Life after military service is tough. I believe it's tough for everyone, regardless of employment, marital, economic, or social status. Although it can be tougher for some, no one is spared from these challenges. I retired after 29 years of service near the top of my field, and immediately started a good job in a field that gives back to service members and their families. I was also lucky enough to move back home to the family ranch, building our forever home in the spot I used to play in as a kid, which happens to be next to a beautiful pond. I have a great family which I love dearly.
By all appearances and societal standards life is great for me. And it really is…but it's still tough not being a soldier. I still struggle with the daily grinding. The daily purpose. Living in a world, a culture, which, frankly, doesn't get it. It doesn't understand what's actually important in life or understand selfless service and sacrifice. It's a struggle every single day, even on the best of days. That's why I have come up with a few thoughts which help me grind away and stay positive and motivated along the way. I want to share them with you in hopes that it helps someone else LIVE their best life!
First, I believe it's important to strengthen your faith. Whatever you may believe, do your best to feed that belief daily and cultivate a healthy relationship with your higher power. Whether we believe in God or not, we are operating on faith. Use your faith to provide a safety net of comfort and allow your faith to carry you when you don't feel like carrying yourself.
Next, fight against stinking thinking. We, as humans, are predisposed to allow negative thoughts to creep into our minds and, unfortunately, if we don't address them, they take over. That begins a downward spiral of negativity, anger, or sadness. It is important to fight off this negativity as soon as it appears. Fill your mind with positive thoughts and listen with an open mind. This, like bathing, is recommended daily. A full day of negativity will suck the life out of you, so beginning each day with an inoculation of positive vibes is essential to fight stinking thinking.
Third, allow yourself to have a network of good friends. These should be friends who understand you and your culture, and who are also willing to hold you accountable to the positive track you want for your life. Choose your friends wisely and don't be afraid to make new friends, ones that support your goals and generally want the best for you. This can be very difficult for veterans but, trust me, it can be done and is vitally important to success in life.
Next, and certainly no less important, is to find a new purpose. One of the major difficulties of post-military life, if not the most difficult, is the lack of purpose. Our life in uniform is about supporting a great purpose - service to our fellow Americans. Adapting to a life without this purpose is incredibly difficult, so it's vitally important to find something to do that fills that gap. This can be done through community service, volunteer work, or employment with a company or organization that serves the military or veterans. This isn't an all-inclusive list, but it's a great start.
Finally, health and fitness are a must. While in uniform we're constantly working to improve our bodies so we're ready for the battlefield, but when we get out of the service it's very easy to let that part of the military experience go. If you're like me, you may dislike working out although you know for a fact that you'll feel better afterwards. There are many physical and mental reasons for this, such as the release of endorphins or the clearing of the mind, but the bottom line is that is just plain good for us to work out and eat healthy.
These five things won't guarantee success in life, but they are things that many of us miss after we leave the service. Although they are things we can continue, many of us don't for some reason. If you are struggling with life after service, I encourage you to take these to heart and begin grinding every day to live your best life.
Mark A. Weedon is Trident's National Director of Strategic Alliances and a 29-year military veteran. An avid learner, Mark holds a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration and is currently working on a Master of Science in Human Relations. Learn more about Trident's resources for veterans and active duty military members.