Join The Learn Club – Virtual or In Person

How To Set S.M.A.R.T Goals

How To Set S.M.A.R.T Goals

I know and teach about SMART goals. The problem is that I don’t always follow the template for a SMART goal. What do I get? I get a dumb goal that often does not hit the target (even if I hit the goal). Have you done that before?

So let’s review a SMART goal:

S – Specific. The devil is in the details. When negotiating a settlement in mediation, details matter. Often, the details are submitted to the courts or drafted into business agreements or settlements. Be specific. Know when you have hit the target because you painted the target bright red.

M – Measurable. Whatever gets measured gets done, or at least gets evaluated objectively. Money and products can be measured more easily than services. You need to measure services as objectively as possible to remove the emotions from the findings. This is never truer than with nonprofits, which often passionately provide a service.

A – Attainable. This step is for all of you optimists. You keep missing goals because they are not just a BHAG (Big Hairy Audacious Goal), but they are simply unattainable. When you constantly miss your goals, the culture of your team suffers and you get depressed. There will always be people around you who can bring realism to your goals. You want stretch goals, but you don’t want them to be impossible.

R – Relative. Your goals need to motivate YOU. They are relative to YOU and your team. Here is the trick. If you have a team, and the goals are only relative to you, there is a mountain to climb. You cannot expect your team to embrace your goals unless you have embraced your team. If you do not have a team at work, you may have a team at home. If you are working insane hours for a goal your home team does not support, there is trouble ahead!

T – Timebound. A goal without a timeline is a goal that you will get around to someday. A goal with a timeline is a goal with a track for completion. Any important goal needs a deadline. Team leaders must bring accountability to deadlines, or the goals become meaningless. Deadlines bring the goals to fruition. And when you complete SMART goals, you look smart as well.

Now for the application. Unless you have some form of time management system to track your goals, you will never hit them and just keep moving the deadlines further away. And, you need more than a time management system, you need daily habits to move the needle on the goals. Major goals need consistent time blocks to bring the goal to completion. Without the time blocks, you will face last-minute deadlines producing poor performance and unhappy clients.

Want to find some peace of mind by moving the needle on your goals in business and life? Create SMART goals with systems and habits for success!

The Valentine Challenge

The Valentine Challenge

This Valentine’s Day is an opportunity for you to be truly intentional about the relationship with your significant other. If you want to express your love in more than roses, chocolates, and Hallmark cards, try the 14 Day Valentine Challenge.  

If you are reading this blog past Valentine’s Day, that is okay! You don’t need to wait until next year to be intentional and deepen your relationship.   

The Valentine’s Day challenge has three daily intentional acts, and three special demonstrations of your love that you can do within the 14 day challenge. 

Three Daily Intentional Acts

For 14 days, do each of these everyday. 

First, write a love letter to your lover. Write about why you love your partner. Be specific and consider both external and internal attributes. Be grateful. Think of the little things they do everyday and how much you appreciate them. Think of why you were initally drawn to him or her. With this step, the first few days are easy. By the time you get to day 14, you will need to go deeper and think harder about it. That is the idea! 

My wife anticipates her love note everyday. Everytime we are apart we write love letters and send them via email to each other daily. We talk to each other daily as well. We have been married for over 47 years. We communicate daily about money, kids, the calendar, errands, etc. Once a week, we usually go deeper. We talk about goals for ourselves, our family, our businesses, and life. We dream together. Constant and intimate communication is the lifeblood of your relationship. 

Second, do something for your lover everyday. This can be simple stuff. Pick up after yourself. Do the dishes. Wash the car. Clean the house. Change the oil. Run an errand. Pick up groceries. Make dinner. You get the idea. Think of something your lover does everyday, and then do it for them. Keep it simple, and do it daily for 14 days. 

Third, act like you love each other. When the shine has worn out on a relationship, physical touch has often waned. Rekindle your relationship with physical touch. Hold hands, cuddle, hug. Not everything has to lead to sex, but that is certainly ok! My wife and I hug and kiss every morning, whenever one of us leaves the house, and before bed.

