By Eileen Sherman PhD, MBA, BS, RN
I have come to learn that even the most difficult change leads to positive outcomes. Being a junkie for change, I’m ecstatic that the theme for International Women's Day 2020 is "Be Bold For Change". With that theme in mind, I can't help but think back to a concept I've used in the past with different audiences of professionals and students: The 3 Zones Everyone Should Know About by Seth Sandler
The Comfort Zone
According to Seth Sandler, "The comfort zone is where many of us operate. It’s the location of the skills and abilities we’ve acquired. While the comfort zone is by definition the most ‘comfortable’, we can’t make progress or build skills, or change in the comfort zone since it consists of the abilities we can already do easily." As you can tell, many people love to stay in our comfort zone.
The Panic Zone
The panic zone lies outside of our skills and abilities, and therefore outside of our level of comfort. Operating in this zone can cause stress and anxiety because the task(s) at hand may be difficult, unknown or even dangerous. Seth says, " The overall feeling of the panic zone is that we are uncomfortable and possibly discouraged. Like the comfort zone, we can’t make progress in the panic zone. We become fearful in this zone."
The Learning Zone
The learning zone lies in the space between comfort and panic, in which we are stretching our abilities and taking on new experiences without putting ourselves in a position of overreaching, avoiding panic. According to Seth, " One can only make progress by choosing activities in the learning zone. The skills and abilities that are just out of reach are in the learning zone; they’re neither so far away that we panic nor close enough where they’re too easy."
So what does this visual have to do with being bold for change? Well, I can tell you from my own personal and professional stories that no change for me takes place when I am squarely in my comfort zone, where I am confident in my abilities. Staying in this comfort zone doesn’t happen all too often. Frankly, I can’t even recall a time I hung out in this zone for an extended period of time. Being bold for change requires us to stretch our abilities and strategically move out of our comfort zone and into the learning zone.
Extending Our Learning Zones
You’ll notice in the visual how small the learning zone is. Straddling the learning and panic zones can be a delicate balancing act. A few years ago, I became The Dean of the School of Business at Alverno College, an all women school (with men in the graduate programs). I taught the capstone course in an MBA program a few years back: Creating Agility in Dynamic Environments: a course focusing on change management, leadership and teamwork in response to changing environments and markets. Incorporating my passion for community engagement and stressing its importance for future business leaders, I readily accepted a challenging project from a corporate foundation. Our capstone students were to practice as consultants for the foundation in a community of great need. The project, part of a larger grant that the foundation had been working on for impoverished community neighborhoods, was to identify a vacant lot of land and establish a grocery store. We were tasked with determining how to bring healthier food sources into an impoverished neighborhood on the city’s north side. This neighborhood had high crime and unemployment rates, and it was considered a USDA Food Desert (without a grocery store within a 5 mile radius). We not only needed to establish healthier food sources, but the sources had to be easily accessible and affordable.
The class learned that the foundation's agenda didn't necessarily match the neighborhood's agenda at the start. As a group comprised mostly caucasian students in a neighborhood that was mostly African American, we were strangers to this neighborhood. We didn’t know anything about the issues in this community per se, and the residents didn’t really trust us at first. As you can imagine, the students, as well as myself, had to be bold for change despite being in our panic zones. We were a bit uncomfortable with our surroundings, and we had to approach this project with humility. We began to ease into our learning zones, stepping back and listening to what the community history and residents were telling us. Then we started building important relationships with the neighborhood, reflecting on our own biases and stereotypes of poverty. We were all afraid of failing the foundation, this community and ourselves.
