Dads’ Guide To Divorce Step 5: Master Your Psychology
When working with fathers entering into a divorce or who have recently divorced, there is a 5-step process through which I assist them in identifying and implementing an action plan for their lives. Throughout this Dads’ Guide to Divorce series, I will be sharing this specific process with detailed ways in which you can utilize it in order to achieve an amazing life for you and your children.
Step 5: Master Your Psychology
In the last four articles in the “Dads’ Guide to Divorce” series I shared the first four steps of Clarifying Your Vision And Direction, Strategizing Your Actions, Upgrading Your Skills, and Optimizing Your Environment.
I discussed how many men struggle with clarifying a vision and direction for their lives when entering into a divorce or beginning life post-divorce and that it is critical to begin to do this because as men, our identity is closely aligned with the vision for our lives. I proposed a two-step process to assist in clarifying your vision and direction. If you haven’t read “Dads’ Guide to Divorce: Step 1-Clarifying Your Vision,” you can do so here.
Once we have clarified our vision and direction, it is necessary to begin the process of Strategizing Your Actions. There seems to be much confusion these days around how to set goals and put forth the effort to achieve them but I describe a simple 3-step process here.
In Step 3, Upgrading Your Skills, we discussed that as with any change in circumstances, many skills are either not up to snuff or woefully outdated; therefore, you may need to learn or relearn a skill in order to implement the behavior(s) necessary to meet your goal. If you haven’t read “Dads’ Guide To Divorce Step 3: Upgrade Your Skills,” you can do so here.
Finally in Step 4: Optimizing Your Environment we discussed that each day we have a finite amount of willpower. If we are directing that willpower toward combating things in our environment that are working against our best interests, we are wasting energy that can otherwise be directed to a positive effort or outcome. Instead, by controlling your environment, you are eliminating the need to focus on and expend willpower on these detrimental influences. You can read more here.
Each step compounds upon the previous, so if you haven’t read the preceding articles, I highly suggest stopping now and reading them.
The final step in the “Dads Guide To Divorce” is Step 5: Master Your Psychology. I will admit that this is and has been the most challenging step for me and many men with whom I work. While each of us is blessed with our magnificent minds they can also be a challenge in the sense that much of what we think and our resulting behaviors are imagined and have been hardwired into us without our awareness. This is where it is critical to becoming mindful of our thoughts.
“Much suffering, much unhappiness arises when you take each thought that comes into your head for the truth.” — Eckhart Tolle
I have saved this step for last because while some of the previous 4 steps include tapping into your internal awareness they primarily focus on identifying and implementing steps in your physical world. This step and the process for mastering it is purely internal and requires laying a foundation of mindfulness that will require an immense amount of energy and attention.
Stop for a moment and consider the fact that all of the thoughts that go through your mind in a day are not witnessed by anybody but you. While the physical world around us can be observed by everybody there is nobody that can observe your thoughts. Have you ever seen a thought walk by you?
Therefore, we all experience one physical world but there are around 7.8 billion (the world’s population) internal worlds. Each of those internal worlds is being experienced by an individual at any given time in this human existence. I’ve heard it described as our own “internal circus.” Which to me seems accurate as I take stock of my own sometimes silly or ridiculous thoughts.
When we reflect on this fact it becomes empowering to understand that our thoughts are our own and we have the power to control them. This gives us agency over our minds.
What makes a thought real is the energy that we give to it. If we are having a thought about a friend or coworker that person cannot see the thought. The only way that thought becomes empowered is through our willingness to give it space in our mind, take up our time thinking about it, and consciously or subconsciously acting on it.
But how can we “control” our thoughts? The answer is that we cannot. We don’t conjure up thoughts, they simply appear without our approval or summoning. But the most powerful tool of agency that we have over them is to learn to become aware of them. This might feel like an overwhelming prospect if you are like me and have or have had thoughts about your divorce, your ex, your kids, work, finances, what’s for dinner, which kid’s activity is next, etc. happening all at the same time.
There is one tool that I’ve found that assists with the process. I briefly mentioned it in my previous article “Dads’ Guide To Divorce Step 3: Upgrade Your Skills.” That tool is mindfulness.
mind·ful·ness /ˈmīn(d)f(ə)lnəs/ — the ability to know what is happening in your head at any given moment without getting carried away with it.
Watch this video for a quick introduction to mindfulness from Happify.com.
My first introduction to the concept of mindfulness was reading the book The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle. This wonderful book conveys that in every moment that we get stuck worrying about the future or ruminating in the past we forsake the present moment. He explains that the only thing we can truly have an impact on is the moment we are currently experiencing. This book goes deep into the concept and for those of you who are like me and need to know and understand a concept in detail, I highly recommend it.
But how does one achieve this superpower called mindfulness? This is where it will be beneficial for you to take some time to learn about the different ways in which you can strive to be mindful. I say strive because staying present takes an immense amount of effort especially if the kids are screaming, dinner is burning, the rent is late, and life is happening. But I assure you that being able to remain present and aware of your thoughts will move you toward a more meaningful life experience even in the most challenging of times such as divorce.
For me, I was drawn to meditation as my resource for learning mindfulness. But there are others and I encourage you to try the different modalities. This could be breathing exercises, movement, body scans, or another. There is a fantastic site called Mindfulness Toolkit that provides a great starting point for learning and implementing a practice.
As your skills at becoming mindful increase and you are better capable of operating in and from the present moment you will begin to experience that the previous 4 steps of this “Dads’ Guide To Divorce” become easier to work through and implement. The realm of your physical world especially that of divorce will begin to shift in your mind and your life will align into one that you design and desire through the assistance of the 5 steps in this guide. Continue to work through the steps. This is an ongoing process and one that is a resource for you throughout life after divorce. I am still utilizing them 8 years later.
I’d like to close this “Dads’ Guide To Divorce” series by sharing with you how courageous I know that you are to be reading and working through these steps. Your willingness to do so is a testament to your desire for a deeper understanding of yourself and the world-changing impact that you will have as the man and father you will become. I am proud of you.