Thursday, 29 June 2017

Overcoming Challenges

Adversity is part of life. How you overcome that adversity and rise to the challenges in your life can really start to define you as a person. For better or worse, that is something I learned early at a very early age. While some may find that tragic, I find it empowering.

I am not suggesting that it has always been easy... it has just gotten easier. However, it doesn’t happen by itself. When I was a teenager, I was afraid of heights so I took a hot air balloon ride that terrified me for the first 10 minutes and was the most peaceful thing I had ever done for the remaining hour. I couldn’t stand the thought of being the kind of person who lived in fear — of anything! The more something scares me, the more apt I am to try to conquer that fear. While this approach may not be for everyone, I highly recommend it — it is actually quite freeing. The human spirit is an amazing thing. It inspires you at the strangest of times. Much like an athlete that trains regularly, with every hurdle I seemed to grow stronger. Age, wisdom, or just life experience — I grew more and more confident in my ability to overcome challenges.

A series of very serious illnesses at a young age made me realize that my time here is finite and should not be wasted. If there is something I want to do or accomplish, very little can stand in my way. We always think we’ll get to it tomorrow or the next day but, the truth is, we probably won’t because life gets in the way. I adopted a “carpe diem” attitude very early on, mostly out of necessity, because I really did not know how many days I would actually get to seize and then it just became a way of life. I am so grateful for that outlook and, indirectly, for my many challenges and “hardships” because they have given me the gift of a positive attitude and the ability to live for today.

My life took the path that it took... there is no changing it and I have no regrets because I am so lucky for all the gifts I have in my life. Mostly, I am lucky enough to recognize those gifts and I appreciate every moment of happiness in ways that others take for granted.


Wednesday, 28 June 2017

The Summer Switch-Up: Managing the summer when your kids are with the other parent

During summer months, temperatures aren’t the only things rising. For separated and divorced parents anxiety levels can easily reach an all-time high, as summer rolls around and parenting roles get switched-up. Along with negotiating vacation schedules, figuring out who is going to pay for what and fitting in special activities, parents handling more of the day-to-day care of kids find themselves facing the prospect of being childless for an extended period of time.

While seasoned switch-up veterans may secretly be counting down the days to some much-coveted alone time, first timers or those with tenuous situations may feel an overwhelming sense of dread about summer role reversal.

Of course, parents aren’t the only ones fretting. Summer can also be hugely stressful for kids as they navigate between households. Even when circumstances are amiable and cooperative, just the change from school schedule to summer routine can set kids on edge.
Regardless of which side of the fence you are on, here are some tips for making the summer switch-up successful for everyone.

Use time to recharge

Unfortunately too many parents treat kid free time more like a dirty little secret than an opportunity to recharge. If you haven’t already, do yourself a favor and bypass the guilt. It’s actually okay to enjoy a break from being Mom or Dad 24/7. To avoid squandering your well-deserved break, plan ahead and consider how you can constructively use your children’s time away.

To get started take 10 minutes to jot down a list of things you’d normally consider self- indulgent. You can also include things you’ve wanted to get done but haven’t gotten around to yet.

Coming up short on ideas? Ask yourself.

  • When the last time you saw a movie you wanted to see?
  • What would it take to plan a weekend getaway with friends?
  • Is there a hobby or new experience you’ve wanted to try?
  • What’s something you did in the past or “pre-kids” that you might like to do again?

Instead of keeping quiet, feel free to share your summer plans with kids. Not only does it role model good self care but it also reinforces that you feel good about them spending time with the other parent. It also send a clear message that enjoying time apart is okay.

Help kids have a successful experience

Do your best to help build kid’s excitement about their summer getaway with the other parent. Spend time talking it up, making a summer calendar or maybe brainstorming ideas about ways to make it special.

Consider things like:

  • Buying a disposable camera and a small photo album so your kids can make a memory book of their summer with the other parent.
  • Encouraging children to journal or keep a diary about summer events and activities.
  • Creating a summer collection box so kids can collect special trinkets or items to remind them of things they did (for example, a special shell from a trip at the beach or program from a summer concert they attended)
  • Packing special items from your home that children can use and enjoy while at the other household. (P.S. If your child’s something special is something major, like a gaming system or a new puppy, be a considerate co-parent and talk to your ex first before packing it up.)

Be creative about staying connected

Kids love mail. Instead of relying exclusively on modern day technology (i.e. phone calls, text, Skype or emails) consider writing your children letters or sending small care packages. Not only is it a great way connect but also it offers a fantastic opportunity to get your kids writing. The other added plus… some very special memories for both of you.

Although you may miss your kids terribly, remember to be respectful of the other parent’s time and take a balanced approach when contacting kids over the summer. Since every situation is different, it’s best to gauge frequency and time of day on your children’s need and ages. Young children may need regular phone calls while a teen feels perfectly comfortable with texting. Whenever possible use good co-parenting etiquette and consult your ex to find out what will work best with their summer schedule.

If this is your first summer…

Keep your anxiety in check

Kids are extremely sensitive to parental stress so make sure your children’s QT with the other parent isn’t tainted with worry. No matter how sad or apprehensive you feel, remember, you are the parent. Do your best to responsibly manage your feelings and not leave children wondering if you’re going to be okay while they’re gone. If necessary, get support from trusted friend or family member to help you sort things out.

It’s perfectly okay to tell your children you love them and that you will miss them. However, don’t forget to reassure them that time with the other parent is important and that you want them to enjoy it.

Whether this is your first summer or your fifth, don’t forget that absence makes the heart grow fonder. When time apart is constructive it can deepen everyone’s appreciation for the important people in their lives.

Have a fabulous summer


Monday, 26 June 2017

When Your Back Is Against the Wall... Push!

You have two choices... quit or move forward. Since quitting is not an option, you must push forward. Sure, the uncertainties of life can overwhelm you, but you are equipped for the task! It is important to stand in your reality. Whatever issue or obstacle that has currently reared its head in your life, you must stare it in the face, identify it, and make it your purpose to overcome it. Identifying the issues in your life removes fear of the unknown and forces you to focus on defeating the problem at hand. Adopting the mindset that you will conquer and not be conquered can ultimately change a person’s outlook from a victim to a victor.