I'm happy to say that after three semesters and three cohorts of students, the project was still ongoing. We had a seat at the neighborhood association’s table as a major stakeholder. We had continued to edge this community forward, building trust and lifelong relationships along the way. We were even assisting the neighborhood association to become a 501(c)3 non-profit and developing a resident-owned food co-op that would provide access to healthy affordable locally grown choices. In addition, we continued to work with the foundation to develop a 5-course certificate program for neighborhood residents, often women, who had expressed interest in continuing their education in business. This would empower them to become the future voices and leaders of their own communities. These women were stretching their own learning zones, taking on their own challenges in spite of the socio-economic situations they were in. And they were already leaders by leaving their comfort zones. I am forever proud of all of these students, and the work we had accomplished. It was a bold move, and it was clearly building a case for change.
My Own Life Zones
So what was my personal journey throughout these life zones? I never planned to be the Dean of a Business School, but rather a Cardiologist, starting off as a critical care nurse, hoping to go to Medical School. Alas, it wasn’t in the cards. Instead I decided to go the administrative route, attending Grad School at Boston University, getting my MBA and becoming the COO of a major hospital system in Massachusetts. I continued to push beyond my comfort zone every chance I could.
I moved from Boston to Wisconsin, got my PhD from Marquette and had the good fortune of being a faculty member at several great Universities before leaving academia and opening my own coaching practice. My life hasn't always been a smooth ride in the comfort and learning zones. Thirteen (13) years ago, I had to bury my second husband and best friend. He died too soon at the age of 59 from stage 4 esophageal cancer. If there was ever a time that I felt most yanked out of my comfort zone, straight through my learning zone, and into my panic zone, that was it. Hearing the words from the doctor that he only had 8 months to live was the worst thing I could've ever imagined. Though my husband, a cancer specialist, proved his own diagnosis wrong by having the strength to live on 5 1/2 years more than projected, it was still too soon. I was never in my comfort zone during those 5 1/2 years, always teetering in my learning zone, gaining more knowledge of this hideous disease and trying very hard to stay out of my panic zone. I was pretending to be the rock everyone was expecting me to be. It has taken me almost 13 years since 2007 to migrate fully back into my comfort zone. Life had changed for me, and if there was ever a time to be bold for change, this was it. My identity was in question. What was I supposed to do? How would I continue to be a role model for my kids? How could I continue to push out of my comfort zone and continue learning, stretching, changing, and wanting that?
Since that time, I have owned and operated and sold 3 small businesses based on my passions. I've watched my kids grow up, graduate, get deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan, get married and have children of their own. I’ve continued to learn through several certifications in continuing education and coaching, and have had the good fortune to work and travel. I took a break from academia and retrained as a professional chef. I’ve sold a couple of properties, have had several broken bones from riding and jumping horses, and even ventured back into my comfort zone a few times a week riding my current horse Zeus. I now have a great “significant other” in my life, we have a beautiful home with our beloved pups, Diesel, Daphne, and Trixie.
We are surrounded by great people: people who encourage, challenge, push, and sometimes even pull us into and out of our different life zones. So get involved, be bold, come out of your comfort zone. Push well into your learning zone, take a risk, develop a cause, support a cause, whether at an individual level, team and work group level, or community level.
Seek Support from a Certified Life Coach
Need a little support? Contact me to schedule a free initial consultation or view my other services: divorce coaching, grief coaching, cleanse and diet reset and the 90-day transformation. Receive a customized plan that will boost your well-being and have you feeling balanced in all aspects of your life. Never stop being bold for change and exercising your voice when you feel strong, while practicing humility. I’m thankful to the many who have allowed me to migrate into and out of my three zones.
By Eileen Sherman PhD, MBA, BS, RN
My experience as a certified life coach and divorce coach has equipped me with the tools needed to navigate and assist families battling parental alienation and tumultuous familial relationships. In this article I highlight my work with a father with the goal of repairing and regenerating the parental-child relationship.
Understanding the Family Dynamics
Dad and I have been working together for almost a year (10 months) on various different topics and issues around the guidelines set for him in his Partial Marital Settlement Agreement (PMSA). Important to our work together was the item in the PMSA that stipulated that he would need to work closely with a life and divorce coach assisting him to reintegrate with two children in a healthy, positive, productive manner.
