Five years ago, my husband, Chris, walked into the house carrying a cardboard box.
“How was work, honey?” I asked. “What’s in the box?”
He looked at me with those You really have to ask? eyes. “I got laid off,” he said.
It was 2004. It wasn’t like today. Five years ago, it really wasn’t that big a deal to lose your job. Besides, this was the third dot-com technology company where Chris had worked and he was a very successful executive. He’d have another job in no time. In fact, a recruiter had just called the house earlier in the week.
And then he continued: “And I’m not going back to work, Mel.”
I was pregnant with our third child. We had just renovated our house. I had just started my life-coaching business. We needed his salary to make ends meet and keep up health-care benefits.
He answered, “I hate what I do. I’m going to start my own business.”
Then I said to Chris something I’ll never live down, “All that self-help crap about pursuing your passion—that’s for strangers. You? You get a job.”
I’m not proud of it, but that is exactly how I felt. I tried to rally friends and family to my cause. I tried to bully him to go back to work. I pouted. I moped. I cried. I protested. And the worst of it, I doubted him. It nearly destroyed our marriage.
Until my friend Lauren asked me, “Mel, what do you really want?”
“I want Chris to make money and be happy. But we’re in financial freefall and it’s up to me to save us. I’m afraid.”
“Mel, is your behavior going to get you what you want?” Lauren asked.
It wasn’t and I knew it. But what was I supposed to do? I wanted a life that looked very different from my current circumstances. And I felt trapped.
Acting like a spoiled brat wasn’t going to give that different life to me. If I rolled the clock forward, I saw a miserable couple of years. Chris would open the business in spite of me. We’d both grow resentful and distant. I even saw divorce.
My fear was making me unbearable, and I was driving a wedge between us. Something had to change. I needed to change. I needed to get creative, to think outside the box—but I was in the box.
To get out of the box, I rolled the clock forward. I thought about what I wanted five years from now. I wanted Chris to have a successful business and to make lots of money. I wanted us to be successful and tremendously happy together.
And then I asked myself: How would I have to behave today, and every day, to create the life I want five years from now? The answer was clear. I’d have to force myself to switch from being my husband’s harshest critic to his biggest supporter.
It was hard as hell. Every morning I woke up and thought about what I wanted. I knew in order to get it I had to act the opposite of how I felt. So every time I felt like being a brat, I had to force myself to be a cheerleader. Every time I was mad, I forced myself to be supportive. Every time I was scared, I forced myself to believe.
The more I supported Chris and his growth, the more confident we both became and the deeper our marriage grew.
I rolled the clock forward, and it innovated my thinking, saved my marriage and helped Chris, as he and his business partner launched a very successful business. You can do the same. Just ask yourself: How do you have to act today to have what you want in the future?