I recently began wearing a pedometer to count my daily steps. Conventional wisdom recommends ten thousand steps is good daily goal. I find the pedometer provides a good way to see my total at any time of day and keeps me motivated. For me, the simple act of setting a goal and monitoring progress has been empowering and produces positive results.

As a mediator, I see a similar approach having positive results with separating and divorcing couples. Setting goals and checking off progress can provide security and alleviate anxiety during an otherwise stressful time. I find it helpful to give each person in mediation an opportunity to state his or her goals and expectations about how they would like their life to look after divorce. In effect, creating a road map to help get them to their projected destination. Mediation, after all, is focused on creating fair livable agreements that pave the way for the future.

There are diverse issues regarding a couple’s children, finances and property that must be addressed in divorce mediation. Like most mediators, I work with a checklist. Which issues are particularly important or pose challenges are different for every couple. For some couples, setting an agenda and tying it to the calendar provides order and predictability that can be comforting and allay anxiety. The simple of act of identifying each person’s specific concerns and addressing them in a structured way is helpful.

On the other hand, for some couples, just agreeing where to begin in mediation can be a loaded question. The issues around which each person feels the most anxious do not match up. One person may have particular concern about whether to keep or sell the house and the other may be focused on creating a schedule of access to the children that is achievable and comfortable. Recognizing the difference in the needs of each person and discussing a fair way to address both provides security and confidence in the mediation process and facilitates forward movement. In those cases, creating agendas one mediation session at a time and then proceeding through the discussion of the issues sets a positive foundation for agreement about the substance of the matters. Soon a rhythm for problem solving is established and resolved issues can be checked off the list.

In mediation, separating and divorcing couples have the opportunity to take control over the issues by setting goals and monitoring progress. How can setting a goal help you achieve your own personal progress?

Image credit: Janet A. on Flickr, used with Creative Common license.

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