Most people who have been involved in the business world in recent years are familiar with “mission statements” and vision planning. It’s typically a team exercise in which everyone on the team has to come to some sort of consensus in articulating an intentional statement – with varying degrees of luck and often not much substance.
Few of us do exercises like this for our personal lives. So much gets in the way – lack of time, exhaustion, kids activities, work demands – the list goes on. And yet, taking a moment to think about what is most important to us is critical to our success, and the success of our children and families. If we don’t think ahead and work toward a better future, who will? And if we can’t articulate a better future and work toward it, what’s the chance that we will achieve it? It’s more likely that we will stumble into an unremarkable future.
In Collaborative Practice, the process typically starts with an organizational meeting to articulate Big Picture Goals – what is most important to the couple, and what they are most concerned about. It is the first chance that the Collaborative Professionals have to learn from the couple themselves about what makes them unique, and where the focus needs to be. When couples can articulate their individual and joint goals, the Collaborative Team knows where to focus its efforts – and where it doesn’t need to invest as much time and energy. It not only helps the couple to focus on a brighter future – it helps to make the process shorter, more efficient, and less costly.
In the Chinese language, the character for “crisis” is in two parts, composed of “danger” and “opportunity”. Most couples going through a conventional court process for divorce are absorbed in the crisis of fear which comes from handing over control of their personal lives to strangers – judges, lawyers, court appointed “evaluators”, etc. This fear is well-placed. There is so much at stake – money, relationship with children, day to day life. Creative thought goes out the window – no one can think about the opportunities which may have just opened up. But in Collaborative Practice, the focus is doing everything possible to contain the fear, and come up with a creative solution for the future. Is one of the marriage partners stuck in a miserable job with no chance of advancement? What if funds can be taken from an employer-sponsored tax savings plan without penalty to help fund an additional degree or certification training? Has the local public school system not been responsive to the needs of a child with disabilities? What resources are out there to help come up with a unique plan to meet that child’s needs?
It’s all about hope – and courage. Get the resources you need to get out of your fear place and think about the opportunities which lie ahead. Think about how things could be better. Write them down, in a before-and-after grid (sometimes called a “Ben Franklin” study). And then, start thinking about the little steps which might help to get you and your children moving toward that vision. Surround yourself with positive people who are willing to listen to you, and get feedback for that vision. If friends and family are not lifting you up in this way, then find family and/or friends who will.
You may find that the Force will reach back to you – and the Dark Side has far less power over you and those you love than you thought it did!