As a society, we spend so much time ignoring our personal issues that we convince ourselves that we no longer have problems that need a resolution. Thus, our greatest offense as human beings is lying to ourselves. Be honest with yourself — do you feel stuck? Are you unhappy with your current career status? Are you way behind on the personal or professional goals that you were certain that you would accomplish by this stage in your life? Identify your obstacles and figure out a method to work through your thoughts, whether you voice your concerns out loud to yourself or discuss them with a loved one — do not allow negativity to exist in your mind any longer. As a living, breathing human being, you owe it to yourself to get to the source of any issue that you may have so that you can determine what is attempting to steal your joy. Once you have identified the burden at hand, make it your goal to overcome it. Simply put, you must know why you are fighting in order to win the fight.

At times, life can throw curve balls, but you must determine in your mind that before any obstacle takes place, you will win the fight! Learn to embrace the growing process and have faith that you will endure any “pit” in your life. Acknowledging the challenging moments of your life ultimately make the moment when you reach the “peak” of your life more enjoyable. In fact, sometimes the bumps and the bruises one receives during a journey prove to be the highlight of the story because those experiences provide the full perspective of one’s journey and make the victory even sweeter.

Remember, you were not made to be stagnant — you were made to evolve! It is true that change can be uncomfortable; however, it is essential for growth. Sometimes it is necessary to sit on the sideline and take a break, but you must get up with more energy and a solid strategy to succeed. While you are taking a break, surround yourself with positivity and people that embrace change so that you do not become complacent. Understand that God made you to perform a specific task that only you can perform, so trust that He is preparing you for it. Your job is to be an open vessel. Therefore, you must fight the fight because this world needs what only you have to offer. You are one of a kind and your story cannot end with defeat. You are equipped with the power that you need to excel so make up your mind right now that you can and will walk into your purpose. Always remember, during any obstacle, if your back is against the wall, you must push forward because the world is waiting for you!


Sunday, 25 June 2017

Why Small Moments Matter

Reading up on the latest future trends and technologies, I can sometimes geek out. I’m fascinated to know what might be coming. We have entered a phase of accelerated change—things are going to happen so quickly and I do believe that many of the new technologies will be able to transform our world. The big key to all of this is to find your own inner peace and joy.

In all that I do, I have a core message that is simply choose love over fear. If you can live each day focusing on those small moments, looking for joy and all that is going well, you’ll find that at the end of the day, you can string these moments throughout the day (often bridging over the challenges and negativity) to realize that it was a pretty good day. And doing this every day means your weeks turn out pretty good, and in the end, chances are you’ll live a pretty darn good life!

This is a way of practicing gratitude very consciously.

A concept I share regularly with others is that you need to watch closely what you “feed your brain.” It’s so easy these days to get bombarded with negativity. You really have to make an effort to counter balance all the negativity with a lot of positive information. One of my latest favorite tricks (especially on my Facebook feed) is looking at awe-inspiring images. I’ve liked several pages that just post amazing pictures so my newsfeed is filled with beautiful pictures. And it makes me feel joy!

Appreciation is one of the fastest ways to feel better too. Whether you are showing gratitude to others or for those small moments, it shifts your way of looking at the world. You see things from a more positive light. I’m not saying it’s always easy. It’s very similar to a muscle that needs to be trained. If you don’t use it, you’ll lose it. So make that conscious choice each and every day.

The last thing I’d like to share is how you can keep your own peace. Just imagine the eye of the storm. It’s always calm and lovely while there’s a raging storm going on all around. Be that eye of the storm in your life. Make that choice! Learn to not go into knee-jerk reactions but rather, put a pause in, a space, where you can choose exactly how you want to respond. 
You can do this through taking three deep breathes before saying anything, taking a walk, being very mindful and be aware of your emotions. Don’t let things get to you, keep that peace inside of you and you will be a positive force to be reckoned with that will help to calm others as well. I promise that!


Friday, 23 June 2017

7 Thoughtful Ways to Stress Less

Let go a little to be happier and live better.

How many of you want to grow old faster? What, no takers?!

Well, did you know you accelerate your aging when you regularly experience stress or anxiety? Seriously, if you’re too tired or too wired, take note of the seven strategies here to help you stress a little less:

1. Give up the daily guilt.

Let’s get some perspective. Too many of us waste time feeling guilty that our life is out of balance, but you’ll never feel balanced as long as you have goals and dreams. Why? There’s always way too much to do, to learn, to accomplish.

If you’re like me and have passion for your work, it’s easy to lose yourself in your tasks and projects since they bring you joy. At a certain point, however, I have to consciously ditch work to spend time with friends and family (minus my phone).

Quit thinking you need to “touch” everything each day and look at how “balanced” your life is over a period of time, not a specific day of the week. Take this one step farther and realize that it’s about being balanced over your lifetime. It all evens out.

2. Realize good is good enough.

Any other recovering perfectionists out there? Stop wasting time creating the “perfect” proposal, letter or marketing brochure, seeking the ideal gift for your nephew, the best comforter for your bedroom, or the supremely clean house. Stop at 80 percent and move on to the next task. Otherwise, hours of your life are wasted and nobody notices the difference but you. Get over yourself and take a step closer to acceptance.

3. Snooze, or lose.

Yeah, I can hear you stress puppies already: “I’ll sleep when I’m dead.” But the point is you will be dead sooner as a result. Exhaustion is not a badge of honor. Without sleep, you are worthless to yourself and those around you.

Staying up even one hour later to finish a task or watch Grey’s Anatomy costs you more than your health. Try irritability, trouble retaining information, minor illness, poor judgment, increased mistakes and even weight gain. A Harvard Business Review study of 975 global managers determined that 45 percent of high-earning managers are too pooped to even speak to their spouse or partner after work. This is your wake-up call to get your ZZZ’s.

4. Scale back on drive time.

When choosing a new doctor, dentist, hairdresser, whatever, find one as close to home as possible. Bonus: with gas so expensive, think of the savings! The same holds true when finding activities for any family members—stay local. Sure the ideal preschool, soccer club or SAT study group may be a longer commute, but add up all the drive time in advance and ask if it’s really worth it before committing to rush-hour jams and early alarm clocks.

Still determined? Set up carpools and recognize you don’t have to be at every activity. Sure it’s fun to participate, but your child will not turn into a serial killer if you miss a few games or performances.

5. Say no to others so you can say yes to you.

Are you turning down distractions disguised as opportunities? Are you being asked to join social sites that are leaving you no time to network with the people under your roof? Are you still knocking yourself out to host the annual Labor Day party when all you see is the labor ahead?

