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 4: Optimize Your Environment

If we do not create and control our environment, our environment creates and controls us.” — Dr. Marshall Goldsmith

In the last three articles in the “Dads’ Guide to Divorce” series I spoke about the first three steps of Clarifying Your Vision And Direction, Strategizing Your Actions, and Upgrading Your Skills.

I shared how many men struggle with clarifying a vision and direction for their lives when entering into a divorce or beginning life post-divorce and that it is critical to begin to do this because as men, our identity is closely aligned with the vision for our lives.

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)

In the third step, Upgrading Your Skills, we discussed that as with any change in circumstances, many skills are either not up to snuff or woefully outdated; therefore, you may need to learn or relearn a skill in order to implement the behavior necessary to meet your goal. If you haven’t read “Dads’ Guide To Divorce Step 3: Upgrade Your Skills,” you can do so here.

Each step compounds upon the previous, so if you haven’t read the preceding articles, I highly suggest stopping now and reading them.

In his book Willpower Doesn’t Work: Discover The Hidden Keys To Success, Benjamin Hardy writes, “You shape the garden of your mind by planting specific things from your environment, such as the books you read, experiences you have, and people you surround yourself with.” Optimizing Your Environment is the easiest of the “Dads’ Guide To Divorce” steps to initiate to me because it is something over which we have control. While experiencing divorce we may not have control over many areas of our life or the outcomes but the one thing that we can control is our environment.

By controlling our environment, we eliminate the need to depend upon willpower.

Willpower Doesn’t Work

Each day we have a finite amount of willpower. If we are directing that willpower toward things that are actively working against our best interests, we are wasting energy that can otherwise be directed to a positive effort or outcome. Instead, by controlling your environment, you are eliminating the need to focus on and expend willpower on these detrimental influences.

What do I mean by controlling your environment? Let me review my vision and one of my goals first in order to provide context.

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.

As I previously shared, in order for me to be present with my daughters, it was necessary for me to become physically fit so that I would not be sick or injured or suffering through constant ailments that detract from my presence with them during my parenting time. My goal was to work out 6 days a week for at least half an hour. I would do this in the morning before my day starts and before the craziness of 3 kids getting up, fed, ready for school, etc! I’m sure you can relate.

This required me to get up at a very early time that I was not accustomed to. In order to do that, I needed to set an alarm, and when that alarm went off I had to actually GET OUT OF BED! I controlled my environment by putting my alarm in a place that required me to get up out of bed in order to turn it off. This ensured that I GOT OUT OF BED and proceeded to my workout!

Another commitment I made to enhance my physical fitness was to eat better. In order to control my environment, I made sure that there were absolutely NO SNACK FOODS IN THE HOUSE. This is because I know that I like to snack before bed, and that I like sweets which are my go-to bedtime snack. I can’t tell you how many times I would get up and go to the pantry to look for a sweet snack before my brain finally rewired itself from the detrimental reward system that I had previously installed.

More examples of things that I do to control my environment:

-Listening to positive and inspirational music. This ensures a balanced mindset.

-Turning off all media and news sources. This circumvents the media’s negativity and fear-invoking tactics.

-Sleeping in absolute darkness. This improves quality of sleep.

-Surrounding my home with spiritual artifacts. This keeps me connected to a source that is greater than me.

There are many others, but you get the idea. If you can control the input (environment) in your life, then you have a better opportunity of realizing your desired outcome. This isn’t automatic, but controlling your environment is easier than most of the other steps. It frees up your finite willpower to be applied toward implementing the behaviors necessary to reach your goals. This is good because next week is the final step and, for me, the most challenging step: Mastering Your Psychology.

Keep up the amazing effort! I promise that if you continue to work through these steps, you will eventually add a sense of direction and normalcy to your life as your divorce is complete and your life after divorce commences.