Archive for the ‘Finding Work After War’ Category

Finding purpose after the military feels almost impossible, doesn’t it? It’s not that you don’t have skills to translate into civilian work. It’s the underlying sense of why you are doing it that feels so off. Once you’ve been responsible for life and death, millions of dollars worth of equipment, or leading others into and through combat — well, compared to that, most civilian jobs fall flat. They feel insignificant, meaningless, boring. You feel restless, unsettled, empty.

You can’t take someone who has been trusted with life and death, put them in a mundane job and expect them to feel satisfied, right?

Maybe. Or maybe you can.

What if there’s a way to feel purposeful in any job you work? What if there’s a way to live so that it isn’t the job, but you personal mission in life that gives you purpose and meaning?

The only way to find true meaning in work and life is to live your life in a way that serves the greater good.

That’s right. Service. Living an other-focused life.

And you know what? Most of the angst you feel around not having purpose outside the military is because you are no longer living a life of service. That higher mission, that higher calling, that sense that you exist to serve the good of many is missing.

It’s time you put it back into your life.

I don’t care why you joined up or how disillusioned and angry you may be now with the government and society, until you decide to put your life back into service for humanity, you will remain stuck and purposeless.

Why? Because you are a soul who was designed to serve.

You entered the military with a much deeper spiritual calling on your life than you realized. You came here to this earth to allow your life to be used for the good of humanity. When you chose to be a warfighter, you took on some of the greatest depths of experience and responsibility a human soul can agree to. You signed up to be a death-bearer in this world for the purpose of protecting the innocent. And that’s what you did.

But your spiritual calling to serve is not over.

It’s precisely because you have been an instrument of destruction that you have the potential to become a powerful instrument of good, love, life, creation, beauty, joy. You may not feel that you are wise or have a lot of depth and you may not feel any of those things right now (you can get there) — but you know what? You already have what it takes to be this person, right now, in you.

You know more about what makes Life, life — than anyone. Because you were death, you know what life is in ways no one around you knows. Because you have lived through hell, you have the greatest potential to lead others to life. What you have to give to others is an enormous gift of insight, wisdom, understanding, a willingness to be real, to get to the depths of life that so few are willing or know how to dare enter.

You can relate to those who are suffering and in pain. You know how to listen to the deeper truths that can’t be put into words. You know how to be present and show up and talk someone out of fear and into battle.

You know how to be a warrior of the soul. For the soul.

Can you imagine how valuable you could be to someone who is going through a life-threatening time? The kind of support you could give to someone battling cancer, for instance? Or how you could teach your child how to persevere and talk herself into courage when things are tough? Or how you could help teenagers grow into stronger versions of themselves? The possibilities are endless.

But it’s not what you do that matters, it’s why you do it.

To get to living a life of purpose, you have to decide who you are going to be in this world.

How do you make this life I’m talking about?

  1. Own your life. No more excuses. No more blaming. No more self pity. No more bitching. No more complaining about how life sucks. No more toying with the idea of suicide. No more waiting for someone else to make your life better. You were not killed in combat. You are still here.
  2. Decide who are you going to be in this world. Positive? Negative? A believer in good and possibility? A force for life or a hindrance? You going to build or destroy? Look at life with strength and courage or whine and blame and wallow? Brave or coward? The one who makes your life happen or one who waits for someone else to make it happen for you? A leader or a follower? You have to decide these things. They’re your choices. (If you’re too depressed to believe you can change, try to remember what it felt like before you joined the military and you weren’t quite sure you could become what they said you’d become — that’s where you stand right now. You can change your life when you decide to do so and when you take action to change it.)
  3. Face the truths about where you’re at. The only way forward is to start where you are. That means you accept the truths about where you are at right now. Do you have PTSD, a TBI, depression, are you suicidal, do you drink too much, are you abusing drugs, do you have physical injuries that need medical attention, do you need to break up with your partner or turn to them and ask them to help you figure this out? You can’t move forward if you are living in denial or unwilling to move toward healing, wholeness, and wellbeing. Take a small step toward moving your life toward healing. Talk to me if you need guidance on how to do this.
  4. Start retraining your mind. We often think that we have no control over our minds. They do what they want. But while that is true to a large degree, we DO have control over what we believe about life. Our perspective on life, our attitude, is the one thing we can control. You can say no to your mind. You can choose to not go down that familiar path of fear, self-blame, self-abuse that leaves you feeling worthless and wanting out.

