Time is one of those concepts that we all get, but is difficult to define. It’s a marker that allows us to separate past, present, and future.
Why bother discussing time? Because, I agree with Alan Lakein who is credited with saying, “Time = Life, therefore, waste your time and waste your life, or master your time and master your life.”
When we go through divorce, it’s so very, very, very easy to get caught up in either the past or the future instead of being here, now.
We can get caught up in the past by thinking things like, “If only s/he would have told me they weren’t happy, I know we wouldn’t be getting divorced now.” We might even think things like, “I knew before I got married that I shouldn’t marry him/her.” This was one of the thoughts that I had when I was going through my divorce. It was the truth, but it didn’t do any good. The fact was that I had gone ahead and gotten married despite what my gut was telling me. Spending time thinking about a decision I had made YEARS ago wasn’t making the situation any better. It wasn’t helping me to deal with what was going on right then. It was just a way for me to come to terms with the end of my marriage – for a while. What it did in the longer term was it kept me from REALLY understanding what was going on in the present – what was going on with me. A large part of my struggle with divorce came down to the question, “What is it that I need to change or do to reclaim my happiness?” Focusing on the past never helped me completely answer this question. It gave me hints and clues, but never the answer.
On the other hand, we can get caught up in the future by thinking things like, “I don’t know how I’ll be able to make a living”, “I don’t know how I’ll be able to pay child support”, “I’ll never find someone to love me again”, and “I am so afraid of the future”. Focusing on the future with thoughts of fear, lack and struggle makes the process of divorce that much more difficult. Who on earth would want to move forward to a life of fear, lack and struggle?!
I know I sure wouldn’t, and yet, when I was going through my divorce, I had many of these types of thoughts. My thoughts and fears of the future played havoc with me. I would make a decision about how many to move ahead in a positive direction and I would break out in hives. I’d make another decision about how to move forward and I’d have a panic attack. Living in fear of the future was miserable!
Luckily for me, over time, I learned how to live in the present. I learned how to take the past and extract the hints and clues it provided about how I might be happy again. With the hints and clues, I started experimenting with my thoughts and actions to discover what made me happy in the present. I learned how to look with the anticipation toward the future and use the happiness of the present to project what would bring me even more happiness and fulfillment in the future.
I’ll be honest with you, this wasn’t an easy transformation for me, but I did it. Because I did it, I’ve been able to teach my clients how to do it. Because I’ve been able to do it and teach others how to do it, I know YOU can learn to live in the present too. YOU can appreciate and learn from your past. YOU can anticipate your future with happiness all while you are enjoying the present.
The most important thing to remember is that life is what’s happening NOW. Appreciate now. Enjoy now. Live now.
Your Functional Divorce Assignment:
What are you holding on to from your past that is keeping you from completely experiencing the present? You might find this question tricky to answer. It takes a willingness to get really honest with yourself and it might even require you letting go of some blame (either of yourself or someone else). On the other hand, you might be very well aware of what you’re holding on to.
What hints and clues does your past give you about how to experience more happiness now? When were you happy in the past? What were you thinking? What were you doing? How does what you were holding on to point you in the direction of what you might need in the future to be happy?
How are you using fear to keep you from anticipating the future with pleasure? What is it that is keeping you from moving forward with pursuing your future?
What does your ideal future look like? You don’t have to have every detail here or even know exactly how you’ll achieve it. The important thing is to know that your future can be ideal.
How might you use the hints and clues from your past along with an anticipation of the future to make your ‘now’ more enjoyable and fulfilling? If you’ve spent the time to answer the questions above, you’ve got the beginnings of how to make your ‘now’ happier. Remember, there’s no time like the present to start making things even better for yourself!
Appreciate now. Enjoy now. Live now.
I’m Dr. Karen Finn, a divorce coach and advisor helping people just like you who are dealing with the stress and pain of divorce. You can join my newsletter list for free weekly advice. If you’re interested in taking the first step toward working with me, you can schedule an introductory private coaching session.
We all have hundreds of thousands of thoughts every day. Time to get up. I’m hungry. Who’s calling? Why haven’t they sent that email yet? I have so much to do. Do I look fat? How am I going to solve this problem? Why isn’t my attorney returning my call? If s/he would just reconsider, I know we could work it out. How could I be so stupid? Could this be cancer?
