Nelson Mandela Quotes To Inspire People With ADHD

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How Nelson Mandela Quotes Can Inspire Adults And Children With ADHD. And Others. One way to manage ADHD is to get inspired by others and seek to develop some of their inspirational qualities in yourself.

Name me a politician who was more revered by more people on the globe than Nelson Mandela.

When’s the last time you saw such a huge, universal outpouring of respect, admiration and love for a politician from people who didn’t just belong to his/her political party?

Nelson Mandela quote. It always seems impossible until it is done










“It always seems impossible until it is done.” Nelson Mandela.

By Celestine Chua who was on Flickr but not anymore.

Freedom fighter, political prisoner, activist, president, role model, and someone who taught people how to do one of the hardest things in the world, forgive. But he also taught us much, much more.

“The greatest glory in living lies not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.”
Nelson Mandela

Many people online tweeted inspirational quotes from Nelson Mandela. He trended on twitter worldwide. I think his ideas can inspire any human being. Watching Nelson Mandela’s Memorial Service and his Funeral and the comments online from around the world was very inspiring.

I’m not saying he had ADHD. But I believe Nelson Mandela’s quotes can provide special inspiration for adults with ADHD, parents of ADHD children and ADHD children.

Here are 38 inspirational quotes by Nelson Mandela, Madiba, and some reasons why I think that they are particularly useful to inspire us ADDers, organized by 9 categories.

Why not pick one or two that resonates with you, and spend sometime thinking about them and how you might take one specific action to further develop that good characteristic in yourself?

Don’t forget to schedule it with a date and time with a reminder to make sure it happens:)

The quotes I’m using here are from Brainyquote, Goodreads, & USA Today.


ADHD Inspiration From Nelson Mandela by Category:









Equality and universality of human rights

Think big, make a difference



“I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.”

Nelson Mandela boxer












Nelson Mandela boxer

Image online, courtesy Bailey’s African History Archive

If you have no fear at all, you’re just stupid. Sometime people with insecurity do stupid things to try to show others they have no fear.

There are higher rates of admission to hospital for accidents for people with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. Fear is not always a bad thing. A bit of fear can save you a visit there. Fear is part of living.

But, too many people, especially men, deny their fear. What you can’t admit and accept, you can’t change. We all have fears, it’s part of being human. It’s important to face your fears, and overcome them. Many of our fears are False Evidence Appearing as Real.



“For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.”

“There is no such thing as part freedom.”

“I have walked that long road to freedom. I have tried not to falter; I have made missteps along the way. But I have discovered the secret that after climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb.

I have taken a moment here to rest, to steal a view of the glorious vista that surrounds me, to look back on the distance I have come. But I can only rest for a moment, for with freedom come responsibilities, and I dare not linger, for my long walk is not ended.”

“There is no easy walk to freedom anywhere, and many of us will have to pass through the valley of the shadow of death again and again before we reach the mountaintop of our desires.”

Freedom is indivisible; the chains on any one of my people were the chains on all of them, the chains on all of my people were the chains on me.” Long Walk to Freedom: The Autobiography of Nelson Mandela

“I had no epiphany, no singular revelation, no moment of truth, but a steady accumulation of a thousand slights, a thousand indignities and a thousand unremembered moments produced in me an anger, a rebelliousness, a desire to fight the system that imprisoned my people.

There was no particular day on which I said, Henceforth I will devote myself to the liberation of my people; instead, I simply found myself doing so, and could not do otherwise.”
Long Walk to Freedom: The Autobiograpy of Nelson Mandela

Freedom is an important thing for me, and I’ve found it’s also a very important thing for many people with ADHD.

Sometimes others constrain us, judge us, shame us and blame us and try to control us. Sometimes we react by meekly submitting to them. Sometimes we limit ourselves and our freedom, and make ourselves smaller, take fewer risks, try fewer things.

Most adults with ADHD do not feel free to go public with ADHD. ADHD is part of who we are, not all, but part and we often feel because of the stigma and ignorance of others that we have to hide who we are.

People are more likely to go public with being gay or lesbian than to say they have a mental health condition. And they’re more likely to go public with other mental health conditions than with ADHD. Since even in the mental health world, there is ignorance and stigma against ADHD.