It’s not selfish to say no to others when the intent is to clear some space to say yes to you. Life does go on even if you aren’t involved in every activity, party or event. Look at it this way: Being missed makes you more interesting and appreciated when you do show up.

6. Power off.

The quickest way to gain downtime is to turn off the phone, TV and computer and enjoy the lack of distractions. I’ve spoken to people who feel anxious when their DVR is overloaded with recordings and they don’t have the time to watch their shows. C’mon, do you really need to know who’s getting kicked off the island or what has-been star can dance?

Some people say TV relaxes them, but I believe it’s more of a habit than a way to lower stress. TV just numbs you, and when the show’s over, your pressures resurface. Same with the computer. Sure, it’s great to connect with old friends on Facebook, but do you really need to know what someone ate for dinner?

Rather than screen sucking, grab that unopened book from your shelf, call a good friend or grab a cup of your favorite beverage and reflect on your day.

7. Embrace the messiness.

Having been raised by not one but two neat freaks, my old mantra was: There is a place for everything and everything belongs in its place. When I was single, the television remote stayed in the same spot, my pillows were strategically placed, and the countertops were void of dishes.

Now that I share my life with a family, the opposite is true. My new mantra: A clean house doesn’t define you; it confines you. Even with twice-monthly help, my house is usually messy—not dirty, but messy… big difference and one I’m learning to live with if I want to have a life outside of cleaning.

Embrace the messiness. It comes with the territory and means you’re leading a busy,fulfilling life—not a Stepford existence.

And if all else fails, remember you’re too blessed to be stressed! It’s impossible to feel stress and be grateful at the same time. When you’re on overwhelm, simply take a deep breath and count your blessings—works every time.


You have the power over your mind... Control what you can and accept what you can't!

"You have power over your mind - not outside events. Realise this and you will find strength." 

- Marcus Aurelius

A few thoughts on how to manage the mind and focus on what we can control while accepting the things we cannot. Master the mind, and the rest will follow!

Access further insight, information, encouragement and support for helping you to Thrive after Divorce or separation at:

Thursday, 22 June 2017

Life’s Crossroads: How To Thrive in Times of Change

Life’s crossroads create opportunity for us to choose between different options, and when we see someone embracing the moment when choices are decided upon, it can be awe-inspiring. A crossroads is about change. Choices must be made — not just when things are not working out as we had planned, but also during positive moments when we must choose to continue the course or veer off into something new. When we experience an ending in a marriage, a change in careers, political upheavals, the end of childrearing, or challenges with our health, the crossroads we find ourselves facing can either inspire us to choose differently, or during these moments of change we can paralyze ourselves with fear.

Making a crossroads a moment of profound and lasting change and learning how to thrive when life’s changes descend upon us can be learned.

The key to weathering life’s crossroads:

1. Do not settle for normal. When our habitual response leads us to what is expected and customary — when we choose ordinary — we can expect the unremarkable.

2. Do not resist. Attempting to control, manipulate or force things to happen is a typical response to the fear that comes with change. Some of us will be so fearful that we refuse to make a change without understanding that even if we choose not to make a decision or take action, this in and of itself is a choice. Our learned way of coping with stress and uncertainty should be reevaluated constantly as we evolve in this world. Move with the changes instead of against them.

3. Trust your deepest feelings for guidance. We all know, deep within ourselves, what we need to do — what we know, how to think, when to trust — during times of crisis. We can learn to access and trust our innate wisdom; it is personal and always available. Through this, we will know how to adjust our course, move toward our personal destiny. When we don’t follow our inner guidance, we feel a loss of power and energy.

4. Dream bigger. Change what you expect from life and then create a plan and work to cultivate the right conditions for your growth and success.

5. Limit distractions and strive to create balance in the midst of chaos. When we let go of our own or other’s agendas and when we push away the demanding concerns of the moment, we are able to hear our own thoughts. Do less at the moments of crossroads and give yourself the gift of time — time to be in the present moment. Respect the value of being here and now. Ask yourself, “What is the one area of my life that needs more balance?”

6. Failure is just another way to start again. When we face a crossroads with fearlessness and the choice turns out to be prosperous, we are hailed as a genius or visionary. When our choice creates failure, then we are judged harshly, ridiculed and diminished, and it has the potential to make being fearless more difficult when we face the next crossroads. We must remember that failing creates not only additional opportunities for success, but fosters courage and determination in those of us who are brave enough to attempt it.

When I’m faced with fear at life’s inevitable crossroads, I have learned to “let it rip“ and charge “no holds barred“ into the abyss — if for no other reason than to see what is there. I have emerged out the other side bloody and battered at times, but I’m stronger for having risked, taken a stand, trusted and believed.


Wednesday, 21 June 2017

Are We Too Stable? Conflict Role Modeling After Divorce

One of the issues with divorce parenting is the question of relationship role modelling. How will children learn what a good relationship looks like if they never see one? How will they learn how to treat someone in a marriage? More specifially—how will they learn to deal with conflict? This is a sensitive issue for me, because I blame conflict avoidance in large part for the demise of my marriage to my children’s father. I have learned that in order to keep a relationship healthy, you can’t let things simmer below the surface for years.

I don’t know how valid of a concern this is, since children are actually in relationships already—just not romantic ones. In fact, I think the sibling relationship is a pretty good foundation for learning how to treat people you live with, but even if kids don’t have siblings, they have parents, teachers, and friends. But since most if not all divorced parents have guilt and anxiety about parenting—and they tell me non-divorced parents also have guilt and anxiety about parenting as well—I thought it was a nice subject to obsess about for an afternoon.

My kids and I have been cohabitating with my SigO for several years now. He and I present (I think anyway) a stable relationship role model for the children. But is it too stable? The nature of shared parenting allows us to do all our fighting when the kids aren’t home, or at least when they are sound asleep. The boys have never seen us fight. Oh sure, they have witnessed a clipped sentence followed by, “We’ll talk about that later,” on one or two occasions, but by-and-large we present as a happy couple that never argues. Which is a lie.

The current parenting trend is one that discourages arguing in general. We expect our precious little darlings to talk it out and never raise their voices to each other, which is all well and good in a utopia, but not actually how I operate in my own life.