To this end, we have been working monthly (twice a month at least) on this since our professional relationship began. After familiarizing myself with this case and while I have never actually met or had discussion with the Mom directly, I have read through over 650 pages of email exchanges between Mom and Dad over the past 10 months and continue to do so almost daily.
In my professional opinion there is a distinct pattern of numerous instances of Mom’s interference with Dad’s placement, undermining his parenting, Mom rewarding the children for bad behavior, and coaching them to behave poorly. These instances seem to me in my professional opinion to be clearly intentional although often couched in “wanting to keep the children safe at all costs.” In my professional opinion, this type of level of undermining rises to the level of parental alienation.
What is Parental Alienation?
Parental alienation is a set of strategies that parents often use to undermine and interfere with a child’s relationship with his or her other parent. In a sense, parental alienation can be defined as a form of abuse whereby one parent convinces his or her children that their other parent is bad and having a relationship with him or her is wrong.
Research also is very clear on the fact that children should be allowed to develop an independent relationship with both parents even when parents are divorced and living apart. If the parental alienation is allowed to continue, it can lead to a severe loss of a valued relationship between a parent and child. Sometimes the loss can never be made up even after the children have grown up and are adults. The long-term effects of one parent’s deliberate acts of anger and revenge toward the other ‘targeted’ parent is devastating and far reaching.
In this particular family’s case, I am suggesting that Mom in fact exhibits this toward Dad. However, it is not uncommon for the parent practicing the alienating behaviors to not realize she/he is doing this. While the research on parental alienation shows this often occurs during a protracted custody battle, this is not the case in this situation. In this particular situation, this occurs on almost a daily basis. To me, the sole focus of Mom appears to be to keep Dad away from the children as much as possible.
For example, in Our Family Wizard (OFW), there are numerous emails about counting hours as if these two children are a commodity. As stated previously, Mom regularly and overtly rewards poor behavior toward Dad.
Core Set of Parental Alienation Strategies
With the concept of parental alienation, there is also no one definitive set of behaviors that constitute parental alienation but again, research has revealed a ‘core’ set of alienation strategies including:
20 Signs of Parental Alienation
Douglas Darnell, PhD highlights 20 signs of parental alienation that every divorcing parent should be made aware of.
Examples of Parental Alienation
Eleven of these points seem to apply in this particular case, but I have highlighted three examples of parental alienation in this particular case:
1. Giving children choices when they have no choice about visits.
Allowing the children to decide for themselves to visit when the court order defines placement time sets up the children for conflict. The children will usually blame the non-residential parent for not being able to decide to choose whether or not to visit. The parent is now victimized regardless of what happens; not being able to see his children or if he sees them, the children are angry.
Coach response: This just recently was identified in this case. One child was acting angry, defiant, and disrespectful toward Dad that resulted in his phone being taken away for the remainder of his visit with her Dad that day. This child stated she needed to go for a walk and then did not return. His brother went after him to find out the angry child was going to his friend’s home and would not be back to his Dad’s. Dad alerted Mom of the situation. Mom picked up the child and did not return him to Dad (to finish his placement time) but refused to bring him back there verbally stating she would “never return the children to an environment they perceive as toxic” In this regard, the angry child (with the assistance of her Mom) was able to decide to choose whether or not to visit with Dad. This left Dad victimized and without any closure to the unfortunate disrespectful conversation that occurred.
2. Refusing to acknowledge that children have property.
Refusing to allow transport of their possessions between residences.
Coach response: Dad did take a chance in purchasing a cell phone for one child as the other already had one. He did this as a prudent measure to be able to have the children contact him if they were going to be late getting out of school on the days that Dad picks them up and/or if Dad was delayed at work resulting in delay in picking them up. The phone was also purchased as a way to encourage further communication between the children when they are not physically with him during the week. Unfortunately, according to Dad, one childs cell phone is taken away at Mom’s house every time he enters Mom’s house regardless. This has also occurred with an iPad that Dad bought, thus constricting the communication between Dad and child.