Three Special Demonstrations of Your Love

Sometime during the 14 day challenge, incorporate one of these into your intentional acts of love towards your partner. 

First, buy them a gift. You can keep this simple, unless you want to go big. There is no need for expensive jewelry or something extravgant. Go out to your favorite resturant. Consider going shopping. When I go shopping with Sharlyne, it is the ultimate demonstration of my love for her! If you want to hit it out of the park, choose a spending limit and go with your lover on an all day shopping spree! That is guaranteed to make a good memory. If your budget is smaller you can also do something. Hand made gifts can be the best!  

Second, spend time together. Get away, epecially if you have kids. You may not be able to get away during this challenge, but you can make resevation or plan a future trip and let your lover know about the future getaway! Nothing says “I love you” like a weekend getaway. If you can’t get away for that long, do a day date. Spend an entire day together. Sharlyne loves a day day. I work long and hard hours, yet always carve out time for her. She enjoys a whole day with me without distractions. Leave your phone in airplane mode and give your spouse your undivided attention. In the next 14 days, if you can’t get away, do at least one day date and date night. Sharlyne and I usually have a weekly date, even if we stay home and watch a movie together. 

Finally, resolve conflict. Couples get into destructive cycles of unresolved conflict that continually escalate, leaving the relationship raw and bleeding. Wounds never heal. If you don’t know how to repair the damage, start by apologizing. Own your own stuff. Apologize for it. Make sure to forgive your lover. Repair and make up. You don’t need to fight over the little stuff, and the longer I live, most everything is little stuff. 

I hope that you enjoy the 14 Day Valentine Challenge and that your relationship goes to a new level! You can even keep these suggestions up once the 14 days are over. If you tend to your relationship, your relationship will flourish. Happy Valentine’s Day!

How To Overcome A Fear Of Conflict

How To Overcome A Fear Of Conflict

Conflict can be scary for many people. If you are one of those people, it can put you into Fight or Fright mode. Once your adrenalin kicks in, your frontal lobe is bypassed. This causes you to react in one of three ways: Fight, Freeze, or Flight.

 We often fight if we feel criticized or threatened. We become defensive or we go on the offensive. Either way, we often say or do something that will damage our relationships. If we react in Fright, then we freeze or flee. We can freeze and feel paralyzed, not knowing what to say or do. That feeling can be more terrifying than any horror movie. We can flee, causing us to walk out of the room without any response. We may feel safer when we flee, but the conflict still lingers. Unresolved conflict can easily come up again in the next exchange we have with the person we are fighting with.

How can you respond instead of reacting? Here are three simple steps (the Three P’s):

Pause. Stop talking or doing ANYTHING. Take a breath, a long and deep one. If you need to, ask for a brief break before you reengage. If you can, go on a walk. Walks can be very helpful to cool down and give yourself time to respond instead of react. If you need more than a quick pause or time for a walk, end the discussion but set a time to resume it another day.  

Perspective. Perspective is about stepping back from the situation for a moment to see the bigger picture. I often ask the crystal ball question. Whatever we are fighting over, will it matter five years from now? The answer is almost always, NO! If you are fighting with a friend or family member, remember that this person loves you. While it may not always be the case, most of the time they are FOR you, not against you. It might feel like they are against you at this moment, but step back and gain some perspective on the situation. 

Pick. You have a choice. You do not need to react. You can Pause, gain Perspective, then Pick your response. You choose by your response to either escalate the conflict or help resolve the conflict. You can get out of the fight or fright loop.

If practicing the Three P’s does not work, give us a call. We have helped mediate important problems and issues between families and businesses. We are here to help you become the hero of creating peace!

5 Most Asked Questions For Divorce With Children

5 Most Asked Questions For Divorce With Children

If you are thinking about divorce and you have children, you are probably seeking answers to questions that involve custody, child support, spousal support, parenting time, and settlement. We have helped over 1,000 couples through a peaceful divorce, and these are always the first questions they ask.  


