When the going gets tough, we have a saying in the Marine Corps: don't go internal. When you're in an uncomfortable or painful situation, it's only natural to focus internally on the discomfort you're experiencing instead of staying focused externally on the mission at hand.
Much like your time in service, your military transition isn't going to be a rose garden. In fact at times it's going to be very unpleasant. What got us through the hard times during our service was our commitment to putting the welfare of others ahead of ourselves. Think about it: whenever we go internal, whenever we start thinking about ourselves, we become weaker. When we think about the mission and focus our thoughts on serving and supporting others, we become stronger – and when that happens, nothing can stop us.
The U.S. military is perhaps the most diverse organization on the planet. It's the ability to harness this diversity and channel it towards a common goal that makes us the greatest fighting force on earth. There's one common principle that every individual service member shares: a desire to serve something greater than him or herself. This is our strength!
It's extremely easy to go internal when making your transition. Trying to figure out what career to pursue or what you want to do with your life is a daunting task. It's overwhelming and it's exacerbated by the fact that you no longer have your buddies around to kick you in the butt when you start to feel sorry for yourself.
When you start to get discouraged and frustrated during your transition, and you can begin to feel yourself going internal, draw strength and direction from your inherent desire to serve something greater than yourself. Ask yourself:
- How can I make a positive difference in the lives of others?
- What kind of service can I provide to my community?
- What can I do to make the people around me better?
Service is your guiding principle throughout your transition. When you joined the military, you raised your right hand and swore to serve the nation. When you left, no one told you to put your hand back down. You never stop serving; you're just choosing to serve in another capacity.
When the going gets tough, don't go internal. Focus your energy on becoming an asset to your community and you will find your way.
Michael Abrams is an Afghanistan veteran and Founder of Four Block, a veteran career development program based in New York. He is the author of Business Networking for Veterans as well as an Adjunct Professor at Fordham University.