How to Have the Civilian Life You Want

Zig Ziglar, the famous motivational coach, tells a story about when he decided to lose weight. He started running. He ran in hot weather and cold, rain and shine. I’ve followed his example. Years ago while at Camp Fuji in January I ran ON the snow. Earlier this week, I ran IN it. That’s what you do when you’re a runner. You run…

The 3 Facets of Your Identity

Military people, especially reservists, cycle their identities on a regular basis. We all start out as civilians. When we join the military, we gain a new purpose. Our service branch turns us into a Soldier, Marine, Sailor, or Airman. We adopt the mission of defending our nation.

The challenge comes when your service ends. A military identity doesn't work in the civilian world. Active duty service members have to shift out of an identity ingrained for years. Reservists need to cycle back to their civilian self.

When you know the components you can be intentional about making modifications. Your identity has three facets:

Purpose. This facet looks inward. It defines who you want to be. Aspects might include being a dedicated husband, a loving father, and accomplished professional.

Mission. This facet describes the impact you want to have on others. Your mission should put the person/purpose you are to work in the service of other people. You can do this as an employee of a company, by starting your own business, or working for a nonprofit organization.

Goals. This facet puts action to the other two. By meeting these objectives, you pursue your mission and fulfill your purpose.

These three facets should work in concert. Veterans get into trouble when their purpose and mission conflict. They struggle when their goals take them in the wrong direction.

Creating a coherent identity challenges many reservists and people leaving active duty. Gaining clarity on each facet can be difficult. Eliminating conflict between them poses an equally daunting task.

2 Obstacles to a More Resourceful Identity

Two desires tend to prevent military people from figuring out their identities.

Opportunity. Such things as a job that looks too good to pass up may preempt a serious examination of your identity. Who cares about fulfillment when hard dollars are at stake?

Anxiety. Many concerns may prevent the intentional creation of a cohesive identity. It can be frightening to confront a side of yourself you don't like. Creating your purpose requires prioritizing various aspects. You may have to give up a part of yourself so you’ll have enough time for more crucial parts.

This isn't a new idea. In 1905, while a cadet at the Military Academy, it was evident:

Once you have a unified identity, the challenge becomes to live it. Most of the time, being a runner supports my identity. It keeps me fit and gives me time to think. But sometimes it unbalances me. Running in the snow was glorious in the moment. But it wasn’t worth it since it slowed me down for two days afterward.

Reintegrating to civilian life doesn’t require giving up your military self. But you’ll have to make some modifications to get along in this new environment. Begin by developing a revised purpose. From that, create a mission for civilian life. Then set them in motion with compelling goals…