Children will become angry with a parent. This is normal, particularly if the parent disciplines or has to say “no”. If for any reason the anger is not allowed to heal, you can suspect parental alienation. Trust your own experience as a parent. Children will forgive and want to be forgiven if given a chance. Be very suspicious when the child calmly says they cannot remember any happy times with you or say anything they like about you. It is important to note here that according to the research, often children who are being alienated are scripted in their responses and when diverted from the script, they have a difficult time responding.
3. A parent suggesting or reacting with hurt or sadness to their child having a good time with the other parent.
This will cause the child to withdraw and not communicate. They will frequently feel guilty or conflicted not knowing that it’s “okay” to have fun with their other parent.
Coach Response: Research suggests that children often need to be re-taught in therapy that it is ok to love both parents (especially with the parent from whom they are being alienated). However further research suggests that it is very difficult to have consistent therapy for children in this situation, as the alienating parent will often try to “control” the type of therapist or professional working with the children. The alienating parent will push to find the “right” type of professional—one who confirms her/his own biases in the matter.
Ways to Reduce the Likelihood of Parental Alienation
In light of coaching always being “coaching forward” and slowly trying to change old habits, there are 10 documented guidelines to reduce the likelihood of parental alienation.
10 guidelines for reducing the chance of parental alienation, in no particular order of significance:
1. Children should have their own phones so that Dad or Mom can contact them during mutually agreed upon times when they are in the home of the other parent. Neither parent should be the gatekeeper regulating the communication between a child and a reasonable parent. I would imagine this may become part of a future parenting plan.
2. If there in fact is a pattern that develops in which Mom reports “the children don’t want to participate in visits with Dad” the children may very well need a parenting coordinator to determine precise reasons that visits with Dad have been interrupted. Every effort must be made to honor these important visits with the noncustodial parent.
3. Any communication regarding the children shouldn’t be passed along via the children. Children aren’t messengers. The children should not be informed about outstanding issues between their parents that will put them in a position to negatively “judge” the other parent.
4. Parents need to permit children to bring items such as clothing, gifts, iPad, pets, and other personal items that have been given to the children by the “other parent” into their homes. Children shouldn’t fear or feel guilty for having a beloved item which is associated with one parent and then rejected by the other parent.
5. The children shouldn’t be asked details regarding visitations with the other parent.
6. Any derogatory comments directed to the children about the “other parent” is really forbidden. Such comments are a form of parental alienation and are extremely painful for the children to hear.
7. These four messages should never be conveyed to the children:
I am the only parent who truly loves you; Feeling good about yourself can only come from me; Your other parent cannot be trusted; If you want love and care from me; You cannot have a relationship with your “other parent.”
Often these messages can be delivered by the alienating parent in a myriad of ways. These messages are devastating and cause lasting damage to the children’s overall well-being.
8. Both parents really should be encouraging the children to love and respect their other parent. This should be the benchmark for both parents working toward positive change for the good of the children. Children need to be free to develop separate relationships with both parents. It is not for either parent to dictate how a child should feel about the “other” parent.
9. Visitation needs to be carefully crafted with room for negotiation to avoid leading to conflict that can easily slip into parental alienation.
10. Parents should be able to negotiate w/o constantly calling on the parent coordinator to break “the tie.”
Prevention of Perinatal Alienation
Parent Alienation has been referred to in the literature as emotional abuse. As well, parent alienation attempts to eliminate or reduce the natural right of a man or woman to parent his or her children. Prevention of parent alienation is really the only reasonable approach. Once parental alienation has been determined, changing it is difficult and can have limited success.
