If I were to say there was one chapter that was the most important chapter of our Military Spouse Journey book, Chapter Eight would be it. Not that everything else in our book isn’t important: learning to make and maintain friendships as you move, strengthening your relationship with your spouse even during deployments, learning stress and energy management, etc. etc.
But here’s the deal. You are a unique individual with distinctive interests, skills and passions.
To create a life that works for you within this military life, you have to open yourself up to the possibilities and find ways around the many obstacles. That’s what Chapter 8 is about.
You have to find new approaches to your dream when the approach you’re using isn’t working or simply isn’t possible because if a specific assignment or military life.
Here’s what Holly and I have learned, through our own experience, through research, and through interviews with hundreds of military spouses of all services.
It’s important to learn to automatically ask the questions, “What is possible here? What can I do here to work toward my dream? What is available here that might not be available in other places?” Be open, and access the many possibilities that do exist. (Doing this moves you forward way more than the “why did they send us here; nothing is available here; I can’t wait for our next PCS” approach. We know…we’ve both been there.)
And learn the magic of second and third right answers.
In our workshops, we give participants an opportunity to share dreams and brainstorm with the group to find those second and third right answers.
Charmin’s dream was to own and run a bed and breakfast (B&B) in Tennessee. When asked at a Fort Stewart, Georgia, workshop for her plan of action, she started with, “We hope to get stationed at” and “As soon as he retires, I’ll…”
Notice how those are actions outside her own control and focused on future events. When we pushed for things she could do right now, she added a few: read books on running B&Bs, search the Internet for information, and test breakfast recipes.
We then asked the other workshop attendees for help. Ideas flew. Join the B&B Association for information and contacts. Intern at a B&B to learn the ropes, or “babysit” one while the owners take a vacation. Take a class on how to run a small business: taxes, accounting, marketing, and so on.
By the time we finished brainstorming, her eyes were shining as she saw possibilities, all things she could do right here, right now, not waiting. Imagine the fun and excitement Charmin can now create in her life anywhere they are stationed, moving toward her dream.
The key is realizing there are paths you can try out, rather than simply seeing a dead end in front of you. Brainstorming with others is the first open gate on the road to possibilities.
A reality of military life is that some things you want to do just aren’t possible, at least not exactly the way you envision them. Your career won’t proceed in a straight-line fashion. You can’t build your business the same effective consistent way your peers who stay put can. You won’t have that dream house you keep working on year in and year out to get it just the way you want. You won’t have a garden that matures and evolves over time.
Many of your dreams may seem impossible where you happen to be assigned at the moment. Does that mean you have to give up your dream?
No. It just means the approach you are thinking of—your first right answer— won’t work right here.
That’s where second, third, and higher right answers come into play. Too many of us stop with the first solution to our situation. If that solution isn’t possible, we often give up and end up frustrated and angry with the military—for moving us in the first place or for sticking us in this godforsaken place.
By looking for, and finding, the right answer that does work right where you are, you keep moving toward your dream. You continue to engage in activities that matter to you. You can be quite content wherever they send you as you take advantage of the possibilities of each new assignment.
And don’t even try to figure this out yourself. You are one person with only one set of experiences. You can only come up with limited ideas of how to move forward.
That’s where brainstorming with others comes in. If you’ve already done the Ideal Life exercise, stopped to give thanks for what you already have in your life so you start from a place of abundance rather than lack, done some preliminary research, now it’s time to come up with a plan of action.
Do a mindmap of your own first. On a flip chart paper write down the skills you need, the people/organizations you need to connect with, the action steps you need to take to get you moving towards your dream.
Then gather a group of five to six people, show them what you have and let the ideas fly! You’ll be amazed at what comes out, and of the many resources and contacts you might easily glean to move forward faster.
Don’t believe me? Try it out. Then, if you are in any way stumped, email me (Kathie@militaryspousejourney.com) and Holly and I will brainstorm even further for you. It’s what we love to do.