What is custody? Custody is the most frequently asked question. Many parents confuse custody with parenting time. Custody is all about decision making. In the states of Oregon, Washington, Colorado, and Arizona (as well as most states), those decisions center around religious training (if any), education, and medical. Let’s look at each one:

Religious Training. The decisions usually surround if a child will attend catechism or membership instruction in a certain faith, attend Sunday School, children’s or youth program, or other form of religious training with any faith. Within this area includes any form of worship attendance. Parents may disagree about any form of training, or the various types of training within a faith community. 

Education. The decisions around education include which school a child may attend, or if private education or home schooling is a choice. If parents do not live near to one another, the choice of school could mean significant driving for the parent not close to the school. Sometimes the location of the school becomes an issue. In most cases, the quality of the school is the major issue between parents. If parents have the available funds, private school is often a consideration. Home schooling can be difficult in a divorce situation as both parents typically need to work full-time. 

Medical. The decisions around medical include the choice of physicians, medication, therapy, and elective medical procedures. Depending upon the medical needs of a child, diet can become very important (such as with diabetes). If there is a medical emergency, there is no decision other than taking the child to the hospital ER. Once at the hospital, there very well could be some important medical decisions for parents to consider. 

Extracurricular Activities. The decisions about sports, music, dancing, and other extracurricular activities are important for children. Although not rising to the same importance as those above, to both children and parents these are important lifestyle decisions. 

What are custody options? There are only two options – sole/full or joint custody. More than 95% of our clients in mediation select joint custody. Our clients typically have a great deal of agreement on the topics within custody. And, if they come to place of hard impasse, they schedule an appointment with us. We can often resolve the matter in one session. Mediation allows for some variation within custody, such a joint decision-making on most areas, but sole custody on one area. In the state of Washington, a client can select joint or sole custody on each area. 

If parents struggle in all areas of decision-making, sole custody may be a consideration. Sometimes a parent could be temporarily struggling with an addiction or mental health. A plan can be created to move to more joint decision-making when progress is demonstrated. Custody does not involve parenting time. If a parent has sole custody, that parent cannot independently change parenting time for the other parent. 

Custody battles. Some attorneys will strongly recommend sole custody. This decision instantly positions parents for a custody battle, often costing upwards of $25,000 each. A parent must prove to the court the other parent is not capable or unwilling to work toward an important and necessary decision related to the children. This is why custody battles can be so destructive to the future co-parenting relationship. Often, there is little relationship left between parents to navigate. There are situations which warrant such a decision. We have found through mediation the need for sole custody is rare. We have negotiated modified sole custody with a few parents. In this case, the parent with sole custody must consult with the other parent before making the decision. In a few cases, we have written into the agreement that after the first attempt to resolve the matter between parents, the next step is one session of mediation. If the matter is still unresolved, then the parent with sole custody makes the decision. We recommend you carefully evaluate if sole custody is needed. We can often de-escalate emotions in mediation and help parents find common ground for the good of the kids.


What is child support? Child support is payment from one parent to another for food, shelter, and clothing of the children. All states in the US have some form of child support calculator or worksheet. The support calculator becomes an objective tool to arrive at child support. All states use a formula based on income between the two parents. The income formula may or may not include any deductions, such as taxes. Some states factor in the amount of time the children spend with each parent – Oregon is an example of this. Included in the calculators is the cost of health insurance and childcare. Child support calculators have a rebuttal section for special exceptions. In mediation, we ask parents, “How do you want your children to live?”, and create a budget for the children, which includes ALL their expenses. Then, we help them decide how to fund the budget. 

What about other child related expenses? Child support is not factored into extracurricular activities of the children. Parents decide upon some formula and process for covering these expenses. We often recommend building a budget and creating a separate bank account for the expenses. Parents can split the costs (common if income is similar) or base the contributions for the expenses by percentage of income. Usually, both parents have debit cards to shop for the children and have visibility into the joint bank account. Often, one parents makes most of the purchases and the other parent can see the expenses in the bank account, as well as communication from the parent making the purchases. 

