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.