What Do You Really Want in 2011?

I’m a big believer in New Year’s resolutions. Every January, my friend Lorraine and I spend a day together making our list of what we’d like to see happen in the new year. We pull out last year’s resolutions, check items off, carry forward what isn’t complete, and add to the list for the year ahead. There is something very powerful about writing down intentions and discussing them with someone who knows you well, which is why I think this system has worked all these years for both of us.

During our annual pow-wow this year, “Mother Teresa” came up—not the real one, but my own mother whose name happens to be Teresa. (We call her this when we’re quoting one of her truisms.) I said to my friend, “Don’t you remember what Mother Teresa always says? ‘Ask yourself, what do you want…and then ask yourself, what do you really want?’”

I’ve heard this sentence throughout my life, for issues big and small. In fact, most recently when I was wavering about my diet, my mother reminded me, “What you want is to have that junk food—but what you really want is to feel good about your body.” The moral, of course, is to ask that second question, and therein lies the answer to your dilemma.

I try not to give simplistic advice in my blog, because divorce and how to manage it are anything but simplistic, but I do think this exercise is valuable. I encourage you to pose this question to yourself, not just flippantly but quite seriously—and then discuss your answers with a friend. The question to ask is: What do you really want from your divorce, both now and in the years to come?

If you’re the one who was left, it’s normal to “want revenge,” or “a huge settlement,” or “for him (or her) to know how much he (or she) has hurt me and the kids.”

But digging a little deeper, what most people really want is “to stop feeling so angry,” “to be happy again,” “to be okay financially,” and “to have my kids be all right.”

By defining what really matters to you and putting it down on paper, you will have something to refer to as your divorce plays out. Review your list frequently–even daily. And then each time you have to make a decision related to your divorce case or the co-parenting, ask yourself, “What decision will further these goals?”

In divorce, as in all of life, figuring out what you really want and making the choices that lead you there isn’t always instantly gratifying. But, in my experience, the clients who did it this way are the ones with the least regrets.