What happens when a child turns 18? In most cases, child support ceases. If the child is still in high school, support usually continues until graduation. If the child has special needs, the support might continue depending upon the decision of the parents, or, if necessary, the courts. A child in Oregon has the right to support until 21 if they are enrolled in post-high school education full-time, single, and passing all classes. Most parents agree and plan for college or tradeschool for their children. 


Spousal support varies greatly from state to state. Only a few states use a spousal support calculator. For most states, some of the factors that decide spousal support are length of marriage, difference of income between parties, ability to produce income, age, assets, and any disabilities. We have found creating budgets is one of the most helpful exercises to help determine support. The goal of support is similar, not exact lifestyles. In very few cases do parties end up with the same income. However, between spousal and child support, incomes for both parties can approach a level of equity. 

Types of support. In Oregon, there is three types of support: maintenance, transitional, and compensatory. Maintenance is the primary form of support to help equalize the income between parties. Transitional support assists one party to gain further education to produce a larger income. A party needs to have a vocational or educational plan, including acceptance into a college or trade school. Compensatory is very rare, and awarded if one party assisted the other party in greatly increasing the other partner’s income.

In other states, most support is maintenance in nature. Again, many factors come into play. We highly encourage you to seek legal counsel from an attorney to determine any potential support. Spousal support needs to answer two questions: how much and for how long?


 What is parenting time? Simply stated, parenting time is how much time the children spend with each parent. Parents need to work out a weekly or bi-weekly schedule, focusing on as much consistency as possible. Some jobs make a regular weekly schedule very challenging – law enforcement, fire protection, and medical, to mention a few. In mediation, we work through these challenges, seeking as much consistency as possible for both parents and kids. After parents settle on a weekly schedule, then we work on a summer and holiday schedule. 

What is a parenting plan? A parenting plan includes parenting time, as mentioned above, plus much more. A parenting plan will include custody, rights for each parent for information, parental communication, exchanges of children, decisions around technology, firearms, and first right of refusal. If you have children, a parenting plan and child support worksheet are needed when submitting your documents to the court. As mediators, we help parents come to agreement on all the decisions incorporated into a Parenting Plan.


How do we divide personal property? We create a simple spreadsheet, with a column for each partner. Parties decide on who gets what vehicles and their values by subtracting the Kelley Blue Book value, minus any auto loan. Then, the parties to divide up all the “stuff” – camping, outdoor furniture, grill, bikes, sporting equipment, tools, collections, small kitchen appliances, dishes, etc. Some clients put values to larger items to try and create equity, others just spit ball them. 

How do we divide the real property? We have an entire blog dedicated to how to settle the hosue coming soon. Briefly, both parties need to agree if the house will be sold, or if one party buys out the other. If parties sell the home, they agree on what improvements/maintenance will be necessary to put the home on the market. Parties should secure a trusted and excellent realtor to guide them on decisions of home repairs in preparation of sale and how to market the home with the initial asking price. Parties should agree on how to split the proceeds before the home is put on the market. If one party is buying out the other, they need to agree on the value of the home. Typically, the home will need refinanced to remove the other party from the loan and title. Most lenders will want an appraisal in the loan process. Parties can use the appraisal as an objective valuation for the home. Simply subtract the current mortgage from the appraisal value to obtain the net equity. Most parties equally split the net equity. This is the amount owed to the party leaving the home. There is a method to split the equity while retaining the current mortgage for the party remaining in the home. The method is a bit complicated, and I will address it in another blog.

How do we divide retirement? Parties combine their retirement accounts and divide equally. If one or both parties have a pension, you can either seek to value the pension, or split them for the duration of the marriage. If a party had a retirement account before the marriage, then the premarital balance should be subtracted from the current balance. If parties need to transfer funds in retirement accounts, a Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO) will be necessary drafted by an attorney with expertise in that field. Retirement accounts are pre-tax investments. Sometimes dividing retirement accounts can become complicated, and the assistance of a professional can be very helpful.

