The military provides its servicemembers with a lot of things. A purpose higher than yourself, belonging to a team, a lifetime devotion to fitness, and a commitment to duty. While not all of them carry over into the civilian world, there are some that you should be sure to continue.
Make your bed
One of the simplest things you did in the military, making your bed, is a habit that lets anyone who enters your home for social, romantic, or professional reasons see that you’re an organized person who takes the time to accomplish the little things. While it doesn’t seem like much, having a well-organized and clean sleeping area puts you in a better headspace as well, which has tons of benefits in other areas of your life.
The worst part (for most servicemembers) of the military is getting up when most of your peers are still blissfully unconscious and putting in a hard 60 to 90 minute PT session. However the benefits, mentally and physically, are tremendous. Don’t lose all that progress just because you take the uniform off. As you age, the differences between those who work out and those who don’t, even for a short period each day, become much more pronounced. Don’t become that tired guy in the cubicle who sweats walking to the breakroom. Politically correct or not, peers, employers, and employees tend to respect others who display some appearance of physical fitness. It’s just human nature.
So dust off those running shoes and hit the pavement once in a while!
Keep a calendar
Believe it or not, the military’s obsession with timelines, planning horizons, and training calendars isn’t usually replicated in the civilian world. Being able to know where you’re at and what you’ll be doing months in advance allows you to optimize your life. Keep a planner or use your phone or computer. You’ll be surprised by not only how much more productive you are, but how much time you’ll have available for the things you actually want to do.
Plan for the future
Following along the lines of the previous tip, having a plan for the future is invaluable to getting the most out of life. The military made it easy. There were entire staff sections devoted just to planning the activities and training events of units years in advance. For young, motivated servicemembers who get out of the military (and often walk directly into another job), finances aren’t usually at the top of your list of concerns. Do yourself a favor now and start a retirement account. Get life insurance while it’s cheap. Did you leave too soon to transfer your GI Bill? Start a college fund for any future offspring you may have.
You’re going to spend your whole life working to make some kind of living. Eventually, you’ll want to be able to stop and enjoy what’s left, so start preparing for your financial future now.
While I know this doesn’t apply to all servicemembers, most have had the opportunity to do some kind of traveling, whether overseas to training missions and deployments or around this great big beautiful country of ours on PCS moves. There’s a reason the military is such a trusted institution that reflects who we are. It’s composed of people from all ethnicities, backgrounds, sexual orientations, and religions. It really is the melting pot of America. A lot of the hate and drama we see in the news today is a result of isolating ourselves into little pockets or groups that think, act, and feel the same way. Anything different is looked down upon or rejected. After leaving the service, continue to take the time to see the country, travel the world, and learn about other cultures. It will put the good (and bad) parts of your own into a very different and healthy perspective.
Iron and fold your clothes
For me personally this was one of the hardest things to do (and still is) after leaving the service. The temptation to throw everything in the wash, and sift through the basket of wrinkled-clean clothes anytime you needed to change was overwhelming. However, just like working out, keeping your personal items clean, wrinkle-free, and organized allows you to present a much better picture of yourself to those around you. Ever tried asking someone on a date looking like a slob? It doesn’t help your case. Job interviews should be a no-brainer, but you’d also be surprised how many opportunities, both professional and personal, present themselves when you take care of yourself.
The military, for better or worse, has a significant effect on everyone who serves. Don’t let any bad experiences you’ve had take away from the benefits and habits you’ve picked up along the way. Whether you’ve done a single four-year enlistment or retired at 55, there are lots of lessons to be learned. Don’t waste them.
This article is made possible by Navy Mutual.