This is the fourth Change Model I am presenting in order to give you as many ways to move through the Fog of Divorce™ as possible. Options empower you and help you to focus and engage a powerful region of your brain called the pre-frontal cortex. This is where awareness, insight, and action originate.
This model was developed by John Kotter, a Harvard Business School professor and a well-known expert on change. Kotter introduced this 8-step process in his book, "Leading Change." Since YOU are the change agent in your divorce (whether you want to admit it or not), you may find his approach applicable to your situation (the steps listed below are his; the notes for each step are mine).
Step 1 - Create Urgency
If your spouse has already introduced the "D" word to your marital woes, chances are a sense of urgency has been created for you. Sometimes, particularly for men, we think things are just heating up when, in fact, things are actually worse than they appear.
Not acting out of a sense of urgency can cause things to drag on and can annoy your spouse, which can bounce back and bite you in the butt, and only cause you more grief.
Step 2 - Form a Powerful Coalition
Men tend to think we can survive anything if we just stick to it. You won't successfully survive the divorce process without the help of other people. You stack the odds against you if you try to go it alone in a divorce. You will greatly benefit from putting together a team of professionals who you can trust and have your best interests at heart.
Who should be on your "D" Team?
There are multiple facets to a divorce; I break them into two paths: the business (or transactional) path and the personal (or emotional) path. The business path deals with the legal and financial issues. The personal path includes your physical, social, emotional, and (if you are so inclined) spiritual sides. For your “D” Team, I suggest you consider contracting with any or all of the following: a mediator or divorce attorney, a certified divorce financial analyst, a divorce coach, a personal counselor or therapist (especially if you feel depressed or suicidal), a child psychologist (if you have children), a spiritual advisor (priest, rabbi, elder…), and a health or nutritional counselor. As part of my Seven Steps to Survive the Fog of Divorce™, I also recommend identifying one or two objective friends who you can turn to. Your team will give you strength and confidence when you run out of it.
Step 3 - Create a Vision for Change
I think the greatest challenge you face while in the Fog of Divorce™—in addition to the initial and lingering shock of it—is how hard it is to see a new future for yourself. In many instances, you don’t want a new future; you want your spouse/marriage back.
I think the most critical step you take to recover and move through and beyond your divorce is to acknowledge the reality of your situation and decide to move forward, despite the fact you may have no idea how to do that! That decision point is the most important aspect of your recovery.
It is only after you acknowledge and accept the fact that your marriage is ending that you can start to think about your future or, as I call it, your NewLife™. By creating your NewLife™ vision, you are creating a positive focal point that can begin to replace your spouse (or marriage) as the center of your attention.
Step 4 - Communicate the Vision
This is a great step for organizational change but it can also apply to surviving the Fog of Divorce™. The more people you tell about your vision, the more support you will tend to enlist. Minimally, the more people you tell, even if NO ONE helps you, the more you will cement your vision in your own mind and start to move toward it. Whatever we focus on, we make stronger in our brains. More focus and attention fosters faster hardwiring. By repeating your vision, you increase the attention paid to it and facilitate its potential for success. As noted in Step Three, if you continue to focus on your spouse or your marriage, you make THAT stronger and more powerful in your brain, despite the fact that she/it is gone and something over which you have no control. Keep talking about what you want from the future (I want to be happy…) not from the past (I want my wife back…) and that picture will begin to take root and solidify.
Step 5 - Remove Obstacles
During organizational change, there are many obstacles to overcome. The same can be said during a personal change—especially one as emotionally exhausting as divorce. Interestingly, many of the obstacles we face during a divorce are self-created. That’s not to say your spouse won’t make the process a difficult and potentially expensive one. What I am saying is you can be your own worst enemy in the midst of a divorce.
By trying to control things you cannot control, by focusing too much on your spouse (ruminating on what she’s doing, what she’s thinking, who she’s with….), by letting your emotions get the better of you, by over-generalizing and exaggerating your situation. This may sound like tough talk—and it is! Please remember, I’ve been through this. I’ve made these mistakes and I can tell you there are alternatives. Getting out of your own way is one of the best things you can do for yourself and for your recovery. Your “D” Team can help with this.
Step 6 - Create Short-term Wins
I believe that the minefield of divorce is conquered one step at a time. Not with grand giant world changing steps; but with small, calculated, almost baby steps It’s hard to see very far ahead when you’re in the fog. Take too big a step and you could land in significant trouble. You could step off a cliff.
Set your sights small and create achievable mini-goals. This will also prevent against the significant feelings of failure we feel when we miss a goal, even by a little bit. And when you’re dealing with the second most stressful life event, you don’t want to add to your misery.
Refer to my Seven Step Process to help you identify small goals you can set and achieve. This will help you begin to move through the fog.
Step 7 - Build on the Change
Moving through and beyond divorce is a lengthy process (I still think of my ex- and it’s been nine years since she left me – and we didn’t have kids!). Don’t push yourself too hard, too far, or too fast. Rather than choosing 15 possible paths to pursue, choose one or two and see where they lead.
Pay attention to what is working. Build on that. If you find something is generating positive results or helping you feel better, find a way to do more of that or complement it. Make more time for it.
Also, don’t expect everything to go well (again, set low expectations). Expect setbacks. Expect challenges. Expect some paths to be dead-ends. It’s OK, that’s all part of the process.
Step 8 - Anchor the Changes in Corporate Culture
Well, obviously, this is pretty specific to an organizational change (hey, it’s Kotter’s model, not mine). How can you leverage this step?
Totally commit to your NewLife™. It may seem impossible at first, but it gets easier. The more ways you find to surround yourself with and immerse yourself in your NewLife™ vision, the more quickly you will begin moving toward it.
Throw out or donate anything related to your “old” life/wife. Paint your apartment/bedroom. Identify new “hangouts.” Reconnect with your “old” network. Create new rituals.
While it may be difficult to view your situation as having any positives, there are opportunities to recreate yourself and your life.
I understand, you may not want to, you may have no idea how to, you may even be scared to – but think about what your life (and you) will be like if you don’t.
That thought alone may be enough to get you going!