Sometimes I get mad at my SigO. Sometimes I use a harsh tone of voice. Sometimes I am completely irrational and refuse to back down and it is only after an hour of arguing with him that I can finally see my own part in the problem. OK, full disclosure, sometimes it is a few days before I am ready to compromise. And I don’t think this is that unusual.

For example, yesterday my SigO cleaned the whole house and put the dish soap under the sink. I put the dish soap back on the counter when I washed dishes and left it there, because dish soap belongs on the counter. He came in the kitchen and put it back under the sink. We had words about the ideal location for dish soap, and they weren’t all philosophical.

I think a lot of stupid arguments aren’t actually stupid, they are just about the wrong things. We fight over things like dish soap when we really are mad about who cleans the most, or who makes the bigger mess. In this instance, my SigO is definitely a far more thorough house cleaner than I am, and I provide the things that make the most mess—children and pets. But I am the one who cleans most often, and therefore feel like I get to decide where the dish soap resides, since I use it most of the time. But of course this whole spat (and its resolution) happened out of sight of the children. By the time they came home from Daddy’s everything was smooth and easy again.

I don’t want to fight with my SigO in front of the children. I don’t want to argue with anyone in front of the children. So how are my kids going to learn that it is OK to fight, sometimes necessary to fight (particularly if they live with someone who hides the dish soap) and that there are acceptable ways to argue and ways that cross the line? I spent several hours of a road trip contemplating my failure as a parent for not role-modeling conflict resolution, before I came to an important realisation:

In less than two years my eldest will become a teenager. This will naturally present all the angst and strife we will need! I am sure we can all look forward to several years of arguments around the dinner table and in the hallway at midnight. I’ll relax, and keep our grownup strife out of their view for just a little while longer.


Highly Optimistic People Do These 10 Things

We all know a person or two who always see the sunny side of life. These people are happy, outgoing, vivacious, energetic, and full of spunk and spirit. They look for the positive in every situation. They have a clear head and an open heart. Their glass is always half-full, maybe even, overflowing. Their lives revolve around the good things that they do, the good thoughts that they think, and the good things that they choose to see.

An increasing number of scientific studies and independent research has shown that optimistic people have better mental and physical health. Optimistic people tend to live longer, overcome difficulties faster, manage stress better, have lower rates of depression, and focus more on their true purpose in life. Overall, the studies behind the benefits of being optimistic prove that it pays great dividends to develop a positive outlook on life.

The world would be so grateful if it had more optimistic people in it. So, let’s start developing some habits that will move us in that direction:

Smile often.

Smiling makes you feel better about yourself and your life on the inside. It also helps to attract more positive people to you. Wear a smile like a badge of honor. When we smile, we create the type of environment we want to live in and work in. Smiling releases tension and frustration, it helps us to think about tough situations differently, and it loosens up our face so other people will feel comfortable around us. On the other hand, frowning or looking sad all the time, attracts negative energy and negative people to us. It makes difficult situations more difficult and our lives harder to manage.

Be thankful.

Appreciate the good things and good people that come into your life. Express your appreciation with words and deeds. If you’re not grateful for what you have in life, you will not get more. At the same time, we should also be grateful for the bad things in life, and even for the difficult people that come into our lives. These things are given to us to make us stronger, wiser, brighter, and better people. Be thankful for the good and the bad in every situation because all of it helps guide us to live brilliant lives. That’s the whole point of being optimistic.

Laugh a lot.

The Bible got it right: “Laughter is like medicine.” Some things in life are serious, and those things should be taken seriously. But some things are just down right funny. Some things are so stupid that they’re funny. Some of the things we do, the mistakes we make, the mindless behavior, is funny. Learn to open up and laugh. Have a ball laughing at yourself, at other people (seriously, some people are funny), at silly things, at serious things. Come on, don’t be stuck up and take everything so seriously. Don’t take yourself seriously either. You can get through the tough times of life much easier if you learn to laugh. Life is like a cake. The serious stuff is on the inside, but it’s covered over in icing so you can’t see it.

Take responsibility.

So often, people blame their past, their family, their environment, and even third parties who don’t know them, such as the government, for their problems. Blaming people for what you alone can change will only make you sadder and depressed. People who take responsibility for the choices that they make, by default, live happier lives. When you accept who you are and realize that what you do is under no one else’s control but yours, you will begin to see optimism rise in your life. You are in control of you. No one can block your sunshine or hinder you from success unless you let them.


When we truly listen to other people, we are saying by our behavior that we are confident and secure within ourselves to be open to what other people have to say. We don’t know everything. When we open our minds and ears, we allow more knowledge and wisdom to come in and resonate with us instead of blocking out the good ideas and thoughts of others. When we know what we know and at the same time are willing to listen to what other people know, we attract more of the good stuff that we desire in life. Not only should we listen to positive people, but we should listen to God, to our conscience, and to the often silent cry of those who are poor, desperate, and without hope.

Show kindness.

Those who have a bright outlook on life are better equipped to handle the not so fortunate situations of other people. They can often bring a positive view to a negative situation and show the person going through it a different way out. Optimistic people see what can be done when other people don’t and can’t see it. These people shine a candle for others. They light the path so that others can follow in it. They step out, take a little child’s hand in theirs and help to make that child’s life better. They fight for those who are weak and they dream for those who can’t or won’t dream for themselves.


Okay, sure, forgiveness is easier said than done. But unforgiveness hurts us more than it hurts the person who needs to be forgiven. People are not perfect; they disappoint, they make mistakes, they say things that they shouldn’t, and do things that they know will hurt. But you can never move forward if you’re always holding grudges against people who hurt you in the past. Let stuff go. Cancel out the debt of hurt and pain. Bad experiences and hurtful people do not define us. Forgive. Even if they don’t ask for it, forgive them anyway. 
Optimistic people don’t let past hurts hinder their present progress. Forgiveness always leads to freedom.

Do your thing.

Positive people are insanely in love with what they do. They know who they are, they know what their gifts and talents are, and they are crazily happy to wake up and make things happen. Their purpose is the fuel that propels them forward to climb higher and to do bigger and better things in life. They are undeterred by roadblocks and setbacks. They see every day as an exciting challenge. They live in the moment and are passionate about the possibilities of greatness that lie within them. At the same time, positive people are able to encourage and appreciate the gifts and talents of others. They are not envious or jealous of the success of other people. Why? They don’t have time to because they are too busy being successful themselves.

Think positively.

