#6: One way to get over a divorce.

One way to get over a divorce is to take personal responsibility for your life.

It's a small but powerful technique.

Why did I want a way to get over my divorce?

I am a single mom to an almost-three year old son. We’ve been on our own for over a year, but so far we’ve been coping with our newfound “freedom” rather than embracing it. To be fair to me, I spent the last year embroiled in one legal battle after another with my son’s antagonistic father. But now trial is over, the parenting plan is settled, the divorce is finally final and I am ready to move on. So…how, exactly, do I do that? A blog post by James Altucher—perhaps the most prolific blogger in existence—gave me a clue.

Why is taking personal responsibility for your life the key to getting over a divorce?

James Altucher writes about going from good to great, from working for The Man to working for yourself. Some tips are banal—sleep, exercise, etc. But he’s had a few brilliant insights. The one I’ll mention here is the idea to give an extra 1% per day. Doesn’t seem like much, does it? But 1% is insignificant only until you do the math. According to my trusty financial calculator, 1% extra every day compounds to 3,768% extra every year. Boom! The point, of course, is that the biggest leaps are comprised of the smallest steps, and that resonates with me. As a single mom working full-time I can’t do 10% extra every day, but I can do 1%. And I started that day.

When I cleaned the kitchen after my son went to bed, I moved the toaster aside to wipe up the crumbs. When I vacuumed my bedroom, I used the little brush attachment to suck the dust up from the baseboard trim. When I walked by a piece of food on the floor—don’t judge me, I have a 3-year old!—I pick it up right then and there. It felt good…really, really good. It felt like I was taking care of my life, like I was taking personal responsibility for all aspects of my life, and as a result I began to see my entire life differently.

My apartment started to feel like my home. My job began to feel again like my career. My body began to feel like something worth taking care of. Over the next few weeks, I rearranged furniture, organized closets, hung art on the wall, bought new underwear and a home pedicure kit, cleaned under the sofa and adopted the attitude that anything needing attention got it from me.

I thought following James Altucher’s advice was simply going to improve—albeit slowly—my life over time. What actually happened is that I instantly got over my divorce. Moving on happened the minute I took personal responsibility for my life. That’s the difference between coping and thriving, the key to getting—and staying—on top of things. It’s like a phrase I once read about being the CEO of my own life. I am the CEO of my life and my family. Taking personality responsibility is how I act like it.

So, what does taking personal responsibility mean? I could list a whole bunch of small, practical actions to take—and I already told you a few—but I could also just summarize it as caring. Specifically, beginning to care about the small stuff. Because even when we are in the middle of the most demanding months and years of our lives, we are able to take care of the big stuff. We feed our children and keep them safe, we show up to work, we pay our most important bills. So anybody can do the big stuff. What takes you from coping to thriving, is paying attention to the small stuff.

What else did I accidentally learn along the way?

James Altucher is a cool guy. I wish he’d bullet-point his ideas instead of rambling on about them in the mini-novels that show up daily—some times twice!—in my inbox, but I have a feeling bullet-points would remind him too much of The Man. In addition to the 1% extra idea, I’ve also really appreciated his hypothesis that we are in an “Access Economy” and that anybody can be an entrepreneur by identifying what they have that other people want access to, and them monetizing it.