“Do not judge me by my successes, judge me by how many times I fell down and got back up again.”

“After climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb.”

“The greatest glory in living lies not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.”

“I am not a saint, unless you think of a saint as a sinner who keeps on trying.”

“Difficulties break some men but make others. No axe is sharp enough to cut the soul of a sinner who keeps on trying, one armed with the hope that he will rise even in the end.”

“It always seems impossible until it’s done.”

Sometimes persistence and determination can be great strengths of people with ADHD. Like with any strength it can be sometimes taken too far and turn into a weakness.

Sometimes people with ADHD have tried and failed at certain things that they become so demoralized, they give up. They no longer even try. I.e. the why bother syndrome.

This happens especially to people who haven’t been diagnosed with ADHD, 90% of ADHD adults are undiagnosed, and those who haven’t learned to develop self awareness, self management and ADHD specific skills.

Intelligent persistence is a crucial determinant to success. Too many people in society try to pretend they never fail. They want to give the illusion that they always or usually succeed. But there is no success without failure. Try, fail, learn adapt, try again, learn, adapt until you succeed.

These are also great quote for ADHD entrepreneurs or any entrepreneurs. Persistence is crucial for entrepreneurs. To be willing to try different things until you find out what works is one of the most important skills for ADHD entrepreneurs.



“I am confident that nobody… will accuse me of selfishness if I ask to spend time, while I am still in good health, with my family, my friends and also with myself.”

As an adult ADHD coach, I’ve noticed many adults with ADHD have trouble with boundaries. Trouble saying no to others and yes to yourself.

In some cases being people pleasers. It’s good to be a nice person and helpful to others. But if you don’t learn to say no to others, set boundaries or limits on them AND clearly communicate and enforce those boundaries, and say yes to yourself, you’ll always be a slave to others and risk brownout, burnout and resentment.

You’ll also be less useful to others when you try to help them, since you’ll be so continually drained.



“It is wise to persuade people to do things and make them think it was their own idea.”

“A leader. . .is like a shepherd. He stays behind the flock, letting the most nimble go out ahead, whereupon the others follow, not realizing that all along they are being directed from behind.”

Tyrant leadership doesn’t work in the long run unless you’re a psychopath. Even then you may have a bad crash landing, jail, exile, murder etc. Persuasion is more effective in the long run than bullying and brute force.



Long Walk to Freedom: The Autobiography of Nelson Mandela














“Resentment is like drinking poison and then hoping it will kill your enemies.”

“Courageous people do not fear forgiving, for the sake of peace”

“As I walked out the door toward the gate that would lead to my freedom, I knew if I didn’t leave my bitterness and hatred behind, I’d still be in prison.”

“Forget the past.”

“If you want to make peace with your enemy, you have to work with your enemy. Then he becomes your partner.”

When the question was put to Mr. Mandela in an interview for this obituary in 2007 — after such barbarous torment, how do you keep hatred in check? — His answer was almost dismissive:

“Hating clouds the mind. It gets in the way of strategy. Leaders cannot afford to hate”

In some cases ADHD adults can be very good at forgiveness, since we have poor memories and often forget:)

But not always. Sometime we hold grudges for long periods of time. It wastes a lot of psychic energy. There are many myths about forgiveness. Forgiveness does not mean you forget. Or you let someone screw you over again.

A good book on forgiveness is Forgive for Good by Frederic Luskin. I found it very useful in busting some myths I believed about forgiveness.

We ADHD adults often have trouble forgiving ourselves. And we often continually beat ourselves up for past mistakes. Learning to forgive yourself is not always an easy thing but it is a very important thing.



“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”

“A good head and good heart are always a formidable combination. But when you add to that a literate tongue or pen, then you have something very special.”

“No country can really, develop itself unless it’s Citizens are educated”

Many people with ADHD have trouble in school. We have higher rates of problems is school, failed grades, high school dropouts & lower college/university entrance rates & higher rates of drop out of those too.

Many schools do not have teachers properly trained on ADHD, and many discriminate against ADHD and do not give us accommodations.