When we think of a hospital, we often think of all the people who are sick or dying, the needles that must be inserted, the blood that must be drawn, the skin that must be grafted, the leg that must be amputated, the heart that must be replaced, and the kidney that must be transplanted. Sure, all of these things and more must be done. But rarely do we think about the baby that is being delivered, the organ being donated, the brain tumor that has been removed, the cancer that has been caught early, the medicine that has done its job, and the lives that are being saved. See, when we start to visualize the good things that come from bad situations, we open up our minds to see the wonderful things waiting to be seen. The sun continues to shine even when it’s raining. There is always a rainbow waiting to burst forth after the rain. Optimistic people always see the good, the positive, the sunshine, the rainbow. If we think we can, we can. It takes more energy to worry about what can’t be done then it does to work on what can be done. Positive thinking people don’t live in Pollyanna land, but they do realistically see the world and life in a forward manner. They are able to deal with the tough stuff and at the same time attract more of the good stuff to their lives. Life is not left up to chance, it is left up to our choices. We often hear people say, “It is what it is.” Really? No. It is what you make it.

Be inspiring.

You can’t live your life to yourself. That’s selfish. Live openly. Let other people be inspired by what you do. Be a person who creates things for other people to enjoy. Few people write books, but millions read them. Few people sing songs, but millions listen to them. Few people know how to give good advice, but millions follow them. The world needs inspiring people, creative people, awesome people. Be one of them.


Tuesday, 20 June 2017

Divorce Confidential: Using Mental Health Professionals In Divorce

When you and your ex-spouse choose collaborative divorce, you make a commitment to keep matters out of court and focus on problem-solving in a confidential, private setting. Collaborative divorce is beneficial in that you and your ex-spouse have access to an entire team of experts, including mental health professionals to help you through the difficult and overwhelming experience of a divorce.

What happens then, if you and your ex-spouse do not agree to a collaborative divorce? Can you retain your own team of experts, specifically mental health professionals? And is it worthwhile?

1. Types of Mental Health Professionals: Before we dive into the benefits of enlisting the assistance of mental health professionals in divorce, let’s look at the types of mental health experts available to you in divorce. One mental health expert may be a therapist/counselor. A therapist/counselor can assist you in managing the stresses of divorce, including your expectations of the outcome. A therapist/counselor can also help you develop new relationship skills that are valuable both during and after divorce. If you have children with your ex-spouse, this is especially true because you must co-parent with each other after the divorce is final. Another mental health professional you may consider to enlist is a custody mediator who helps you and your ex-spouse determine a mutual agreement regarding custody and visitation. This is an ideal option if you and your ex-spouse are on good terms and you both believe a compromise is feasible. Another option is a parenting coordinator, who can assist you and your ex-spouse resolve smaller issues like holiday pickup arrangements and communication disputes. If you and your ex-spouse are in a litigious custody battle, talk to your attorney about hiring a custody evaluator. A custody evaluator makes an expert recommendation to the court regarding custody and a suitable parenting plan.

2. Benefits Of Hiring A Mental Health Professional In Divorce: What are the benefits in hiring a mental health professional in your divorce? William A. Eddy, president of the High Conflict Institute of San Diego says that having a mental health professional on board “can be helpful in calming emotions, clarifying expectations and helping discuss difficult issues.” However, he cautions individuals who hire a therapist/counselor during divorce because “while they can be helpful for support and making personal changes, they really need to be good at staying in the role of therapist and not becoming an advocate, especially if they get emotionally hooked into one person’s point of view and can reinforce the worst fears and anger.” Before deciding on a mental health professional, do your due diligence and conduct your own research before you entrust the personal details of your life to a professional.

3. When Should A Mental Health Professional Be Employed In Your Divorce? Deciding on whether to enlist the help of a mental health professional is a personal decision. Consider therapy if you believe it can offer support and assistance in your own personal growth during and after divorce. Consider therapy if you are struggling with mental illness, which may be triggered or exacerbated by the circumstances surrounding your divorce. Talk to your attorney to determine if a custody mediator or custody evaluator is needed to resolve disputed custody issues in your divorce. Your attorney may have insight as to whether these third party experts will be helpful to your case. If you believe your children need therapy because of the divorce, Mr. Eddy cautions parents and states that “many people put their children into counseling during a difficult divorce, when it’s really the parents who need the counseling.” Instead, Mr. Eddy proposes that wise parents “tell their child that they want him/her to see a therapist for 2-3 times, then it’s up to the child whether he or she wants to go back from time to time. That way the child doesn’t feel trapped in therapy.” If you put your child in therapy, remember to respect his or her privacy and do not question them about what was discussed in counseling.

The goal in enlisting mental health professionals in your divorce is to help you move forward. Remember, there is no shame in asking for help, especially if it will get you to a better place emotionally and spiritually.


You Have The Power To Choose Your Attitude

In these moments when you want to lose your cool, it’s worth asking: What’s to be gained?

We’ve all had those moments of losing our cool. Often it happens in the car, when someone cuts us off and we lash out either vocally or demonstrably, venting our frustration into the vacuum. And sometimes it happens in a more public fashion. I witnessed two of these episodes recently, both in airports (another place that seems to send many of us over the edge).

In the first incident, a couple was late for their connecting flight, so late that the gate had already closed and the plane was in the process of pushing back. It was a small airport, and the rest of us watched as the woman banged on the door repeatedly, demanding that someone on the other side open it, and then both she and her partner turned on the gate agent, screaming at him and demanding to know why the plane had left without them. It was both fascinating and uncomfortable to watch, especially as their toddler wandered around the airport, happy and oblivious to his parents’ distress.

In the second incident, we were on one of the buses that takes you from the gate to your plane at Reagan National in D.C. It’s a silly experience, but necessary, and anyone who gets onto the bus early knows that there will be a period of waiting for the stragglers. As we all waited a man let loose to no one in particular (but apparently directed at his family) about what a stupid process it was, and how incompetent the people driving the bus were, and so forth, in a louder and louder voice. By the time we got to the plane, another, unrelated woman had joined in, complaining loudly for all to hear.

We’ve all been there. And yes there are places – in the car, in an airport – that tend to bring out the particular worst in all of us. But it’s worth asking ourselves in these moments,what’s to be gained? The couple in the first scenario did not berate themselves onto the plane, and frankly, who would want them there? The two individuals in the second scenario did not get us to the plane any faster, but they sure did irritate all of their fellow passengers.

