One Step at a Time

A lot of the men I talk to are overwhelmed with a swirling storm of negativity in their life. Infidelity and divorce are a common two punch combination that leaves men feeling like they’ve been hit by a truck. So much stress. So much uncertainty. So much anxiety. Not only is their present and future called into question, but now their past is all in doubt. If all of this wasn’t enough, the rest of the world seems hell-bent on making things exponentially harder on him. His stress and anguish are permeating into his work life, life with friends, life with his kids… and they’re all letting him know in their own way that they aren’t too happy with this version of him. Right or wrong, the world doesn’t have much patience for a man in a very human and very understandable moment of weakness.

When you’re hit with such a storm of craziness and negativity, my prescription is always the same:
Stop. Take a timeout. Write down your issues on a piece of paper. Tackle the tangible and solvable things one item at a time.

For example, let’s say a man comes to me with the following scenario (this is very common):

“My wife cheated. She wants a divorce and says there’s nothing I can do to change her mind. We’re both living in the same house and I’m not sure if I should leave or tell her to leave… or if that’s even an option. What do we do about all the things like the cars that are in both our names? What about the stuff that is just in my name? How about the debts that she racked up? Do I have to continue paying those? When we do talk about things like child custody? Am I going to have to pay her alimony if she makes more than me? Is she allowed to bring men into the house while I’m here?”

All of the above can be answered with my standard reply: “Stop. Take a timeout. Those are a lot of questions. Keep a notepad and pen on you at all times. As these questions come up, write them all down. Do this over the next couple of days. Call an attorney today and setup and appointment as soon as you can. Take the list to them and get answers. Either get answers right then and there, or get a commitment and deadline from them on when exactly you will get those answers. Check each one off the list as you go.

Once “meet attorney” is checked off the list, then an entirely new set of issues comes up. Nearly everything that men encounter in these situations can be addressed with the old-fashioned checklist. One common thing that a lot of men in these situations do is vow to get in better shape. Sometimes the divorce is a wakeup call for taking better care of themselves, or sometimes it’s a very natural part of the “gotta put the best me out there to get new women” mating ritual. For these guys, the checklist may look like:

Stop drinking
No more snacks
No more sweets
Lots more water
Gym four days a week
Walk three days a week

Even with something like getting in shape, it’s important you tackle it one little item at a time. You’re in a state of stress, and you WILL be easily overwhelmed. Your body will want to crawl back into bed and rest. Sometimes that’s a good thing… as long as it doesn’t take you off of your mission. One way to make sure you don’t get sidetracked from your mission is to MAKE A DAMN LIST and stick to it. Check things as you go. Completing the steps gives you a sense of accomplishment and the momentum builds.

With the to-do list in mind, one thing is important: Make it realistic.

You are enduring a pretty stressful and awful situation. Now may not be the time to tackle lofty goals. If you’re an out-of-shape dude who needs to get back in the gym… maybe “go to the gym four days a week” is more reasonable than “go climb Mount Everest”. Such a huge goal is impressive… but not right now. Little things. Little tangible things. That’s your goal right now.

I recently spoke to a one-on-one coaching client who is finally coming to grips with the end of his marriage. The marriage has been on the downslide for a while, but he and the wife finally agreed that enough was enough and they will divorce. He was not in good spirits, obviously. The stress storm was starting to churn away in his head. Questions about his job came up. His hours were weird, so he was concerned with how that will impact time with the kids. “Well… is there anything you can do to change up your hours at work? Other jobs out there doing the same thing that will allow you to work more ‘normal’ hours… and maybe even make more money?” He wasn’t sure. Put it on the list.

My conversation with the client turned to health and he mentioned that he was already losing a great deal of weight (thanks to a combination of anxiety and gym time), but was concerned that he wasn’t getting in the proper amount of calories he needed to put on muscle. He was hitting his “macros”, but he was coming up short when totaling up his calories for the day.
Me: “You have bigger issues right now than things like your macros and calories. You’re not a competitive bodybuilder or a pro athlete.  Your body won’t waste away too nothing if you get 1,800 calories instead of 2,000. I wouldn’t stress yourself over that right now.”
Pick your battles. Know what’s important right now. Let the checklist be your guide. If you put it down on paper, it’s for a reason. It’s important. Take care of it.

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