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“You knew what you were getting into, right?”

The one question that can make a military spouse shudder, and I can’t help but get on my high horse to suggest no one knows what they are getting into. Yes, you have a vague idea of the challenges; long stints of solo parenting, relocation and all that ensues, career upheaval and lack of family support. But at the same time, you don’t REALLY know.  What seems like adventure at the time can feel like a revolving door of change and upheaval.

And you can be forgiven for thinking that military life is the barrier that we cannot overcome, that we are bystanders in our own life and have no ability to improve or change things.  But that just isn’t the truth. Being in military life can be hard. But it can also be hugely rewarding and in all honesty, whilst it may not seem like it at times, it can be the making of you.

Military life isn’t all flowers and rainbows. It can be so hard, and exhausting. But at every stage, we grow in resilience, we can find solutions when we are faced with uncertainty or adversity and we don’t break under pressure – because we can’t break under pressure. And this is a necessary element of success. We can stay strong and abate our fears and that is hugely attractive to employers.

What Is Mental Fortitude?

This isn’t about having a raft of educational achievements behind you or being the best at your job. It isn’t the most confident person round the table or the one that can run 5k without turning the colour of a raspberry. It’s the person that has the ‘grit’, determination and passion to succeed.

How to grow your mental fortitude

  • Develop a positive mindset

According to the Cleveland Clinic, the average person has 60,000 thoughts a day, and of those, 95% of those thoughts repeat each day and, on average, 80% of repeated ideas are negative. That’s roughly 45,000 negative thoughts per day.

Imagine hearing ‘I can’t do that’ or ‘I’ve been out of work too long’ 45,000 times a day – it’s going to end up sticking. But these self-limiting thoughts aren’t facts, merely thoughts. And by changing the thought to ‘I can’t do that, but I’m going to have a go’ or ‘I’ve been out of work so long, but it’s not going to stop me’ instantly changes your inner critic to be an inner champion.

This doesn’t mean everything will be rosy for you – having a all-or-nothing end in mind is always going to be a challenge. And when things don’t quite work out – when you don’t get the job, or you mess up on the interview, you can dwell on things too much which is a total misuse of your energy. Instead, acknowledge you are only human and things happen. Dwell on it for the time it takes to drink a gin and tonic and then pick yourself up and re-examine how it could have been different.

Building mental fortitude is about recognising these negative thoughts, and off-loading them, clearing the way for positive, focused thinking.

  • Ask yourself ‘why’

For anyone to be focussed and determined, they need to identify the ‘why’. The carrot at the end of the stick. Without a clear purpose or ‘why’ you can easily become distracted or discouraged. And with a strong ‘why’ you are far more motivated to pursue the challenge you have set yourself.

  • Know you aren’t alone

In any walk of life, you are rarely alone. The most successful people didn’t do it alone – they had a team of people around them who helped guide, champion and support them along their journey. If you want to succeed, surround yourself with people that can help. A coach or mentor can help you find your sense of purpose and direction, friends can help you maintain a positive mindset, providing optimism and energy

What distinguishes us from our peers in ‘civvi street’ is that, because of military life and all of its challenges, we have developed true grit. And it is grit and perseverance that become our defining traits, regardless of the talent you were born with.

And it is that ability to see challenge and adversity as an opportunity and to have the confidence and positive approach to solving it, which raises us above our peers and makes us stand out from the crowd for potential employers. So maybe we didn’t know what we were getting into when we joined military life, but we can certainly grow, learn and succeed because of it, not in spite of it.

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