As my son prepared to leave for school, I found myself drifting through the days, struggling to concentrate, and unexpectedly crying. How could my curly headed toddler be old enough to move away? As my sadness grew, I realized I was falling into the same unhealthy mindset that defeats so many mediation clients. I was looking backward.
As clients enter mediation, they often wonder, “How do I get prepared–Do I focus on my rights? On finances? On protecting the children?”
While there is a time and place for all of these, something more crucial comes first. If you get this right, everything else falls into place. The mindset for winning in mediation includes 3 elements:
1) Think forward
Too many people get caught looking backward. Looking back at the hurt they suffered. The price they paid during their marriage. The life they lost. They want mediation to make up for all this.
Mediation isn’t designed to right past wrongs, to even the score, or to punish. Entering mediation with this mindset will sabotage the process before it begins.
Those who succeed in mediation come with a different mindset. They come thinking forward.
To think forward, ask, In my next stage of life, what do I:
- need to be financially stable?
- want to focus on in my work?
- want my parenting look like?
In short, you begin specifically defining how your life will look after divorce. Then, you use these answers to make and communicate choices in mediation.
Concrete details prove key. Rather than “I want every Friday night because you’re ripping our family apart by leaving” you might say, “I want to preserve our ritual of pizza and movies on Friday night. Could I have that night?” Instead of, “you owe me half your retirement for all the years I gave up for you,” you offer, “I need to go back to school. So, I need money from the retirement account to pay for this.” The specificity organizes the mediation discussions around significant values, not settling past scores.
While you might not get everything you want, the specificity clarifies why your requests are important. This increases the chances your former spouse will work with you to meet them.
2) Think inward
Many experience divorce as a crisis happening to them. Taking from them. They focus on outward forces and how to combat these.
A winning mindset looks inward and asks, “What kind of person do I want to be when this is over? What kind of person do I want my children to see?”
As you define the person you want to be, you strengthen your ability to be that person in the hard moments. Dr. Tim Gardner, speaker and writer on family relationships, notes, “Who you are when you are angry is who you really are.”
Use this process to discover who you really are. As you move through the mediation process and face moments of deep anger:
- Do you like what you see in your own reactions?
- Do you find areas where your actions don’t match your values? Areas where you need God to save you? Take this process as an opportunity to grow into the person you want to be.
- Do you find areas of unexpected strength? Patience? Ability to adjust? Take this process as an opportunity to celebrate God already shaping you to be the person you hoped you were.
3) Think outward
As you move through mediation, with your life changing on every level, remember, you’re not the only one affected. In your pain, it can be easy to lose sight of this.
Children, extended family, friends, co-workers, all those who have a relationship with you are affected by what impacts you. As you move through this process, consider, “How can I help them?”
Though this may seem more than you can manage, the outward focus actually helps. As you concentrate on helping your children adjust, understanding the confusion of your parents, and modeling for friends how to continue an altered relationship, the outward focus changes you. It broadens your perspective. It reminds you of all you still have left. It demonstrates that your actions matter, so be mindful.
Thinking backward traps clients in a mindset of loss. Thinking forward, thinking inward, and thinking outward moves clients into a mindset that considers the best of what they still have and looks toward the new life they will build. This allows the client to more clearly define the elements they need from mediation and to participate cooperatively. They become the person they hope to be and carry that person into their next stage of life.
If you would like help in working through this process as you enter divorce, The Resolution Center offers Divorce Coaching as part of our services. Please contact us with questions or to make an appointment so we can begin serving you. Contact info@TheResolutionCenterIndy.com or call 317.344.9740.