Some of our thoughts are helpful, some are fanciful, some are neutral, and some are just plain hurtful or scary. Every thought we have contributes to how we perceive ourselves, our situation and those around us. They can spur us into action or keep us from taking action. Our thoughts are what make our lives uniquely ours. That’s why two people can experience the same event and come away from it telling two entirely different stories about the event.
Perhaps you’ve heard the story of the bricklayers.
There were three bricklayers working side-by-side. A passerby stops to ask the first bricklayer, “What are you doing?” The first bricklayer rolls his eyes and responds, “Obviously, I’m laying bricks.” Not satisfied with the answer, the passerby stops by the second bricklayer and asks, “What are you doing?” The second bricklayer, without looking up from his work, replies, “I’m working so I can feed my family.” Still not quite satisfied with the answer from the second bricklayer, the passerby stops by the third bricklayer and asks the same question. “What are you doing?” This bricklayer carefully put down his tools, smiled at the passerby and proudly stated, “I’m building a cathedral.”
Each of these bricklayers was occupied by the same task, but how they thought about the task was entirely different. The first bricklayer was just there to do his job. The second bricklayer was there out of sense of obligation. The third bricklayer was there to be part of something bigger than himself. Who do you think is going to have a better day? Who do you think is going to have the longest day?
This simple story illustrates the power our thoughts have over our experiences.
Most people find divorce to be an unpleasant, stressful experience. I know I certainly did. Maybe you do too. The thing is, I find that most of us add to the unpleasantness and stressfulness of divorce without even realizing it! Wouldn’t you like to know if you’re doing this?
Well, the easiest way to tell is by becoming away of your thoughts. Are you expecting things to be miserable? That expectation can set you up to interpret things as miserable even when they just might not be completely terrible. Are you thinking about how hard things are going to be? That thought will keep you focused on how hard things are instead of being flexible enough to see easier ways of doing things.
Once you become aware of your thoughts, you can then decide if and how you want to change them. I’ll be honest with you, this probably won’t be the easiest thing you’ve ever done, but the payoff is worth it! Imagine being free of those nagging thoughts of not being good enough or those thoughts of everything being so hard or those thoughts of being scared of what the future holds. Pretty powerful stuff, huh?
One of the best ways I know of to keep my thoughts focused on the positive is to have a compelling place or future I am working toward. When I was going through my divorce that positive future included being able to make my own decisions about where I wanted to live. By focusing on that, I was able to buy my own home. By focusing on that, I was able to move out of state three different times because it was what I decided to do. Instead of thinking by habit that someone else would make the decisions about where I would live, I chose to focus on my thoughts so they could help me build my cathedral instead of just laying bricks.
Focusing on a positive future is a goal I set with every single one of my clients. You’ll benefit from doing so too. All you have to do to convince yourself of this is ask, “Are my thoughts helping me build my cathedral or are they just habits that are keeping me stuck?”
Your Functional Divorce Assignment:
Pick one area of your life that you’d like to improve. What areas of your life would you really like to be different? Your finances? How your divorce is progressing? How your kids are dealing with the divorce? How you think of yourself? Look at all of them and then choose the one area that would have the greatest impact on your life.
Decide exactly what you’d like to be different and create your compelling place or future with as much detail as possible. Now that you know which one area of your life you’d like to change for the better, imagine exactly what you’d like to be different. Be as detailed as you can. You might want to write a description of what you want to be different or even create a collage or draw a picture. This is your “cathedral”.
Become aware of your thoughts in this area. We all have tons of thoughts every day. We’re so used to them that we hardly notice when we’re thinking them. Amp up the volume on your thoughts about your “cathedral” so you can become more and more aware of all the thoughts you have on a daily basis about it. I bet you’ll be surprised at how often you really do think about it.
Choose to change your thoughts that aren’t helping you to build your “cathedral”. Once you’re aware of your thoughts about your “cathedral”, notice how many are not helping you and choose to change them to something that is helpful. This is one of those things that can be easier said (or written) than done, but with practice, you can definitely do it.
Happy “cathedral” building!
I’m Dr. Karen Finn, a divorce and personal life coach. I help people just like you who are dealing with the stress and pain of divorce. You can join my newsletter list for free weekly advice.