Someone asked me the other day “how can I end my Army career practically and gracefully so it feels good and I don’t have any regrets?” That is a tough question to answer, but I will take my best stab at it. I’m going to share ten tips or ten things to consider while you make your decision whether or not to stay in or get out.
1. Realize That No One is In the Military Forever
The first tip is to realize that no one is in the military forever. Even if you do 20 or 30 years in the military,you will spend MOST of your adult life as a civilian (before and after the military). It’s true, all good things must come to an end at some point in your life. We will all eventually grow old and die.
2. Get On the Same Sheet of Paper with Your Spouse and Kids
One great tip is to communicate with your spouse and kids. Get their input and find out what they want you to do. At least consider their input in your decision making process. I’ve found that if you and your spouse (or loved one) can get on the same sheet of paper you will be much better off. Making a decision is a lot easier when you have your family’s support.
3. Talk with Other Veterans and Retirees to See What They Can Recommend
Consider talking with some retirees and veterans to get their input. Find out what they did to make their decision and what they would do differently if they had to do it all over again. You might be surprised at what you find out.
4. Never Look Back and Don’t Have Regrets
At some point, you simply need to make a decision. Whatever decision you make (to stay in or get out) don’t look back and dwell on it. I always tell people: collect your intelligence, weigh your courses of action, and make a decision. Once the decision is made, move forward, not backwards. Life is too short to have regrets.
5. Focus on What You Accomplished, Not What You Didn’t Accomplish
Very few people I know of accomplish every single thing they want to in their military career. Even if you didn’t complete everything you set out to do, be grateful for what you did accomplish, not sad about what you didn’t accomplish in the Army. If you spent any time at all in the Army, you probably did some really good things. Cherish those memories and focus on those memories, not what you didn’t do.
6. Understand That You Will Go Through a Transition Period After You Get Out
Everyone goes through a transition period after they get out or retire. It took me close to a year to really get used to being a civilian. There will be days when you miss the Army and that’s perfectly normal. But at some point you will really enjoy being a civilian, growing a beard (for the guys) and living a less stressful lifestyle.
7. Use Some Logic In Your Decision Making, But Understand You are an Emotional Being
We are all emotional human beings. In essence, there is no such thing as a logical decision. We make emotional decisions and then justify it with logic. That being said, be as logical as you an. Weigh all your options. Evaluate whether or not it’s worth sticking around to get a pension. Get the facts and let the facts guide your decision IF the facts match what your heart tells you to do. If you truly LOVE being a Soldier, there’ no point to get out until you have to retire.
8. Find a New Career, Hobby or Passion That Excites You
One of the worst things you can do after you get out of the Army is to be idle. I highly recommend you find a hobby, passion or new career that excites you and keeps you busy. You don’t want to be sitting around the house all day moping about how much you miss the military life.
9. Leave When You are On Top Of Your Game, Not the Bottom Of It
Brett Favre could have learned a lot from this tip. I’ve always believed it’s much better to get out of the military when you are at the top of your game rather then when you have lost your effectiveness. Don’t wait until you are an ineffective leader or poor performer until you get out. You owe it to your troops and the Army to be effective. And if you’ve already lost your effectiveness it’s time to go. If you study the champions in most endeavors you will see they moved on while they were at the top of the their game.
10. Don’t Let the Military Define You as a Person
What you do for a living does not define you as a person. Most people I know struggle with this issue. Fortunately, I learned this lesson a long time ago. Be proud of being a Soldier, but don’t think that’s the only person you are. You have many great things inside of you. You probably underestimate what you are capable of. Don’t think you can’t be successful after the military, even if that’s what you’ve always done for a living.
In summary, all Soldiers will leave the Army at one point or another. Your key to success is to leave while you are at the top of your game, not after you’ve lost your effectiveness. Remember that there is life after the Army and that you are capable of great things. Even though you’re hanging up your combat boots for good, there is still much life ahead of you.
What are your thoughts? What do you think is the best time and best way to leave the Army? Leave a comment and let us know.