“My life is the definition of Murphy’s Law!”
“I love my life, even the challenges that help me grow.”
It’s very common for me, in my work as a coach who specializes in divorce, to hear the first statement above. Naturally, the majority of my clients are the partners that were left and they come to me at a time when they are dealing with the pain of a disappointing, failing or failed long-term relationship… so, the idea of it ending isn’t quite thought of as a growth challenge – yet. In fact, many of the men and women who speak with me see their partners as selfish and disrespecting of their feelings, needs and wants. I hear a great deal of ‘I didn’t see this coming at all’, ‘what about my rights?’, ‘it’s not fair!’ and ‘My life is over now, cause I can’t live without him/her.” So, they are in a state of shock or denial, trying to make sense of what has happened to their life with a shattered sense of self-esteem on top of what feels like an upside-down life that’s making them feel very insecure and unsafe… or, they are already in the rollercoaster stage and they are bouncing between being angry, depressed and bargaining to get their partner back.
One of the first things I have to do is to help them decide whether their relationship can be saved and rebuilt or not. When there is no choice for this partner because the other is certain, and perhaps already moved on to someone else, we begin the work of healing, through acceptance, growth and empowerment. It’s often a matter of helping someone get back or take control of the rest of their life by learning how to change their own attitude, expectations and life skills… so that they can forgive, if possible, trust themselves and move on.
But, one of life’s greatest challenges for so many people is hanging on to a positive attitude. And, believe me; I know how hard it can be! I’ve had quite a few disappointments and surprises in my own life. Honestly, I have always battled myself with a thought and attitude pattern that I’ll call “Dreadful Living.” Yes, as much as I wish I could say that I always ‘walk the talk,’ I am human like you and I too sometimes falter. I always tell my clients that every one of us humans has strengths and weaknesses, skills and dysfunctions, really great learned patterns and some stinkin’ thinkin’ patterns that they can work on. Virginia Satir, the creator of the family therapy model I trained in, is known to have said that 95% of people come from dysfunctional families to some degree, yet I am still waiting to meet someone that belongs to that group of 5% of the population! So, how can you and I work on changing from a ‘Murphy’s Law’ dreadful living attitude to the more pleasant and healthy grateful one?
By the way, this is not just a lesson for people reeling from a divorce! Even if your marriage is fine, developing a grateful attitude can do wonders for you, your family, and for all of your interpersonal relationships! One of the worst dis-eases of attitude is complaining, because when we complain, we aren’t only focusing on what’s wrong with or ruining our mood, we are also making everyone we speak to hear it. So, unfortunately, by complaining we are probably even adding to the problem because then the people we feel closest to (we did choose to confide in them!) want to hide from us and our negative ranting.
According to ‘the secret’ we would be so much better off if we shift our focus to what is ‘right’ and ‘good’ about our life because, aside from events actually just being neutral and therefore it being merely our attitude that determines whether or not something negative has transpired, but we create what happens in our life from our thoughts!
So, I don’t know about you, but the next time I find myself disappointed with how a situation turned out or was handled, I’m going to take some time to learn from the experience. I will begin by determining what I expected to happen so I can see the difference. Then I will try to see what I can actually learn from what did happen. And instead of chancing doing the same thing again, I will figure out what I can do differently in the future if a similar situation arises. I’m also going to try really hard to stretch myself to see what it would be like to be grateful that the situation happened just as it did. I’ll find something to say to myself so that I can feel "spared" from something much worse. You know, like- if I hated having to eat broccoli, I could certainly tell myself that it would be so much worse if I was homeless and starving. Maybe then I would be able to feel genuinely grateful for the broccoli experience and all it brought me - seeing if we can find the gift in each situation for us.
Here’s a little exercise I give my clients to do: Write in a Daily Gratitude Journal (like on Oprah!)
At the end of each day, take some time to review your day and find at least five (5) things that you are glad happened. It can be something simple, like the sun was shining (and ignore how cold the temperature was!) or that it was so nice to receive a smile from your neighbor. Basically, look for all the signs that life isn’t out to get you and only throws you the leftover stuff you hate. It’ll actually help you to stop dwelling on the negative and start looking forward to what just might happen for you tomorrow!
Here’s mine for today already:
I'm feeling very grateful for the arrival of spring, the sun shining through the windows of my cozy home, the companionship of my cat, and my mother who I just finished speaking with. (Thanks for the call, Mom!) And most of all, I'm grateful for the ability to do the work I love, providing Family & Relationship Coaching to others. So, if you know of anyone who could use some great tools, guidance, and support, please refer them to me or my blog.
If you have a hard time finding things to be grateful for, then I strongly encourage you to schedule a coaching session so we can start today to change your life!
Wishing you and yours all the best,
Sharon Shenker, founder,