3 Questions to Ask Before You Retire From The Military

military transistion questions
Daniel Dopler

Daniel Dopler

Topics

  • What do I what to do?
  • How am I going to do it?
  • Who am I?
  • Disclosure: Please note that some of the links above are affiliate links, and at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you decide to make a purchase after clicking through the link. Additional information can be found on my disclaimers page.

It is week 23 of my fifth deployment. The uptick of activity last week has ended the monotony of the last month and a half. A partner force EOD tech I had trained was killed clearing a roadside IED, a day later we took incoming mortars, all of them exploding within 50 meters of our camp, marking the first attack on this compound in more than 12 years. Currently, I am struggling to find the solutions for my EOD team and my return to the states amid the Corona Virus outbreak, I sit back in my chair and sarcastically wonder out loud, What do I want to be when I grow up? In that moment I am looking forward to no longer dealing with these problems, but on a deeper level I realize I also struggle to answer the verbalized question as I look forward to military retirement.

That will be the intent of this website over the next five years until I am able to retire from the military. Whether or not I retire at that point will be a result of the work that I am starting to examine now. I don’t know how this will develop, but at the moment, I see this site as a helpful way to answer these three fundamental questions about your future and mine. We can start by asking ourselves, what do I want to do? How am I going to get there from here?  And maybe most importantly, after 20 years of military service, Who Am I, when I am no longer a service member?

What do you want to do? No other question will have me looking to clean some gear or catch up on my email faster. I find ways to procrastinate and think of more pressing matters I “need” to attend to than seriously think about this topic. The exception to that rule is when I am in a moment of suck, like trying to get to an over watch position with 60 lbs of gear on, I amusingly envision myself leading a team in an office or traveling on one of those mysterious “business” trips. What actually happens on those? 

The more important questions to examine include, do you try to get a degree, Masters, MBA or do Vocational Education? Do you complete that education before or after you retire? Do you try to start a business? How can you start a business? Do you want to do the same type of work of change industries? Where do you want to live? Will you have to move? The answers to these questions will provide clarity on the direction of travel. That direction of travel and clarity can be tested through personal experiments and experiences to provide you with a clear goal or vision of the future life you want to pursue. That process leads to a clearly defined goal or desired end state, once we know the end state we can define the requirements and figure out what steps are going to be required to get there. 

“Start with the end in mind”

-Stephen Covey-

How do I get there? Stephen Covey’s second habit in his famous book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, is too, “start with the end in mind.” Once you know the end goal, you can reverse engineer the path to achieving it. Creating a road map will allow us to have a plan that can guide us through the obstacles and tough patches that we are going to encounter. This step actually helps feel like we are making progress and it feels good to see that progress. If you haven’t put in the work before to define what it is that you are going after then it could all be a waste of time and effort.  

An example from my own life, every business idea I have tried to implement thus far as not been well thought out. I would immediately start with building a website and getting that up and running. It felt good and it felt like I was making progress toward the goal. But there was little to no thought put into the actual components that would define the business as a success. (We will explore these failures in later posts.) A road map will let you know where you are going, to ensure you stay the course you will have to build systems and processes that support that goal on a macro level. On the micro level you need to establish habits to fulfill those systems and processes. With consistent work and practice the aggregatation of marginal gains will lead to the massive improvements and possibly even changes on an identity level.  

Who Am I? Talking about our identity is not a normal topic, the question of “who am I?” is so esoteric and foreign from our daily language.  Be that as it may, we all volunteered to go through an indoctrination process coming into the military.  That process defined you as a service member with specific traits and programmed responses to different stimuli. After spending, what is in most cases of retirement as another life time in that service, who are you when you are no longer a service member? How do you identify yourself when you introduce yourself to some one new. 

I have experienced this before. I grew up playing competitive soccer from age ten until my last college game when I was twenty-two. After that game and for the next year I struggled define who I was since I was no longer a soccer player. After struggling for almost a year trying to find work I found that I missed being a part of small team that had common goals larger then myself. That is how I found my way into my present military career. It was partly an effort to find that safe place and security I felt growing up playing on a soccer team and dedicating my life to my teams and the sport. This loss of identity is more common than I thought and found among people who have dedicated large portions of their life to a cause, mission or common goal. Athletes, Doctors, Lawyers, Military Service members and others can experience this “loss” of their identity when they are no longer attached to a career that their identities were affiliated. There is good news though. Through a couple different exercises and though experiments that we will do later on we can re learn who we are and then what we uniquely bring to the world. 

“Every action you take is a vote for the type of person you wish to become.”
James Clear, Atomic Habits

So that will be the format for the foreseeable future. These three questions will guide the course of this site until it matures into what it will. We will look at how we can bring clarity in to our lives though exercises. This clarity will allow us to figure out what we want to be and how we can design our lives. Once the end goal is defined we can create the road map to achieve that goal. Through the introduction of processes, systems and habits that when done consistently will lead to massive growth and eventual success through the aggregation of marginal gains. While we are doing these exercises and thought experiments, that we will be paying attention to what we learn about ourselves through this process. These reflections will lead to learning about ourselves and we can experience who we are and who we will become when we are no longer service members.  

Are you coming up on retirement or have you transitioned out of the military? What were or are the major obstacles you have come across through the process? Leave a comment or share a story below.     

Cheers,

Danny

  • Disclosure: Please note that some of the links above are affiliate links, and at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you decide to make a purchase after clicking through the link. Please understand that I have experienced all of these companies, and I recommend them because they are helpful and useful, not because of the small commissions I make if you decide to buy something through my links. Please do not spend any money on these products unless you feel you need them or that they will help you achieve your goals.

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  1. Pingback: Identify Your Strengths to Increase Your Happiness - Daniel Dopler

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