What ADHDers Can Learn from Good Will Hunting

One of my favorite movies is Good Will Hunting. It is a movie I first watched during a difficult time in my life, and it is one I return to in times of great trial or transition. I feel there are many life lessons that can be learned from this movie, and I especially feel that ADHDers can learn from this film. If you have not seen it, I recommend you watch it because it is a good movie and this blog post will make more sense if you have seen it.

Good Will Hunting tells the tale of Will Hunting (Matt Damon), a troubled, young genius. Will gets caught working on an extremely difficult math proof at his job as a janitor at MIT. He escapes the professor who catches him (Stellan Skarsgård), but later, after getting arrested following a fight, this professor makes an arrangement with the judge wherein Will avoids jail time if he works on math with the professor and attends counseling twice a week with Sean (Robin Williams), a fellow South Boston native. What follows is a myriad of life lessons and just a downright awesome movie.

Here are the ways I see this movie applying to ADHDers:

You Must Make the Choice to Better Your Circumstances

Early in the film, Sean takes Will to a park for their second session. There, Sean describes what he thinks Will knows and what he thinks Will does not know. He also tells Will about all of the things Will does not know about him and what he does not know about Will. Sean tells Will they both have life experiences that the other does not know. He leaves Will after telling him that he is fascinated by what he sees in him and is all-in, but that it is up to Will decide to open up and make his life better.

If you want to succeed despite the difficulties posed by ADHD, it is up to you. Only you can make the choice to improve your life. Yes, others (such as a coach) can help you, but it must be your decision to implement positive change in your life.

Your Difficult Circumstances Do Not Preclude You from Success, Nor Do They Define You

During the park scene, Sean says, “You’re an orphan, right? You think I know the first thing about how hard your life has been, how you feel, who you are, because I read Oliver Twist? Does that encapsulate you?” Throughout most of the movie, Will does not believe he can have a life outside his present circumstances. He lives in a poor neighborhood. He is an orphan. He has no formal education. He has anger and abandonment issues. He works manual labor. To him, that is just the way life goes. He cannot go to California with his girlfriend or obtain a lucrative job, and he is okay with that. He believes that is who he is. Will does not believe his life can get better.

Having something as challenging or difficult as ADHD in your life might make you think you will never amount to much. That is simply not true. You can achieve greatness. It does not matter if you have ADHD or some other difficult circumstances in your life, you can achieve a great life. Do not settle for mediocrity.

“It’s Not Your Fault”

One of the best scenes in the movie (and my personal favorite) is a scene towards then end of the movie where Will and his therapist discuss being abused. Sean tells Will that what happened to him is not his fault. Will brushes off the comment, but Sean is insistent. He keeps repeating, “It’s not your fault,” over and over. Will goes through a range of emotions from laughter to anger to crying. It is a beautiful moment, and it is a moment from which we should learn.

Our difficult circumstances are not our fault. You did not choose to have ADHD. You did not do anything to deserve the challenges and pains that come with ADHD. It is not your fault.

It is not your fault.

It is not your fault.

It is not your fault.

It is not your fault.

It is not your fault.

It is not your fault.

Therapy Works

At the start of the movie, WIll’s life is chaotic. He is in trouble with the law. He works a menial job. And, other than his friends, he is alone. Through his work with his therapist, Will improves his life. Therapy works. We should not be afraid of therapy if we need it. If one is open to the process, it can improve one’s life.

Progress at Your Own Speed

While on a date, Will and his girlfriend, Skyler (Minnie Driver), have the following exchange:

Skyler: “It’s not fair

Will: “What’s not fair? What?”

Skyler: “I’ve been here for four years, and I’ve only now just found you.”

Will: “Well, you found me.”

Timing is a weird thing. This seems to be the one healthy attitude Will has for the entirety of the movie. He accepts that things do not have to work at a pace that seems normal for everyone else. He is open to moving at a different pace.

This is something we ADHDers need to learn. It might take us longer to get to where we want to be than it will for others, and that is okay. Be okay with doing things differently.

Progress in Your Own Way

Will finds success at the end of the movie, but not in the way most people do. He did not go to college, apply for jobs, and have a standard romance like most people. A chance encounter with an MIT professor opened up a winding path to success for Will. He is different than most people. His brain is different than that those of most people. Therefore, it is not surprising that his path to success is different than the normal path most people take.

The same is true for us ADHDers. Our brains are different, and we need to accept that we will move forward in life in a unique way. What works for everyone else might not work for you. That is okay. Embrace it.

Take the Risk

Will is afraid throughout the movie. What Sean is trying to accomplish through therapy is to get Will to have the courage to take risks. This is one of the key themes of the movie. Improving one’s life often involves a great deal of risk. That leads me to…

Today’s Reset ADHD Challenge:

Take a risk!