    It takes effort, it takes the same determination as working out to build your muscles — you have to commit to it and do it, over and over. When your mind starts heading down that path, become aware of it and say no. It may take weeks, it may take months, but minds can be retrained. Old beliefs can be dismissed. New beliefs can be embraced. Freedom comes when you realize you get to choose the beliefs you’re going to have in life.

  5. Put your life into service. Re-enlist your life into one that exists to serve humanity. This is where you find your purpose. Not your job – your purpose. The why you are here now. Make it your personal mission to be a force of life, of love, of kindness, of generosity, to add more life to this world, to be gentler because you’ve known rough, to be kinder because you’ve known cruel, to lead others to courage. You start with the people you interact with every day. Your mission is to be life in this world now. You are done being death.

When your mission is to be life, to be love, to be kindness, to be courage — then your purpose is to be that. No matter where you are. No matter what job you have. Your purpose will come from within you. And this sets you free to do any kind of job out there that you need to do for financial reasons.

A Marine brother once told me that it doesn’t matter where the government sends you, what battlefield you’re on, where you’re deployed – what matters is that you’re a Marine. Your job is to serve and love your brothers.

You do that wherever you are.

 

 

 

 

Most veterans and families after war focus on going right back to work. Financially, it’s usually necessary. If you’re a National Guard member, you’ve left behind a job or your own business that is most likely waiting for you. If you’re like many vets, though, the economy and your absence has left you without a civilian job to return to. Finding a job after war can be a frustrating and conflicted experience.

Going back to work isn’t just a matter of finding a job so you can pay your mortgage or rent and ease the money burden on loved ones. Going back to work is part of leaving your war duties behind, adapting your skill sets to civilian tasks and creating a new life. All of which is easier said than done. While it is usually necessary to get back to work as quickly as you can, it isn’t something that you should just take lightly and not give any thought to how it affects you mentally, physically and spiritually. And if you don’t have to go back right away, you may be wise to give yourself some time.

Work itself can be a good thing. It gives you something mentally and physically to do, uses up energy, lets you earn money and it sets you back in a social network. But it can also be detrimental if it causes you to avoid dealing with your emotions, memories, or if you find yourself without any “space” to reflect on where you are in life now and how you have changed.

Work is Not a Sign that You’ve Moved On from the War

What many people mistakenly assume is that the primary task of a veteran after war is to “return to normal” – to go back to who and what they were before war entered their lives. For many people, going back to work is a sign that this is what the veteran is doing. And the veteran may think so, too.

The reality is that “going back to normal” isn’t possible. Why? Because you have changed. War has impacted you in many, many ways and ultimately, you cannot go back to who you were before war. The real task of a veteran after war is to look at the pieces of himself, and begin to fit and form them into a new sense of identity, meaning and purpose. Yes, there’s much of you still left that carries on – but there’s much that’s going to be different. (Even if it was possible for war not to cause emotional trauma, it would still change your perspective just from having lived and worked in another culture with different viewpoints, impressions and experiences.)

So work itself can be a mixed blessing and a curse. It can feed and support you or deplete you. It can stifle you or open your eyes to what you really want. Work may magnify a sense that “you don’t belong” and that feeling of not belonging may make you start to question what you’re doing and where you do “fit in.”  While you may feel that you are the one who’s “not normal anymore” – in reality, what you are experiencing is normal for someone coming home from war.  Give yourself the grace of knowing and believing that. Just don’t make the mistake of assuming that going back to work is the answer to everything.

You Jump Right Back Into a Job That’s Waiting

If this is you, people may be telling you how lucky you are to have a job. And you are grateful, but you may be so focused on dealing with the job tasks at hand that you forget that you need to give yourself some grace and patience to adjust to civilian life. The job itself may not give you time, and you most likely will feel pressured to “catch up” on what you’ve missed and what has changed while you were gone. Because you feel fortunate and blessed to have work when so many others are struggling to find it, you may also not feel comfortable admitting it if the job doesn’t feel right to you anymore, you’re not interested in what you’re doing, or you’re struggling with missing the battlefield and grieving over friends and relationships left behind.

