantly engaged in advice from someone who knows just what you are struggling with. This kind of book is likely to end up being useful over years to come.

The way the book works is to cover a very wide range of issues that many ADHD adults grapple with, all in a simple standardized format. Each dilemma you face is first phrased in an assessment question like "Do you procrastinate starting projects?" or "Do you regularly burn pots, lose contact lenses, or overflow the backyard pond because you don't pay attention to what you are doing?" She then proceeds to describe you succinctly in a few paragraphs. OK, now you know that she knows you, (even if you don't have a backyard pond).

Here is where she takes you through what becomes a familiar process to work on each problem. It really does feel like a welluctured "course" in achieving focus. Each "lesson" is very concise and tightly constructed, respecting the effort you are putting into understanding it.

After describing just what you do, she explains "Why this happens." This is the part that may be familiar from other ADHD books, and it is very helpful to understand the "whys" of ADHD. But then she goes to the part on "What not to do." Often this section includes the injunction to not get down on yourself about just being the way that you are. Hopefully you have already heard this before, but even so, it bears repeating!

The next step is about what you can and should do. There are some marvelously clever tricks here that I have not seen elsewhere. For example, she describes a technique of "anchoring" yourself at the point where you are about to drift off on a tangent, so that you have a way to get back on track when your tangent is completed.

As you begin to tell yourself that this technique will never work for you, you are surprised that the next section acknowledges "What makes this hard to do." Her recommendations don't just leave you with the feeling that if it doesn't work for you, you did it wrong. Instead she tells you how you can work more successfully at the toughest parts of the task.

Throughout the whole process, Weiss acknowledges the three parts of yourself that you bring to your struggle with ADHD: the hurt you feel at a world that rarely understood you, the ways you can get the world to accommodate you now, and the "true you" that you will rediscover. This perspective pulls the book far past being just a collection of clever tricks, to where she really grasps how and why ADHD adults do what they do, in a way that helps you make better choices.

So here is a book that you will be able to come back to over and over, that will teach you very usable strategies, and that acknowledges that you are already trying a lot harder than it may look to others. This one is definitely worth checking out.

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Creative Commons License This work by Lew Mills is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License