5 Military Habits that Can Help Veterans Dominate Their Civilian Lives
Most of us who’ve served are used to a routine, structured existence. During our time in the military our days were largely structured for us. We’d show up for formation, and then carry out the plan of the day as dictated by our commanders, even if that plan of the day consisted of doing something seemingly pointless. When we leave the military, many of us begin to shun structure in favor of a more chaotic lifestyle, and this is where many of us trip ourselves up.
By my very nature I am a highly disorganized person. This was one of the reasons why I joined the Marine Corps in the first place . . . I wanted to learn how to instill some order and discipline into my life. By the end of my enlistment I’d thought I was fed up with a structured routine. When I went into college, I found myself often sleeping in until ten or eleven in the morning. The rest of the day I found myself trying to pack in school work and barely had time to eat. I rarely exercised and had little time for a social life because I was either sleeping or working. When I did have free time, it was spent drinking to relieve my anxiety. High levels of stress, social isolation, and alcohol are never a good combination in any veteran’s life. I felt like I was losing myself and I began to fall into a deep and dark depression.
It took around six months of this personal chaos for me to realize that if I were going to survive in college, I needed to change something. I began incorporating elements of my marine corps life back into my routine and soon found myself excelling at my classes while having time to do a lot of the other things I wanted to do. Today, I run two different companies and my daily routine is even more important to my success. Here is a sample of my current schedule:
My Daily Routine
0400-0500 I set my alarm for 0400 and give myself ten to fifteen minutes to lie awake in bed. I normally spend this time thinking about my life and how much I have to be grateful for. At between 0430, I’ll throw on PT gear that I folded the previous night and put near my bedside. From there, I’ll drink some water, use the bathroom, wash my mouth out with some coconut oil, brush my teeth, and then I will go outside and either do some kettlebell training or I will take a three to five mile run.
0530-0600 I will return inside, turn on my hot water kettle, then jump in for a three to five minute cold shower. By the time I get out of the shower, my hot water is ready to make coffee. I pour myself my first cup, and then I’ll get to work.
0600-0800 I normally spend this time on creative work. I try to get this stuff done first before the rest of the world wakes up and I get inundated with phone calls and emails. This usually entails writing blogs, working on a book project, creating fitness programs for my online personal training business, working on T-shirt ideas for Warrior Soul Apparel, or brainstorming ideas for videos.
0800-0930 This is morning family time. This is important. I will cook breakfast for myself and my fiance while she walks our dog. We will talk about our day and what we’re gonna do during the evening.
1000-1300 This time is dedicated to specific projects that I’m working on, posting content to either www.warriorsoulfitness.com or www.chrisalbertfitness.com, or finishing up any writing projects that are near deadline.
1300-1400 This is my “lunch hour.” I’ll normally have a small lunch, and then take a long walk with my dog or run any errands I have to do during this time.
1400-1800 Normally, I’ll spend this time working with clients over the phone. This can be anywhere between 5 and 15 phone calls. I speak to each of my online fitness clients at least once per week.
1800 – 1830 Here I begin wrapping up work for the day and scheduling out my activities for the next day. This is important because it allows me to set priorities for my next workday rather than allowing chaos to prioritize my day for me.
1900-2100 My fiance gets home from work and we head to the gym for a resistance training workout.
2100-2200 I cook a large dinner and my fiance and I sit down at the table and eat while talking about our days.
2200-2300 We sit and watch television for an hour and then we head off to sleep. Prior to going to sleep, I will write in my journal for five minutes. This mainly to write down things I thought went well that day and to highlight things I thought I could do better.
Setting Up Your Daily Routine
Unlike our days in the military, most of us will have different and very personalized daily routines. Some of us will have jobs, and others, like me, will have businesses. Regardless of these differences, there are certain elements from our military lives that we can incorporate to make our civilian lives better.
1. Reveille – Wake up before the rest of the world and get more accomplished.
I make it a point to get more work done before 0800 than the rest of the world does in a work day. I learned this as an NCO in the marine corps. In the field, I would direct the firewatch to wake me up an hour earlier than the rest of the marines so that I could manage them when they were up and not have to worry about gathering my own gear. Now, my morning time is a vital part of my ability to push my businesses forward without getting caught up in mundane work. If, rather than running your own business, you have a job or are in school, this could be an important time to get ahead in your classes, catch up on hobbies, or run a side business.
- PT – Train or Die
PT is not just an important part of being battle ready. It’s an important part of ensuring your mental and physical health wellness. Physical fitness brings mental clarity and greater self esteem, both of which will play a vital role in your success in the civilian world. You don’t have to work out twice a day like I do, but set aside at least an hour of your day for physical activity.
- Morning and Evening Formations – Family Meal Times
Formations were often a big annoyance when I was in the Marine Corps, but looking back on it I really see their importance and why they were so effective. This was the time when our company would deliver important news, convey the plan of the day, and make sure everyone was on the same page.
Family meal times are a lot like formations. Eating with your partners and children allows you to communicate better and gives you insight into their lives. It also gives you a road to eliminating some of the social isolation you may feel since you got out of the military. If you don’t have a family or a significant other yet, then make it a point to have friends, other family members, or even business associates over for dinner often. If you’re in college, make friends with people in your classes by inviting them to come with you to the cafeteria. Eating in groups has been a vital part of the human social experience for thousands of years, and it can be a huge help in increasing the value of your relationships and reducing social isolation.
- Hard Work
As marines, soldiers, sailors, and airmen we prided ourselves in the hard work that came with our jobs. Setting up your routine to successfully accomplish goals allows you to look back at your day with that same sense of accomplishment. Whether you are still in the military or you’ve entered the civilian world, hard work will always play a huge role in your success.
As a marine, my squad leaders and team leaders would rate me on my performance and counsel me as to any necessary improvements. As a business ownder in my civilian life, I have to do this for myself. This is why I keep a journal. It helps me keep a compass on my performance and allows me to locate areas for improvement. In each day’s entry I write down three to five things I’m proud of myself for accomplishing, and three to five things that I think I could have done better.
The transition to civilian life can be hard, but in it there is much opportunity. I think a lot of veterans are bullied by society into thinking that their military experience doesn’t qualify them for much. The opposite is true. We are far more prepared than most civilians to handle the rigors of whatever life throws at us. The only real problem we have sometimes is in translating the skills we already have to new and chaotic situations. Our greatest attributes are our discipline and ability to self manage through difficult situations, and a sound daily routine is the key to letting those attributes shine through in the civilian world.