Colleagues aren’t going to know how to relate to you fully. They’re going to relate to the person they knew you as last and may not have any idea of what you’ve really been through, what you’ve had to do during war or why you may find civilian work unfulfilling and dull compared to what your war-time tasks were. Bosses may give you some leeway, or they may not, expecting you to buck up and get on with it. Depending on your company and responsibilities, you may find yourself pushing what’s going on inside you further and further back into the darkness.

It’s okay if you’re struggling. Don’t keep it a secret. You can be grateful for the job you have and still want something else. And ultimately, your sense of fulfillment is what matters – not the economy or what other people will think. You know your financial circumstances, but you also know how precious life is and how short it can be. So don’t be afraid to let go of a job or sell your business if it’s just not who you are anymore or who you want to be. Your perspective has changed. Others may not understand, but they don’t have the experiences you have to see through your eyes. Don’t be afraid to take command of your life and redefine who you are.  Money will find a way of working itself out.

You Need to Work, But You Don’t Feel Motivated and No One ‘Gets It’

Many veterans struggle to find work, especially in today’s economy. Everyone expects that you the foremost thing on your mind is to get a job or go back to college and so you update your resume, search job banks and apply. You don’t get interviewed. No one calls you back. You’re just one more applicant out of hundreds, sometimes thousands. So, you keep trying. Months go by, you start to wonder if maybe it’s you. You may get depressed. And people start wondering it it’s you, too.

What you aren’t telling anyone is that getting a job is the last thing you really feel like doing. Nothing excites you. You miss your war-zone friends, you miss the consistent routine of military life, you miss having a goal with clear objectives. The war feels close to you, closer maybe than anything else, but you’re not going to tell anyone that.

Why aren’t you motivated? Civilian work is supposed to be the answer, right? Your gut tells you it isn’t, but what else are you going to do?

It can be very hard to feel motivated or excited about civilian work when you come home from war. It may seem pointless, dull, boring – and ultimately, purposeless.

You know what this tells you? You’ve changed. You see the difference between what was once interesting to you and a horizon out there where new meaning lies. The fact that you are asking questions means you are seeking answers – and that’s a good thing. Be open to change. Be open to doing something radically different for your line of work. You may find you want to go back to college, train for something that gives you a sense of purpose. My dad graduated with a bachelor’s degree in history/physical ed. Then he went to the Korean War. He came back and went to med school and spent the rest of his life as a physician. War changes what matters to you.

You have a wonderful opportunity to change course. And you have the opportunity not to spend the rest of your life stuck in a field or job that doesn’t bless the world with your unique gifts and insight.

You’re Desperate for Work, It’s All You Can Think Of

What the economic crisis of the last few years has done for many Americans is redefined how we think about money. It’s opened many people’s eyes to the energy of money and how it can empower or disempower your life. At the same time, veterans have gained powerful insight into the preciousness of life and the unparalleled personal freedom that our country offers. Veterans have the unique insight and experience to know that while money is a necessary energy of life, it is not the be-all and end-all of what life is about. You can’t stare death in the face and not know that, compared to death, very little else is actually a “problem.”

If you’re feeling desperate financially, I encourage you to pause and take a deep breath and know that deep within yourself is an incredible power to create not only the life you want, but the necessary money-energy you need to live that life. When you shift from thinking that others hold the power of money over you to realizing that you have the power to create money in your life, everything changes. I know that these words mean little if you don’t have the money to pay your bills or for food or your kid’s toys or for a date. But money isn’t something we should allow to scare us that much.

When we stop being scared of “what ifs” and we start to reconnect to our sense of inner power to create – we calm down enough to see opportunities around us for where money may enter our lives. You may have to think outside the box of traditional employment and start thinking of being your own employer. You may need to take some calculated risks and take some ideas seriously – but don’t give your power away when it comes to money.

The reason money causes so much worry is because we fear ‘the worst’ happening financially. What is the worst that can happen to you financially? You lose a home? Move back in with your parents? Live in low-income housing? Go on public assistance? Work a minimum wage job?

Let me tell you this: as long as you have your health and people who love you, you have everything. The worst can happen to you financially and you know what? You will recover. So don’t allow fear over money to control you or make decisions for you. You’re going to be all right.

Let Work Bless Your Life

The path to finding a job and a job itself can be a wonderful blessing if you let it. Use this time to really ponder what you want out of life. Use this time to give yourself some breathing space. Use this time to change what you believe about money. An know, that no matter what, you have the power within you to move toward healing, wholeness, purpose.