That would have been the perfect headline depicting my life in December 2011. Two days shy of my fortieth birthday, I found myself signing divorce papers. Life had not turned out as I expected. My self-esteem was flattened, my identity had been rocked, and my mindset was torturing me. I had no back-up plan and it was a problem.
As I reflect on that season, I have a hard time recognizing that person today. My life now has no resemblance to the person I just described. I didn’t magically transition into the person I am now; it took intention and a sharp adjustment to my mindset to create a better life, and that’s what I want to share today.
I’m going to show you how we become so bull-headed in our mindset and beliefs that even when the truth is pounding at the door, we cannot seem to hear it. Even when presented with the facts, we dismiss and disregard them because they don’t align with our narrative. Essentially, we fall in love with our story, even if it’s destroying us. Allow me to illustrate what I mean.
A few months after our separation, my soon-to-be-ex decided to take a trip with his fiancé. There would need to be some changes to our temporary custody arrangement. He was informing me of his future vacation. I asked him where he was planning to go. He was reluctant to tell me but finally relented and said the destination would be Italy. As soon as I heard Italy, my knees buckled. I fired off some expletives in his direction and lost my mind behind closed doors.
I had been asking him to take me there for over a decade. As a college student, I studied art in Italy, and I dreamt of returning there one day with him. I couldn’t believe this was the first place he was taking her. I was already reeling from an unwanted divorce, and now this?! He was pouring salt into the wound, and boy did it sting.
Why wasn’t I good enough to be taken to Italy? He must love her more. Words of rejection, hurt, and unworthiness were on a continuous loop in my head.
In addition to having no back-up plan, I assigned a meaning to this event, and it was harming me.
My belief was my soon-to-be-ex was taking his fiancé to Italy, the one place I wished to go our entire marriage. I was not good enough or worthy in his eyes to be taken to Italy. I dealt with self-doubt and unworthiness. I felt sad, depressed, and heartbroken. My behavior toward him was full of disrespect and contempt, and naturally, our relationship was compromised. Fear got the best of me. I could not think straight, my emotions and feelings directed my behavior, yet I refused to consider a different perspective.
The fact is every action and result in your world first begins as a thought. When you don’t like the results you are getting, you MUST change your thoughts. Even if you are like I was and you have no back-up plan, you have more power than you know. Essentially, you can change the quality of your life by changing the quality of your thoughts, and this concept is what I want to share with you.
All our experiences must be processed through the brain and given meaning before experiencing emotions and feelings.
If the interpretation we associate to a situation or a person is distorted, our feelings will come out warped, and our behavior will align with that false belief. Your emotions and feelings result entirely from the way you look at things. You give your experience meaning, thus creating a story or a belief that directs your emotions; your emotions then govern your behavior. I was focused on my hurt and my lack of back-up plan at first. When I was able to shift my story, my life began to improve.
The story you’re telling yourself is either adding value or taking value away.
My story was damaging my self-worth and self-confidence. I kept the story alive far too long until I discovered the real truth. My former spouse would never have taken me to Italy in all the years of our marriage. Years before our wedding, I had chosen to go to Italy for an extended stay instead of remaining in Georgia, where he was. I also had an Italian boyfriend years before we dated. I hurt him, and he was holding a grudge. It was his issue, not mine. It was not because I was unlovable or whatever absurd meaning I had placed on the event; it was his “story” that determined his choices. I had my distorted belief, and he had his, neither of which was true. If I had known this when the event occurred, I could have saved myself a lot of heartache, self-doubt, and bad behavior.
With time, wisdom and healing, I realized I could’ve handled this circumstance more constructively. Obviously, I could not control my former spouse’s actions, but I could control my reactions, beliefs, and behavior toward the situation. I also had the ability to control my feelings around the event. And, more importantly, I may have had no back-up plan at the time of divorce but I had the ability to create an actionable plan for a better future.
Our thoughts go through a five-step process before they become feelings. Once you understand the process, you can recognize a destructive mindset and then direct the harmful story to a story of liberation. When you change the story, you change your reality, and that’s where the power lies.
To fully understand this concept, think of a negative belief that keeps you up at night or a movie trailer of the mind that’s on a continuous loop. Now run it through the 5 Step Process by examining each prompt and start with the question,
What are the…
- Thoughts regarding the situation, event, circumstance, or a person
- Interpretation, meaning, and beliefs I have given to it
- Emotions (an energetic response and a label we place on the internal experience)
- Feelings ( the marriage of emotions + thoughts)
- Actions and Results
Follow the exercise with three questions:
- Is this true?
- Can you prove it in a court of law?
- How is this serving me?
Is your mindset causing more harm than good?
We have incredible power to change our lives by shifting our mindset. We can create a better future, a plan to move forward and a path in which we can flourish. I know this, because I had beyond no back-up plan and yet, I was able to roll-out and recreate a fantastic life for my family and for me. And today, I help others to do the same through my work (learn more about that in my bio below!)
India Kern is a Certified Divorce Coach who guides people who are stuck in a limited mindset to a place of unlimited greatness. India’s forward-thinking approach minimizes the “overwhelm” of divorce. She helps her clients gain confidence, build a sense of security and be happy again. In addition to being a coach, India authored the book “Surviving the Unwanted Divorce” and is a facilitator of several group coaching programs. As a Certified Divorce Coach, India guides people who are stuck in a limited mindset to a place of unlimited greatness. She believes everyone deserves to create an extraordinary life after divorce. Book a free thirty-minute consultation and discover how divorce coaching can act as a catalyst for change.
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DISCLAIMER: The commentary, advice, and opinions from Gabrielle Hartley are for informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legal advice or mental health services. You should contact an attorney and/or mental health professional in your state to obtain advice with respect to any particular issue or problem.
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