If you didn’t make it through school, before you go back, get clear on how ADHD effects you academically and learn how to work around that before you go back to increase your rate of success. Also look into learning disabilities, 30% of people with ADHD have them, and just like ADHD, they are also massively under diagnosed.


Equality and universality of human rights

“No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.”

“There can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way in which it treats its children.”

“Overcoming poverty is not a task of charity, it is an act of justice. Like Slavery and Apartheid, poverty is not natural. It is man-made and it can be overcome and eradicated by the actions of human beings. Sometimes it falls on a generation to be great. YOU can be that great generation. Let your greatness blossom.”

“To deny people their human rights is to challenge their very humanity.”

“I hate race discrimination most intensely and in all its manifestations. I have fought it all during my life; I fight it now, and will do so until the end of my days.”

Children, teens and adults with ADHD often face discrimination, harassment, hate and stigma. People don’t get born with an inbred hatred of people who have a different race, religion, sexual preference or mental health condition like ADHD. It get’s taught and imprinted into them by their parents, schools, media, friends etc.

It’s no longer acceptable in many countries to discriminate against someone because the color of their skin for most people. But sadly it still is acceptable in many including Canada and the US to discriminate against people with ADHD.

One reason for this is few medical professionals get properly educated on ADHD.

My family physician had little empathy or understanding of ADHD and how it affects my life. If my physician doesn’t understand, how can I expect my employer or colleagues to understand?”

The ADHD Catch 22. Few services because lack of training on ADHD and few go public with ADHD to complain about it. And because of the stigma, few people with ADHD go public, most stay hidden in the ADHD closet.

Stigmatizing ADHD is unfortunately socially acceptable, and encouraged. Most ADDers tolerate others stigmatizing them, they’re too passive to call stigmatizers out, inflict a cost for the stigmatization or educate people on what ADHD is, or demand services and resource for ADHD like people with other mental health conditions do.

Posts on ADHD and Stigma


Think big, make a difference

“There is no passion to be found playing small – in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living.”

“Sometimes it falls upon a generation to be great, you can be that generation”

“I am fundamentally an optimist. Whether that comes from nature or nurture, I cannot say. Part of being optimistic is keeping one’s head pointed toward the sun, one’s feet moving forward. There were many dark moments when my faith in humanity was sorely tested, but I would not and could not give myself up to despair. That way lays defeat and death.”

“As I have said, the first thing is to be honest with yourself. You can never have an impact on society if you have not changed yourself… Great peacemakers are all people of integrity, of honesty, but humility.”

“As we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.”

“One of the things I learned when I was negotiating was that until I changed myself, I could not change others.”

“A fundamental concern for others in our individual and community lives would go a long way in making the world the better place we so passionately dreamt of.”

“Living isn’t just about what you do for yourself, but what you do for others as well”

Some people want to just exist, consume, indulge their desires, grow old and die.

Some of use want to have fun too, but have higher expectations than just that. To make a difference. As someone who’s an ADHD activist and knows a fair number of other activists, I think a lot of them have ADHD. There are many competitive edges of having ADHD as an activist.

Helping others actually boosts dopamine. Doing good is healthy ADHD self medication. Properly channelling oppositional defiant disorder can help change a unjust status quo. Creativity in taking on large bureacracies can work around the institutional advantages they have.

Many people with ADHD have experienced a lot of discrimination, harassment and stigma. They know what it’s like to be the underdog from personal experience. We get bullied more often, and sometimes are the bully more often too.

So often, not always, we get irritated and upset by injustice. We often identify with the underdog, and are frequently more comfortable taking a stand against people being bullied or discriminated by the authorities or people who have more power than them.

We ADDers have a nuclear power plant as an energy source while non ADDers have gasoline power plants.

We can use that nuclear energy to destroy us and those around us with addictions, useless distractions, conflicts, crime etc.

Or we can use that nuclear energy to power us and the people around us, make a positive difference in other and the world, and make a big impact for the better.

You chose.

Want more Nelson Mandela? Check out:

An ideal for which I am prepared to die. His speech at his trial in 1964.

The official national memorial service for former South African president Nelson Mandela

Nelson Mandela funeral service.


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