In the past year, you have probably heard this term about a thousand times; especially if you’re a woman. The book that started it all, “Lean In” by Sheryl Sandberg, focused on encouraging women to pursue their ambitions in a male-dominated world.
In the book, Sandberg offered practical advice to women in the workplace with her much quoted line: “sit at the table,” as in, participate, go for it, don’t sit on the sidelines of your life and watch from the outside.
I read the book a few months back; and I liked it overall.
While the book came under some fire – some called her too rich to write a practical guide for all women, some called her too successful, and others just didn’t like her message – as with all books, I took the parts I liked and left the parts I didn’t like as much.
My main takeaway after reading the book, however was that EVERYONE needs to “lean in” now and again. If you – man, woman or child – do something, really DO IT. It means put your heart and soul into it, know you are doing it for a reason, and give your entire self to it.
Of course, as a divorce lawyer, I applied what I learned from the book to the advice I give clients. This is especially true when I see someone is not “leaning in” to their divorce.
Divorce is one of the largest decisions any person will face. Nonetheless, we see people sitting out their divorces all the time. Someone, man or woman, who wants to bury his or her head in the sand, be unresponsive, or simply fail to participate.
With anything in life, however, the more effort you put in, the larger return you will get. So here are some practical tips on how to “lean in” to your divorce:
1. Choose Members of Your Divorce Team Wisely: A smart, competent lawyer is just the price of admission. But because you’re “sitting at the table”, you want more. You want people on your team who understand your issues, will support you throughout the process and will offer suggestions that are in your best interests. Pick a lawyer with whom you are comfortable. This will help you “lean in” when you really would rather be “sitting it out.”
2. Define a Vision: What do you want from your divorce? What is the end game? Sit down (it doesn’t even have to be at an actual table) and make a list, ranking it in order of importance, of the desired outcome of your divorce settlement. Make sure you are calm and level headed at the time. During times of peak stress in the divorce, refer back to the list so that you can determine if you are acting in accordance with your vision, or you are just fighting for the sake of fighting. If nothing else, it will keep you focused on the prize and make you less likely to throw your hands up and walk away.
3. Don’t Beat Yourself Up: Stop playing the blame game with yourself. Feelings of guilt, inadequacy and regret will only serve to hold you back in your divorce negotiations, or in anything that you choose to do for that matter. Let it go and then come back to the table. You’ll thank yourself later.
4. Done is Better than Perfect: In her book, Sandberg speaks about one of her favorite posters on the walls of Facebook that declares in big red letters, “Done is Better than Perfect.” This is especially true in divorce. You are not going to get everything you want and neither is your spouse. We wacky lawyers call this a “fair settlement.” This is where your written vision will come in handy. Dragging the divorce out for an unattainable settlement will not help anyone.
5. Stop Trying to Have it All: Sandberg states in her book “very concept of having it all flies in the face of the basic laws of economics and common sense.” Going through a divorce means making adjustments, compromises and sacrifices every day – especially when there are children involved. Don’t let trying to have it all cause you to give up everything. Baby steps and deep breaths.
Eliana T. Baer is a frequent contributor to the New Jersey Family Legal Blog and a member of the Family Law Practice Group of Fox Rothschild LLP. Eliana practices in Fox Rothschild’s Princeton, New Jersey office and focuses her state-wide practice on representing clients on issues relating to divorce, equitable distribution, support, custody, adoption, domestic violence, premarital agreements and Appellate Practice. You can reach Eliana at (609) 895-3344, or firstname.lastname@example.org.