What’s in a name?
Many of us define ourselves by what we do. So we say we’re a lawyer, an IT consultant, an HR director – or a soldier.
In just one or two words we convey who we are, not just to others … but also to ourselves.
Such broad brush labelling is fast, convenient, and helps underpin our sense of identity. But what happens when as a result of redundancy or retirement we’re no longer able to define ourselves by a specific role?
For those in the corporate sector this may not be an immediate problem – they can still see themselves as a lawyer, an IT consultant, or an HR director who is ‘between jobs’, a temporary pause before resuming where they left off.
However, if you suddenly find yourself outside the Armed Services, things are somewhat different. After all, you can’t say you’re ‘between armies’.
Unlike the corporate executive who can move to another firm, once you leave the Forces there is nothing similar to move onto … only alternatives.
Understandably, after a career of ten, twenty or thirty years, it can be difficult for ex-service personnel to redefine themselves. Matters are made worse if you have already led a nomadic military existence with short-term career postings, high levels of stress and disruption to your family life.
It’s no wonder many ex-servicemen and women struggle to cope outside the system, their sense of self-worth and confidence at rock bottom and often without the emotional support and stress management they need.
But what you do, or did, for a living isn’t who you are – it’s simply a reflection of past personal choices. It’s your future personal choices that can move you successfully to another phase of your life.
Here’s a strategy for helping you make the transition to a new beginning as smooth as possible.
One. Your circumstances or environment have helped you become who you are today. Accepting this will allows you to make sense of your experiences, even when events seem outside of our control. It’s all too easy to find yourself saying things like: ‘If only I didn’t have to do this …’ or ‘If I didn’t live here … my life would be much easier’.
When you blame your situation on external events, you hand over control of your life to them. That has the effect of keeping you rooted where you are, unable to escape from the prison of your past, when actually it’s high time to take charge of your own destiny.
At any given moment, you are always developing your resilience and abilities, so don’t let the unexpected or the unwelcome knock you down.
Two. If old behaviours don’t fit your vision of your future self, you need to change them by adopting a positive mindset over a negative one. It’s easier, when faced with difficult situations, to see problems rather than solutions.
However, the more we focus on problems, the stronger our automatic response to them becomes. As a result, we generate the same defeatist kneejerk reaction whatever the situation and circumstance.
This can sabotage your chances of success because, even if you change your environment, the pattern of behaviour that holds you back just follows you around. Have you ever asked yourself: ‘Why do I keep doing that?’ when you know that you’re causing yourself a problem with some habitual behaviour?
The good news is that you can get rid of these negative behaviours and replace them with others that will move you forward. You need to consciously chose what you want in your life and then to do what it takes to make it happen.
Three. If you’ve been in a particular job or career for a long time, such as the Armed Forces, it can feel as though you’re ill-equipped to deal with the world outside. You may think that your very specific skill set means you have nothing to offer the world outside. That’s not true. Many of the skills you’ve learned are transferable.
And where they’re not, you can learn the new ones you need. After all, during a career in the Forces you’re often required to learn new and complex skills from scratch. You can do that again in some other sector. Remember, we are often better equipped than we think to make the changes we need, it’s just a matter of knowing how to leverage your existing skills, knowledge and expertise in a way that will make a difference to you and the life you now want to create.
Four. The values and beliefs we hold have a direct bearing on the direction we take in life, though often we are unaware of their impact. These are the things that motivate us, what gets us out of bed in the mornings.
But living by somebody else’s set of values can also keep us stuck – locking us into a particular version of ourselves that isn’t right for where we are in our lives right now. By changing our priorities, we can get different, better results. What we believe will either help us succeed in any walk of life, or limit us only to what we have right now.
Your job, values, habits and attitudes all go to create your identity, the person you think you are. However, having worked to the highest of standards set by the British Armed Forces, it can be difficult to meet your own expectations when it comes to finding a future outside the military.
But you can do it and the good news is that, despite the economic doom and gloom you hear and read about in the media, there has never been a better time to begin an entrepreneurial venture and become your own commanding officer.
Here’s why the moment’s right.
There’s a growing movement in business away from mass markets and towards smaller niche areas, with people using their personal passions and interests to meet the needs of a particular group of enthusiastically responsive buyers.
The same applies to our partners too, who often have invaluable skills that we overlook. For instance, they may be very good at organising, dealing with uncertainty and stress, or adapting quickly to change – all exceptionally useful aptitudes that you should appreciate, and which you both can tap into as you build an enterprise or business in the outside, civil world.
However, before you can do that, you first need to take the time to see the valuable skills you have to offer.
Using the Internet and low-cost, easily understood technology, it’s never been easier or cheaper to develop these opportunities. Now you can set up, test and start running a business with little investment and which has the flexibility to grow in a way that best suits the needs of you and your family.
Will it be simple? Not necessarily. Can you do it? Absolutely, you probably already have many of the skills required.
So, if you are to become one of the ‘New Entrepreneurs’, and create a new, more satisfying future for yourself, you need to apply the one skill that your time in the military will have equipped you with in abundance – and that’s the ability to take decisive action.
Whether you choose to or not is down to you. However, making this career shift can be a rewarding experience and one that will be much easier to make with the right support. After all, it’s not always easy to see the full picture when you are inside the frame yourself. With others’ assistance, you can gain the new perspective you need to see things in another light. So always remember, there is help around from people who value who you are, what you have done and respect the choices that you will now make. There is only one path: and is going forward.
This is a guest feature by Maite Barón ‘The Corporate Escape Coach™’ and author of ‘Corporate Escape: The Rise of the New Entrepreneur and does not necessarily reflect the views of Heropreneurs, its management team, Patrons, Ambassadors or Board of Trustees.
You can download your free two chapters at www.maitebaron.com/freechapters.
Website Design & Development by Blaze Concepts