How do we divide banking and investments? Most investments are usually simple to divide equally. Parties often use their financial advisors to assist them. We like parties to divide whatever is possible without a court order before the court documents are submitted. This alleviates the need to transfer money post-divorce. Some accounts will need the signed copy of the general judgment, so parties do not incur tax consequences. Parties can use any banking or investments to “true up” or equalize assets and liabilities.

How do we divide our debt? We highly encourage parties to pay off debt from the sale of a home or from investments. If that is not possible, then we brainstorm ways to divide the debt. Cash flow and credit scores determine the ability to secure a loan or credit card to transfer 50% of the debt. Negotiating the debt can become a challenging point in the divorce process. Seeking assistance from professionals is recommended. 

What if we have IRS and state tax debt? Tax debt is one of the most difficult areas to resolve. Again, if there is any possible way to pay off the tax debt, along with any consumer debt, this would be the first option. If this option is not possible, and the parties have not yet contacted the IRS to set up a payment plan, then contacting the IRS and setting up a payment plan would be recommended. 

What about child tax credits? Parents often split children or rotate years for the Child Tax Credit. In other words, if parents have two children, then one parent takes a child, and the other parent takes a child. If parents have one or an odd number of children, then parents rotate years of claiming the children. In mediation, sometimes parents will agree for one parent to claim all or more than 50% of the children. 

If you need more information, you can attend our next Divorce Options Workshop, where we go into all of this and more in greater detail. You can also contact us for a free 15-minute phone consultation. 

Honor Your Parent Instead of Parenting Your Parent

Honor Your Parent Instead of Parenting Your Parent

I often get asked how to parent a parent. Parents do not want a parent. Children do not want to parent a parent. But in reality, a role reversal does eventually happen. A physical event can trigger a very quick transition. A stroke causing paralysis can leave the parent without the ability to independently eat, toilet, walk or conduct other basic daily activities. Or, the slow and continual march of Alzheimer’s eats away at the cognitive functions until little is left. Let’s not think about how to parent a parent. Instead, let’s think about how to honor a parent. Here are a few tips:

Retain dignity. Your parent is worthy of respect regardless of his or her current physical or mental capacity. Do not speak in a demeaning or parental voice. You may need someone other than yourself to monitor your voice. Most people do not realize the tone or demeanor of one’s voice when speaking to another. Simple ways to retain dignity are appearances of dress and grooming. Keep your parent looking sharp even if nobody will see them during the day except you or the caregiver. Allow privacy as much as possible for bathing and toileting.

Have grace. In the case of dementia, your parent can no longer cognitively process as before and will deteriorate. A child can learn and grow, retain and improve. Your parent cannot. You can become extremely frustrated and overwhelmed at times. You have a choice to honor and love your parent in the worst of conditions, just as he or she loved you as a child. You can return the grace your parent once provided to you.

Take breaks. If you are the caregiver for your parent, then respite is key. You cannot honor your parent when you are burned out. Caregiving is hard, 24/7 relentless work. If you do not get a break, you will become frustrated, angry, and depressed. You are the most important person in the life of your parent, and you need to take care of yourself in order to take care of your parent.

Do not put your parent in a place of embarrassment and failure. As a parent declines, you can purposely push them into failure, or you can understand their limitations and find a way for them to succeed. When my mother was 84 years old, she had a minor accident in a parking lot. Then, she had mild cognitive impairment. I asked to go for a ride along to check her driving reactions and abilities. She was more comfortable making a series of right turns rather than turning left on a very busy multilane street. She was already nervous. So instead of pushing her to a potential point of embarrassment or failure by requiring her to turn left on a busy street, we went her long way around the block. We went out to eat and then I drove home.

I loved my mom. I wanted to keep her and others safe. Thus, we needed to drive together. The time came quickly when she could no longer drive or live independently. As her dementia progressed, she spent seven years in an adult foster care home. She passed away on Christmas Day, 2022. I honored her by taking care of her affairs and ensuring she had great personal care.