Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Get Better Post-Divorce. Take a Lesson from Team USA

After a huge blow, everyone is trying to get better post-divorce.  The US Women’s Soccer team lost the World Cup in a heartbreaker a few days ago.  Talk about a blow.  Goalkeeper Hope Solo was asked whether she thought she’d be there for the next World Cup, 4 years from now, she’s 30 after all.   Her response was that she wasn’t even in her prime as a goal keeper (34 or so), that today’s game was a fun game for the fans to watch, that she knew it created a tremendous amount of interest in women’s soccer, the Olympics are coming up and that she planned to be at the next world cup.
What I noticed about Solo’s response was that it reflected what I surmise to be her get better goals.  Get better goals are those in which you’re trying to get better in some way.  In contrast, a be good goal is one in which you are trying to show how good you are.  As Heidi Halvorson has said, being good is about success, and getting better is about the journey.
Post-divorce, everyone is trying to recover from the unmet be good  goal (i.e., until death do us part).  How about some post-divorce get better goals?  Borrowing from some of my clients, they have decided to:
*take classes (for the fun and stimulation) and maybe get a masters degree
*join the army to fill life with purpose, serving country and learning skills
*move to the dream city to enjoy what it offers and the closeness of family
*date a lot to have fun and perhaps meet the dream mate
Don’t just lose weight, go to singles bars or meditate.  Decide on some get better goals.  What would you like to do?  What would increase the challenge in your life, make you happier, more fulfilled?  Try it and you’ll find you can enjoy the journey.
You’re the right kind of sinner, to release my inner fantasy.  Heartbreaker, Pat Benatar

Sunday, July 10, 2011

My Post-Divorce Challenge

One of my July 4th post-divorce traditions is to run a local 10K.  I run it with 59,999 of my closest friends.  It’s the biggest 10K in the world.  It’s a huge party with music and crowds cheering along the way.  It’s fun.  And it’s a challenge for me.  Although I’ve been running for many years, I just started running in races 7 years ago.  I’m not trying to break any records except my own, but starting out in Atlanta’s July heat and facing 6.2 increasingly hot miles is a stretch.  When I finish I feel great.  They say that finishing a marathon means there’s not a lot you can’t do.  Well, I say finishing a 10K means the same thing.

I’m a bit reluctant to juxtapose this experience with the US women’s soccer team winning their game against Brazil today, but humor me.  It was an incredible game with heartbreaking calls and a tying goal in, literally, the 122nd minute of the 2nd overtime.  It was a beautiful display of grit, the combination of perseverance and passion for a goal (no pun intended).  Those women were not giving up any time soon and you could see it in their faces.

In fact, finishing most difficult things can leave you with the feeling that you can conquer the world.  Challenging yourself is a way to get tough.  Challenging yourself makes you more confident. It doesn’t have to be a physical challenge.  How about learning to do something you never really thought you could do, like speak French or play the guitar?  Persevering and getting it done lead to the end result of increased confidence and toughness.  So accept my challenge:  pick a challenge for yourself and see it through.  It’ll help you get that mental toughness and grit you need for the post-divorce challenges.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

You Can’t Always Judge a Book by its Cover, or, Change Your Thinking Post-Divorce

I recently read about a treatment for anorexia in which the person is taught to be more cognitively flexible, i.e., they’re taught to think about things in less ritualistic and programmed ways and to try new ways of approaching problems and situations.  Can you see where I’m going with this post-divorce?

Isn’t the post-divorce situation a classic case of trying to change rituals and rigid ways of thinking that are no longer helpful?  In anorexia, the idea is to help the person see foods as they are, instead of simply seeing them for their caloric content.  It’s to help them consider that not running 8 miles a day isn’t going to result in a 200 pound weight gain.  Post-divorce, the idea is to learn to see people, families and other triggers for negative thinking, for what they are.   People who look happy are sometimes happy, and sometimes they’re hiding their true feelings.  Families you observe in restaurants are sometimes happy, biological and intact, the story you may tell yourself.  They are also sometimes unhappy, not biologically related and not intact.   In other words, you can’t always judge a book by its cover.

The treatment for anorexia involves literally using drills to change thinking patterns.  I believe that most of us know how to think more rationally and productively, we just get stuck in the post-divorce doldrums.  Here’s what I think we can do to rewrite our stories.

Notice your triggers.  What are the situations or people that start your cycle of negative self-talk?  Is it watching romantic comedies or going to the health club and seeing lots of couples?  Okay, so maybe you need some behavior change.  You may need to hold off on the romantic comedies for a while.  Perhaps you’d rather go to the health club with a friend.  Fixes can also be cognitive, that is, dispute your thoughts and change them.  At first it feels stilted to say, I’ll have that kind of romance in the future, instead of I’m never going to be in love again.  But if you keep doing it, it starts to take hold and you begin to really see the world differently and your story changes.

Consider ways that your thinking or rituals get you into trouble post-divorce.  Then consider how you can make changes that will result in more positive emotional reactions.  You can actually rewrite the book developing a positive story to go along with situations.

Just to get in the mood:  The Story, Brandi Carlile