Key Two of Mindful Co-Parenting after Divorce: Focusing Forward
“We keep moving forward, opening new doors, and doing new things, because we’re curious and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.” – Walt Disney
Divorce can feel a lot like an ending. A marriage is being dissolved. A house may be sold. You may give up some property, and along with it, memories. You may feel like you’re losing a piece of yourself.
But divorce can also be an incredible growth opportunity. The key, according to many experts I’ve spoken with, is shifting the focus from what’s gone wrong in the past and, instead, focusing on the future.
I recently sat down with Dr. Jeremy Gaies to discuss collaborative divorce. Dr. Gaies is a clinical psychologist, family mediator, and author of two books, A Clear and Easy Guide to Collaborative Divorce and the co-author of Mindful Co-Parenting: A Child-Friendly Path through Divorce. He describes the six steps to mindful co-parenting. The first step, which we examined last week, is putting the children first. The second step, which we’ll examine this week, is to “focusing forward”.
Look for What’s Ahead
In the throes of divorce, it can be hard to move past the anger and acrimony. The history—with all its hurt, resentment and even betrayal—can create a barrier to our own growth and happiness.
But instead of looking back, it’s important to shift your focus forward. If you cannot accept what has happened in the past, there’s great freedom in at least not focusing on it, and instead, shifting your gaze to the future. This is especially important in families with children.
How do you take the first step?
Start with Curiosity
Being curious, working toward finding answers and focusing forward is a highly-valued skill in our culture from business to science to education. In fact, much has been made of the importance of curiosity. According to The Harvard Business Review, “today’s leaders need to be curious, and know how to ask the questions that lead them to consider new ideas.”.
The article describes how to cultivate an attitude of curiosity:
- Apply a beginner’s mind: Be open to and look for new and novel ways of doing things.
- Ask questions, listen and observe: Seek first to understand, not to explain.
- Try something new: Take a different route to work, read a book in a genre you usually avoid, go to an art gallery you wouldn’t normally go to. Each of these activities opens your mind to new points of view.
- Be inquisitive: Ask others their opinions, perspectives, and their approaches to certain things. Everyone does things a bit differently, and there are potential new answers and solutions to problems hidden in other people’s thinking.
Putting it All Together
Looking forward with curiosity can become a practice, just like exercise or meditation. When you feel your mind moving toward re-hashing the past, dwelling in pain, or re-living old wrongs, it’s important to be able to counter those with a positive counter-balance. Keeping bookmarks of articles you’d like to read, a list on Netflix of movies you’ve always wanted to watch, or have a go-to list of friends who are available to chat, then make some future plans. Actively shift the focus away from the past and the pain and move toward open doors, discovery and the future.
Read the whole series about Mindful Co-Parenting after Divorce:
- Mindful Co-Parenting: An Introduction
- Key One of Mindful Co-Parenting after Divorce: Putting the Children First
- Key Three of Mindful Co-Parenting after Divorce: Communicating Effectively
- Key Four of Mindful Co-Parenting after Divorce: Honoring Agreements
- Key Five of Mindful Co-Parenting after Divorce: Maintaining Boundaries
- Key Six of Mindful Co-Parenting after Divorce: Managing Emotions
- Mindful Co-Parenting with Dr. Gaies: A Recap