Find Strength in Serving Others
When the going gets tough, we have a saying in the Marine Corps: Don’t go internal. When you’re in an uncomfortable or painful situation, it’s only natural to focus on the discomfort you’re experiencing and begin to feel sorry for yourself, like when it’s 0300, you’ve been up for 35 hours straight, you’re soaking wet, and the mission is a total cluster. Instead of staying focused on the mission at hand, you begin to let your discomfort consume your thoughts and you say things to yourself like, “Man, when will this damn patrol be over so I can get out of these wet clothes and go to bed?”
When you begin to feel sorry for yourself, or “go internal,” you allow yourself to become weak and you put others around you at risk because you’re focusing on the discomfort you’re feeling instead of what you’re supposed to be thinking about.
Much like your time in service, your military transition isn’t going to be a rose garden. In fact, at times, it’s going to be pretty unpleasant. But the thing that got us through the hard times during our military service was our commitment to putting the welfare of others ahead of ourselves. Think about it: Whenever we go internal, whenever we start thinking about ourselves, we get weaker. But when we think about the mission and focus on serving and helping others, we get stronger—and when that happens, nothing can get in our way.
The military is perhaps the most diverse organization in the world. And it’s the ability to harness this diversity and channel it toward a common goal that makes us the greatest fighting force on the planet. And there’s one common denominator that all service members share: a desire to serve something greater than themselves. This is our strength. This is what separates us from most of the 99% who chose not to serve our country.
It’s extremely easy to go internal when making your transition. Trying to figure out what career to pursue or what you want to do with your life is a daunting task. It’s overwhelming, and it’s exacerbated by the fact that you no longer have your buddies around to kick you in the butt when you start to feel sorry for yourself.
When you start to get discouraged and frustrated during your transition and you can begin to feel yourself going internal, draw strength and direction from your inherent desire to serve something greater than yourself. Ask yourself:
- How can I make a positive difference in the lives of others?
- What kind of service can I provide to my community?
- What can I do to make the people around me better?
Service is your guiding principle through your transition. When you joined the military, you raised your right hand and swore to serve the nation. When you left, no one told you to put your hand back down. You never stop serving; you’re just choosing to serve in another capacity.
When the going gets tough, don’t go internal. Focus your energy on becoming an asset to your community, and you will find your way.