Our attitude is a choice. We have no control over the attitudes and behaviors of others. Despite what we might tell ourselves, we can’t make other people better friends, partners, or colleagues. Banging on the door of the gate isn’t going to make the plane come back. And, most likely, yelling at the gate agent and calling him names isn’t going to get you better service.

The positive psychology researcher Shawn Achor tells us that 90% of our long-term happiness is predicted not by the world around us, but by how our brain processes the world around us. In other words, if we choose to see the world as out to get us, then that is how we will experience it. But of course, the flip-side of that is also true: if we choose to see the world as a generally positive, supportive place, then that is how we will experience it.

That doesn’t mean that bad things won’t happen. But it does take some of the perceived negative intent out of those things when they do. Maybe the person who just cut us off is late getting to the hospital to see a sick loved one, and not just a jerk. Maybe the gate agent is just doing his job, and not conspiring against us.

This has real implications for our work relationships, as well. While it would be lovely to think that we are surrounded by hard-working, supportive colleagues who always have our best interests at heart, we know that’s not always the case. Sometimes people let us down at work, and it has consequences for our ability to do our jobs well. Sometimes people aren’t good at their jobs, or don’t treat us the way we would like to be treated.

It bears repeating: you have zero ability to “fix” them, to change their behaviors or theirattitudes. All that you can do is choose how you will react. So in these moments, before your inclination is to lash out at them, take a deep breath and think about:

  • What’s causing these feelings? I find that often when I get the most irritated in the car is when I’m running late somewhere, which is, of course, not the fault of all of the people around me. Is the root cause this other person’s actions or my own?
  • What will my reaction get me? Is the momentary satisfaction of blasting another person worth the potential long-term impacts on our relationship? Will it get me the results that I am looking for?
  • What do I not know about this situation? Is there a reason that this other person is behaving in this way? Are there some questions that I can ask to find out more?
  • Who’s watching me? Who is going to learn from this moment, and what will they learn about appropriate behavior and about me?

A recent study in the European Journal of Work and Organizational Psychology found that venting and complaining at work actually increases the impact of negative experiences. This doesn’t mean one should be a Pollyanna about work and life, refusing to see that anything can possibly be wrong. It does mean that we can all benefit from choosing our attitudes, in work, in life, and especially when the stakes seem particularly high.

Monday, 19 June 2017

My 5 Biggest Fears As a Divorced Parent

I'm afraid that she will grow up to hate me, that I can't show her how to be married.

It’s now been seven months since my decision to divorce and, while many things have settled in my mind and heart, there seems to be the same core of fears gripping on with both hands. Questions with answers that never satisfy, angst that haunts me at night. I’m positive I’m not alone in these fears, but they plague me nonetheless.

I am afraid…

That she will grow up to hate me.This is pretty extreme, I realize it, but it’s my number one fear. I’m afraid she’ll never get beyond her hurt enough to see the struggle I went through. That I didn’t flippantly leave her dad and turn her little world upside down. I hated my mom for years and years over something that, now as an adult, I totally sympathize with her over. How do I keep my daughter from making that mistake? How can I help her have compassion on my choices now rather than twenty years from now.

That I can’t show her how to be married. How in the hell am I supposed to teach her about marriage? I always assumed that I would show my daughter how to have a successful marriage by example, by being a walking advertisement for what a healthy, mutually exclusive relationship looks like. Will she ever heed my advice when I so obviously failed?

That she won’t want to be like me. Naturally, there are flaws in me that I’d never want her to model herself after, but when it comes down to it, who doesn’t want their child to be like them? I want to be good enough that, should she behave like me, she will have a good life. Have I messed up too much?

That she won’t open up and talk about it. Right before I moved out of town she started seeing a therapist who she really liked. I had such high hopes because my little girl, who historically refused to cooperate with counselors, actually LIKED this woman. But after just a few sessions the therapist left for another practice and sent us back to square one. What if she never talks to anyone again? What if she holds it all in, bottles up her feelings till they spill out in forms of depression, self-harming and eating disorders … oh-my.

That I will be blamed for everything unpleasant in her life. I don’t have the thickest skin and being told I’m at fault for anything sets off a panic in me like you wouldn’t believe. She very well could turn all of her life’s misfortunes right back onto me and the divorce I put her through. How will I handle that? Will I live year after year feeling like a scolded pet?

Now, let me balance some of this crazy talk with a little truth, because even I know that a tad of grace goes a long way. To date, I’ve managed to raise a lovely, caring human being and when I push these fears back for a moment I can admit that it’s unlikely that she should suddenly abandon her personality. She has always been reasonable and considerate and I need to plug into that reality when my anxieties rise to the surface. When I can’t find it in myself, I need to lean into people who love me and accept me. No parent is perfect, even the married ones, and all I can do is wake up each day and do my best, whatever my best for that day is.

"Divorce isn’t such a tragedy. A tragedy’s staying in an unhappy marriage, teaching your children the wrong things about love. Nobody ever died of divorce.” 

–Jennifer Weiner, Fly Away Home


Friday, 16 June 2017

Father’s Day: 8 Ways To Cope If You Won’t Be With Your Children This Year

For every parent, spending special occasions with your children is important, but what happens when you aren’t able to be with your kids on those days?

While everyone will tell you that it is just a date devised by Hallmark, going through
Father’s Day alone is tough for many men. Especially if it is as a result of a separation or divorce.

Cathy Ranson, editor of
ChannelMum, told HuffPost UK: “Being apart from your children on such a special day is a tough one, but remember it’s only one day. Being a father is a lifetime of work, so this 24 hours shouldn’t overshadow all the rest of your good times together.”

Whether you know in advance or it is sprung on you at the last minute, you still need ways to cope, so here are eight ways to get yourself through that day.

1. Be honest about your expectations (with notice).

If the reason that you can’t see your children is because they are with your ex-partner, then be honest about the fact you’d like to spend time with them, before Father’s Day arrives, not on the day.
Relate relationship counsellor, Dee Holmes said: “Be honest. If you can, try to be honest about what you’d like to do on Father’s Day. If you want to change arrangements so that you have the children when you wouldn’t usually, make sure you talk openly to your ex and give plenty of notice.”

2. Check if you can speak to them.

If you’ve already reached the point where you know there is no room for negotiation and you’ll definitely not be seeing them face-to-face on the day, ask if you could fit a phone call in around their plans.