From the examples above and in my professional opinion, there is a strong likelihood that there is parental alienation exhibited in this family situation. In addition, there is much empirical evidence that I have reviewed to support parental alienation by Mom against Dad. I have been coaching Dad on a regular basis as explained in the beginning of this report NOT to engage in the alienation and consistently work with him on different strategies, skills, and tools to diffuse this alienation.
Seek Support from a Certified Divorce & Life Coach
A Certified Divorce Coach can also assist you with the impending process of change and provide you with the tools you need to move forward. If you find yourself going through the divorce process, contact me. I can help you through this process in a manner that is flexible, goal driven, and individualized for you.
Coaching can be done by phone, in person, Skype, Facetime or Zoom.
By Eileen Sherman PhD, MBA, BS, RN
If you Google the term “diet reset program,” you will be bombarded with an overwhelming number of diet programs, metabolic reset programs, some branded programs and some not branded, some well-known and some new to the market, some rapid weight loss programs, some programs that only take five days to accomplish, some that take 30 days to accomplish, but in none of these links will you actually see exactly what a diet reset program is.
From my own perspective as a health coach, life coach, and years of experience working with hundreds of clients on this issue of changing their diets—the best successes have been not on denying yourself foods, but on making sure you have an abundance of healthy “real” foods—preferably organic. So a diet reset is really an eating or body reset—no focus on deprivation, rather focus on abundance. Now doesn’t this sound better already?
Changing Your Food Habits with a Diet Reset Program
An eating reset is really focusing on habit change. Over time we all build up many not so great habits around food and eating; we binge eat when we are stressed, we eat too late at night, we often practice the “grab n’ go” approach to eating, and we don’t exercise enough. None of this leads to an increase in our metabolism, a decrease in fatigue, feeling lighter, healthier, and more energetic.
Research tells us that it takes about 90 days to change a habit—we go through five stages of change.
5 Stages of Change
The 5 Stages of Change are based on the Prosci Change Management Maturity Model.
1. Awareness to change the habit
2. desire to change the habit
3. Knowledge on why and how to change the habit
4. Acceptance which is actually when the life change takes place
5. Reinforcement of the change daily through the practice of different behaviors that reinforce the change in eating
How to Hit the Reset Clock and Successfully Make a Habit Change
Let me give you a simple example of how this happens. I had a client who came to me wanting to really change her evening eating habits. She would often sit down in front of the TV, with a glass of wine and a bag of chips, crackers, pretzels and eat—sometimes getting that second glass of wine and finishing the entire bag of whatever snack she decided on for that evening. This actually was her nightly ritual; a habit that she had created.
Identify and Use an “Anchor”
We went to work over 12 weeks to help her change that behavior very slowly—she downloaded an app on her phone that was a reminder that she needed to get up from the TV and go into another room to read, or take a walk etc. This is called an “anchor”-something that anchors you to realizing you are about to make a less than desirable decision around eating and the anchor is meaningful to you so that you pay attention to it. Often people have photos on their refrigerator of them when they felt as though they were in better shape and had a handle on healthier eating, some download a favorite song on their phones as a reminder, some set their alarm on their phone, some journal their behavior. Whatever works for the individual is what we go with in terms of the anchor.
Over 12 weeks, my client stopped her nightly binge eating completely, was cooking more simple meals at home at a reasonable time, and felt much more energetic as well as sleeping better at night.
This in one very simple example, but as you can see and appreciate, it is just not about “RESETTING YOUR DIET.” It is a series of baby steps taken that WILL lead to life-long habit change. This is also not a ‘canned’ approach like you often find on the internet. A diet reset program should be different for every individual.
Take the Leap to Break Old Habits
You will benefit from a diet reset program delivered by a certified health coach and life coach that will provide you with the right system, approach, and accountability to help guide you to being successful. Visit my diet reset programs page for more information on how I can help you reboot your system or contact me today for a free initial consultation.
Coaching can be done by phone, in person, Skype, Facetime or Zoom.