When working with fathers entering into a divorce or who have recently divorced, there is a 5-step process through which I assist them in identifying and implementing an action plan for their lives. Throughout this Dads’ Guide to Divorce series, I will be sharing this specific process with detailed ways in which you can utilize it in order to achieve an amazing life for you and your children.

Step 3: Upgrade Your Skills

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In my last two articles in the “Dads’ Guide to Divorce” series we spoke about the initial steps of Clarifying Your Vision And Direction and Strategizing Your Actions. I shared how many men struggle with clarifying a vision and direction for our lives when entering into a divorce or beginning life post-divorce. As you sort through the emotions and feelings of divorce, it is critical to begin to do this because as men our identity is closely aligned with the vision for our lives; we are wired in our masculine makeup toward aligning with the vision and direction that we want for our future.

I proposed a two-step process to assist in clarifying your vision and direction by #1: journaling and #2: a contemplative practice. If you haven’t read “Dads’ Guide to Divorce: Step 1-Clarifying Your Vision,” you can do so here.

Once we have clarified our vision and direction, it is necessary to begin the process of Strategizing Your Actions. There seems to be much confusion these days around how to set goals and put forth the effort to achieve them. However, I subscribe to this simple 3-step process:

#1: Set your goal

#2: Work backward from your goal and determine the step(s) necessary to reach that goal

#3: Relentlessly focus/refocus on the behavior necessary to implement those step(s)

Each “Dads’ Guide to Divorce” step compounds upon one another, so if you haven’t read the previous articles, I highly suggest stopping now and reading Step 1 and Step 2.

Now that you have a clear vision and direction and you’ve done the work to strategize your actions, you should be in full swing of implementing the behaviors necessary to achieve your goal(s). However, what do you do if you don’t quite have the skills necessary to get to where you want to go? It’s time for Step 3: Upgrade Your Skills!

What do I mean by upgrade your skills? I’ll share in a moment, but first for context let’s quickly review my vision as well as one of my original post-divorce goals.

My Vision: be a heart-centered, available father who is always present.

My Goal: be mentally, emotionally, physically, and spiritually present during each moment of my parenting time.

While I deeply loved my children I did not have the adequate skills required to be a heart-centered father. The behavior that I needed to focus on refining and the skill that needed upgrading was how to be a heart-centered, single father WHILE effectively parenting my 3 daughters. This felt like a daunting task because just loving them was not going to be enough. Love wasn’t going to help me to deal with the frustrations around incomplete chores. Love wasn’t going to help me remain calm while getting backtalk. Love wasn’t going to assist in meting out consequences with empathy. I needed a specific way in which I could parent in this heart-centered manner. So, I went back to school — yes, parenting classes!

Previously I had attended parenting classes, but with any skill and change in circumstances, those skills were either not up to snuff or woefully outdated. I enrolled in Love and Logic parenting classes which assisted me in learning how to allow my children to grow through their mistakes and live with the consequences of their choices in a loving and empathetic manner. I largely credit Love and Logic for the remarkable relationship that I have today with my daughters. You can learn more about Love and Logic here.

Another skill that I sorely needed to upgrade was my ability to be present and in-the-moment during my parenting time. This is an ongoing challenge for any parent because when the kids are screaming and yelling, dinner is burning, the phone is ringing, and you are stressing about how to pay the bills how the heck are you supposed to remain calm and present? Is that some kind of a superpower?!

The skill I need to upgrade was:

mind·ful·ness /ˈmīn(d)f(ə)lnəs/ — the ability to know what is happening in your head at any given moment without getting carried away with it.

For those unaware of mindfulness, here is a great video from Happify.com explaining what it is.

One of the first things I did to familiarize myself with the concept of mindfulness was to read The Power of Now, a book by Eckhart Tolle. It is an extraordinary read and conveys that in every moment that we get stuck in worrying about the future or ruminating in the past we forsake the present moment. He explains that the only thing we can truly have an impact on is the moment we are currently in.

While I loved the book, it felt esoteric to me, and I sought out a more specific method to assist me with my mindfulness. This came in the form of meditation. I had been meditating for years and felt that some guided meditation around mindfulness could help. I found an excellent website called Headspace.com that had many helpful mindfulness resources and meditations. You can find more info here. This was just what I needed and lead me to a path of deeper calm and awareness that enabled me to be more present with my daughters. Especially during the crazy times, I mentioned before!

As you can see, there were many different paths through which I sought to upgrade my skills. You may experience this too. The important thing is to find the method through which you will actually level up and stick with it until you become competent. Can this be hard to do during a busy life of divorce, work, children, and all the rest? Absolutely! But it can be done, and creating an environment conducive to your success is a crucial component in doing so. We will delve into this in Step 4: Optimize Your Environment.