Ranson, said: “Arrange to skype, facetime or call the kids on Father’s Day. Why not read them a bedtime story?”

3. But do not wait for the phone to ring.

Regardless of the plans you have made with your ex, the one thing you have to avoid is sitting around at home waiting for the phone to ring - not only will you resent your partner (and possibly the children), but you’ll upset yourself.

Holmes said: “It might be tempting if you aren’t able to spend Father’s Day with your children to wait and see if they make the effort to call you but if you want to speak to them, don’t be afraid to make the first step.”

4. Go and do something for yourself.

Once it has been confirmed that there is no chance you’ll be able to see them, don’t be afraid to go ahead and make your own plans, that don’t involve the children. There is nothing to be gained by sitting, waiting at home torturing yourself.

Holmes said: “Plan something for yourself. Regardless of whether you have the kids or not, plan a little treat for yourself on or around Father’s Day – just going for a drink with a friend can give you a lift.”

5. Go and see your own father.

For some people this isn’t an option, but for those who still have their father, seeing your dad is a great way to spend the day, and re-focus your energy on your family who are around (even if you are feeling fragile).

“Get out and do something fun with your own dad this Father’s Day. Just because your children aren’t around to celebrate with you, you can still take your own dad for lunch, a pint or for a walk,” said Ranson.

6. Pick a different day to celebrate.
The best part about Father’s Day is that it is just a date, a date created by other people, so why not make your own special day? Perhaps the weekend before or weekend after? Then you can still do everything you wanted to do on the day.

Ranson, said: “Just because the calendar nominates a day doesn’t mean you have to celebrate it that day. A week or two late is perfectly fine!”

7. Avoid social media.

Social media is the ultimate device for self-torture - whether it’s looking at an ex and their new partner, or a party you weren’t invited to - no one wants other people’s smug statuses and photos rubbed in their face. Especially when it’s something that tugs at the heart strings. 

“If you’re feeling glum avoid social media for the day. Smiling family faces is likely to just be annoying,” said Ranson.

8. Don’t take it out on your children.

No matter what ends up happening on the day (whether you see them or just get 30 seconds on the phone), bear in mind that it isn’t your child’s fault that you aren’t together. This is a situation between adults, and you shouldn’t guilt trip them into spending time with you.

Holmes said: “Keep in mind that you are the adult and as hard as it may be spending Father’s Day alone, the children didn’t choose the situation and may not always know how to act or deal with it.”


Friday, 9 June 2017

Divorcing With Dignity Summit - June 2017 - Have you Registered?

Get registered for FREE on the Divorcing With Dignity Summit, starting June 10th 2017 and hear me and 20 other speakers being interviewed on how to build your ideal life after divorce.

Register at to claim your free place!

I'll see you in there!

Thursday, 8 June 2017

Let’s Stick Together?

Is the sum of the parts always lesser than the whole? That was what Aristotle suggested and maybe I shouldn’t be challenging the idea. Does collaborating with others always guarantee a better outcome? These were the thoughts that I found dominating my mind on a chilly January morning. Let me tell you why.

There are songs and pieces of music that seem to feature throughout my life, often for changing reasons as the years pass. Back in my teens when I still considered a career in rock music as a viable future career-path I had a band with my best friend and my sister. We were an eclectic collective of musicians (in the loosest sense) and I’m pretty sure that there’s no lasting record of our jam-sessions for anyone to judge; if there were, you could enjoy my fledgling guitar skills combining melodically with my sister’s deft saxophone-playing, all finely balanced by my buddy’s enthusiastic (if not completely on-beat) drumming. 
One of our first numbers was a cover of ‘Let’s stick together’ (the Brian Ferry version).

We were never destined for stardom but I’ll take the warming glow that accompanied the happy childhood memory as that song played on the radio during my morning commute to work. It was the first time in years that I’d heard it and ironically the first time I had really listened to the lyrics. It seems that the song was written when the composer and his spouse were going through a tricky spell and he was trying to persuade them to stick with him, to honour their vow and to ‘consider [their] child’ lest they should part.
It prompted me to consider whether two parents in a relationship really are necessarily better at raising happy functional kids than any other possible scenario, a topic that is close to my heart.

Parenting together or apart?

I’m a big advocate of alternative means of raising kids after separation, notably via shared-parenting; since divorcing from my first wife we’ve raised our daughters within a shared-parenting arrangement for the last 11 years. I firmly believe that divorced parents can successfully raise their kids via a non-traditional family set-up, each sharing 50% of the custody, the responsibility, the highs and the lows. On this basis and with a shared ethos, beliefs and values the kids are parented separately (but as part of a combined and co-ordinated unit) resulting in kids that are well-rounded, well-adjusted and equally happy (if not happier) than many kids who are raised by both parents in a conventional setup.

I wonder, are two people who are unhappy in a relationship together (but hiding this from their kids) doing them a better service than if they taught them the lesson that it is okay to take care of your own happiness and still fulfil your commitments to them? That was certainly one of the considerations that I made when processing the split from my first wife, mother of our children when we parted in 2005. The conclusion I reached (and which we mutually discussed when we were working through the various matters of administration as we parted) was that in making ourselves happy and being the best people we could be, we would ultimately be the best parents we could be to our kids.

My belief in this guiding principle has become more engrained as the years have passed. I’ve seen that the many challenges that families face in raising kids are no more catastrophic or severe in our separated family than I’ve observed in traditional families where the parents are still together. Furthermore, we have the same agility to react to the demands of our kids, respond jointly to challenges that they bring and ensure that we present a united front over application of rules and expectations of behaviour and their conduct so we’re no more susceptible to being played-off each other when they don’t get the answers they want from one or other of us.

You’d be right to expect that this situation hasn’t miraculously manifested itself but rather it has come at the expense of a great deal of time and effort on all our parts. Nonetheless with 10+ years of successfully being in place I can assure you that it works and that I believe it can work equally well for others in a similar situation too.

It shouldn’t by default be a case of parents and kids all settling for a life of ‘getting-by’ when families divorce and split; choose a way of living that gives you all what you need and want. If you want to read more, check out my book on the subject.

My Bryan Ferry-induced thought-process continued, prompting me to reflect on other situations and settings where the de-facto standard is that two is better than one and whether such generalisations are always fair.

