It was the sound you dread; the telephone ringing at 3.00am. But not the mobile, the landline.
It took me a while to realise it was my phone. I was in a deep sleep and at first it seemed to be coming from outside but slowly I ascended into wakefulness and could hear the sound coming from my lounge.
I jumped out of bed ready to vent my fury at the caller; because a few years previously I’d been plagued by calls at a similar hour. This was due to an uncanny similarity between my number and that of a BMW dealership in Denver, Colorado.
But this phone call was very different. At the end of the line was the sound of a sobbing woman’s voice, my daughter’s voice.
This might sound strange, but in that moment I was hugely grateful that she felt she could call. The depth of her upset came physically through the phone and it was obvious she needed someone to talk to.
But it wasn’t always the case that she would have chosen to call me or felt like she could have called. Because when she was just fourteen years old I made the decision to move out of the family home.
After twenty years my marriage had collapsed into a mess of missed of opportunities, misunderstandings and recriminations and it became clear to me that my children’s best interests were served by me leaving.
They were just about to go into their GCSE and A level years and I didn’t want them distracted by the atmosphere in the house, which was becoming increasingly difficult.
The hardest thing I’ve ever had to do
Telling the children was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do. As we sat in the lounge together I told them everything I could about why things had reached the stage they had and I could see in their faces that they didn’t really understand.
But over the next few weeks they had some time to get used to the idea before I actually left and on moving day my daughter was there to help me take the few things that I packed into the car.
Have you ever found yourself in a situation where you felt totally isolated and alone?
That is the only description that adequately fits the feeling of the first night in my new flat.
The journey to work the next day was tortuous. My job involved me travelling to various offices situated around the southern half of the M25. The torture didn’t come from the usual tales of horrendous traffic, jams and snarl ups. It came from the temptation, going through my head; that the best solution for everyone was for me to drive my car at 100mph into the next concrete bridge support.
Three thoughts stopped me:
Firstly; I always thought that suicide was the coward’s way out and so did my ex-wife. And I wasn’t going to give her the satisfaction of saying that about me to my children.
Secondly; I wanted to be part of my children’s life and I wanted them to be proud of me not ashamed of my exit from this world.
Thirdly; I just knew I had something more to give. In fact the feeling was way stronger than that. I knew in the deepest recesses of my heart that I had been living life in a mask of respectability; conforming to what I thought everyone else expected of me. And now, for the first time, I could see the opportunity to break out of that and create the life I had always wanted.
But I had more pressing things on my mind than my own gratification. The first thing I had to do above all else was to save the relationship with my children. I’d heard too many stories of estranged fathers losing connection with their kids and I was determined that wasn’t going to happen to me.
Thank you to my brother and Deepak Chopra
Seeing my predicament prompted my brother to give me The Road Less Travelled by M Scott Peck. I’d never been interested in such self-help books before but it was clear, even in my fogged state, that I needed to get some help from somewhere. My friend Ann could also see it; but I was totally resistant to the idea of counselling or therapy, so when she suggested just reading a book the jigsaw started to come together in my mind.
One book led to another and I began to see that I was far from alone, in going through the things that befallen me, and the possibility of a way through started to emerge. But counselling, therapy, NLP and all those other “treatments” still did not appeal to me at all.
Then I came across the work of Deepak Chopra and the concept of Natural Law. This was mind blowing stuff. The idea that there were principles and forces at play that shape the way things happen was completely alien to me; except there was one law that Deepak wrote about that made total sense: The Law of Giving.
The more I read, the more I could see how the way I had shown up in the world for all those years had shaped events.
In those moments of clarity I knew that if things were to be different in the future then my thinking had to change in the present.
And it was going to start in my relationship with my children.
I resolved to follow law of giving. My plan was to call the children every night at 5.00. At this time I knew they would be home from school, that their mother would be at her work and that I wouldn’t be disturbed at mine.
I’d love to tell you that these were wonderful conversations of a father chatting lovingly with his children but that was not the case.
Most of the time they had nothing to say but the teenage grunts of “yeah” and “ok”; that anyone who’s a parent will recognise. But instinctively I knew I just had to hang in there by accepting and following the law of giving to its ultimate. I had to give the children all my love, unconditionally, by calling them every day at 5.00 and letting them know I was there. By just taking it when they had nothing to say to me or even worse appeared not to want to talk to me, as I’d interrupted them from whatever they were doing in that moment.
It would have been so easy to be hurt by their lack of reaction to me; but the law of giving told me I just had to carry on giving with no expectation of getting anything back.
After all; if you expect something back; by definition you aren’t giving. You are trading.
And that was my big learning. For all those years I had been trading my love.
Over the weeks and months I could feel the temperature improve as my kids realised they had the freedom to choose their response to me. Gradually they felt more able to give me what they really wanted to give and not be constrained by what I wanted to get from them.
But there is a payoff!
As a father you never want to hear your daughter so distressed that her sobs come as a physical shuddering down the phone line. But as we talked that night; and for what turned out to be many nights after that, I knew deep down that all those 5 o’clock phone calls had been worth it.
I’ve put in many years of study and practice, read many books and reviewed lots of scientific papers to get to the point where I could make a difference. Not only in my own life but in the life of my clients and the hundreds of people I have served since starting The Thinking Revolution.
But what I realised is that there are only really two things you need to do to get the results you want in life.
The first is to become conscious about the way you think and second is to become intentional about the things you do.
To help you achieve this I have created two simple tools and a short 5 minute video to explain how to use them.
You can get them now by clicking on this LINK.
The Thinking Manifesto will challenge you to think about the things that are really important to you and will help develop the clarity of thinking you need to drive you forward.
The 5 Commitments will challenge you to think about the way you act in any situation. Because the results we get in life are always a consequence of the way we act.
To get your copy of the Thinking Manifesto and the 5 Commitments just click HERE.
Wishing you a very successful and prosperous 2017.