A couple or two individuals together

Does being reliant on each other necessarily equate to being reliable and dependable for each other?

I see time and again instances where two people have sought to form an alliance or partnership (whether married or not) and subsequently come to place a burden of responsibility on their relationship to provide much more than is reasonable to expect from it. Too often relationships are used to prop-up the two individuals when one or both of them feel there’s a gap in their lives that they can’t reconcile themselves to. Being dependable and reliable is too-often blurred with being dependent and reliant on the other person (or in more severe instances, taking things they each do for each other and roles they fulfil, for granted.)

“We should each sort our own sh*t out before involving ourselves in other people’s”
My Sister

Based on my life to date, I can vouch that the above quote from my dear sister is entirely true.

The genetically programmed human state that has evolved over millions of years drives us to find a mate, not just to pro-create but for support and companionship and to nurture and care for. That instinct can’t be fought against but wouldn’t we all make happier and more supportive and stable partners if we completely knew and could rely-upon ourselves before forming bonds with others?

Traits of independence and self-reliance in the individuals don’t replace the combined strength, support and companionship of being in a happy and loving relationship. 
Conversely though I believe that you need to be happy, confident and competent in yourself before you involve yourself in a relationship. To fail to do this risks you seeking for the other person to provide these characteristics for you if you can’t give them to yourself.

Some of the happiest and most fulfilled couples that I know (or at least that’s my superficial assessment of them) are those where they have regular enforced time apart; where one or other of them works away regularly or where each has interests, hobbies or commitments that demand regular time away from their spouse. Could this be merely because ‘absence makes the heart grow fonder’ or is it instead that each of the individuals first understands that they can rely on themselves and function well on their own as well as enjoying the times when they are together with their significant-other? I firmly believe this is the case in my marriage where our combined and amalgamated family is split over two locations and homes around 20 miles and two counties apart. The logistics at times are baffling but wherever my wife and I find ourselves we know that we can rely on ourselves, but also on the love and support we give each other even if we’re not in the same physical place. We both know that first and foremost we are complete in ourselves, as well as then being part of a complete-whole together.

Sort your own sh*t out before you involve yourself in someone else’s and you will be a better version of yourself and the best partner you can be.

Team Player or Self-Starter

The analogy stretches beyond family and relationships as well and into the arena of work.
In job interviews, people are all-to-quick to drop in that they are equally effective working on their own or with others to achieve a common goal. I’d contend though that this is one and the same thing, or it should be at least. Too often I see that people consider themselves to have had a productive day at the office if they’ve spent 8 hours drifting from meeting to meeting. Sitting in a meeting room for the allocated hour with 7 other people doesn’t mean that 8 hours of useful output are generated from the session. Similarly I can’t convince myself I’ve done an hour’s writing when I’ve sat at my computer with Word and Safari open, noodling on the Web.

An effective worker is effective because of who they are, how they work and based on the results they produce, not just because they always show-up and are at their desk for the expected 8 hours per day. I have had jobs that through paring out the wasteful tasks, distractions and interruptions I distilled the workload into little more than half a day of focussed activity that delivered the results that I was expected to deliver and paid a week’s wages for. Does this mean that I was acting deceitfully or had the role been designed without questioning the assumptions and many opportunities for time to be wasting that were taken for granted? In my view, I was achieving true efficiency and effectiveness because I was left to my own devices and focussed in my efforts. I worked as a ‘team-player’ too I should add, but I didn’t buy-in to the notion that time-spent is directly proportionate to results delivered. You can read more on how to challenge the status quo of work in the excellent ‘4 Hour Work Week’ by Tim Ferriss.

In many workplaces, is a team or task force more effective than a number of co-ordinated individuals working to each contribute to part of a shared goal?Meetings for the sake of meetings, getting everyone together in a room to discuss and ruminate on a subject (once all the people have got to the room, or onto the conference call, exchanged pleasantries and done with the small talk) doesn’t necessarily mean a good use of everyone’s time and won’t always bring about the best possible outcomes. The calibre of the individuals is what makes an effective team. More doesn’t necessarily mean better.

Diet and Exercise — Support or Corruption

In dietary terms, it is sometimes much easier to remain focused on a goal or principle (no carbs, booze-free, no sweets and snacks) when there aren’t the whims and willpower of a second person to corrupt you and knock you off-track. The opposite can also be true and mutual support is often a big help (see Weight Watchers for a great example) but too often as individuals our ego tends to subconsciously want others to fail when we see them doing things we wish we could do for ourselves. For everyone commending your willpower there’ll be another detractor ready to offer you a well-meant slice of cake to make them feel better about their own lethargy and inaction over their ballooning weight.

In a similar vein, when exercising a training buddy or club can be useful in motivating you and adding a force of accountability. Sometimes though, getting in the zone and getting back to the reasons why you took up the activity, some loud rock music on your headphones and working up a sweat on your own can be the best way of releasing the endorphins. As a keen cyclist I appreciate that a ride with my buddies can be a great social occasion but I know I’ll push myself just as much on the hills (if not more-so) when I’m out on my own and trying to beat previous personal-bests; I’m also less likely to pull up at the side of the road to recover from a climb or eat another flapjack if there’s nobody with me.

Should We Stick Together?

Humans are social creatures and my life is certainly enriched by the many relationships I’m fortunate enough to enjoy with my wife, kids, my family, friends, co-workers and business acquaintances. This doesn’t mean though that I rely on each and every one of them for something that I should be accountable for giving to myself.

In each scenario we should all take a little more time to think about how we can get what we want by looking to ourselves rather than to others to give it to us. Whether that is love, contentment, stability, companionship, wealth, health or happiness, the buck really does stop with us.

When we want something from life, we should acknowledge that whilst others may be able to help us achieve that, the ultimate responsibility lays with ourselves in opening our minds to achieving it and making the efforts to get it rather than expecting it just to fall in our lap.
Dissatisfaction and discontentment are good prompts for change, and change is a good thing when it comes from a positive stimulus and is focussed on a positive outcome and aligned to your core values. When you are prompted to embark upon a change (such as entering into a divorce to dissolve an unhappy marriage), don’t view the outcome as inevitable or the ‘next best’ but rather be excited about it and focus on creating something that will give you what you need. It’s likely that if done for the right reasons and in the right way, you’ll end up with something far better than you could have dreamed of and which is based on the most solid of foundations; YOU!

Toby Hazlewood