A few posts ago I left you with four sheets of paper, each with a different title at the top. Hopefully you have had some time to think, reflect, and list out those things that match the topic for each sheet.
The purpose of the four lists is to put on paper those things that are important enough to you to write down; the actual act of putting pen or pencil to paper is important because it is a record of how you feel about a particular part of your life.
At any rate, you should have four lists:
THINGS I AM GOOD AT
THINGS I AM BAD AT
THINGS I LIKE TO DO
THINGS THAT I HATE TO DO
Now here comes the fun part.
Take the THINGS I AM GOOD AT paper and place it next to THINGS THAT I HATE TO DO. Put the other sheets aside for now.
Starting at the top of the THINGS I AM GOOD AT sheet, look for any matches in the THINGS THAT I HATE TO DO list. If there are any matches, then cross them off the “GOOD AT” list.
When I did this the first time it was a startling exercise because I had never really thought about my talents and skills from the perspective of whether I liked to do them or not. On my “GOOD AT” list, for example, was curriculum management for military training and education courses. I have a lot experience setting up and running training programs, classes, and programs of instruction. So much experience that I was actually regarded as being an expert of sorts on the subject. That said, on my “HATE TO DO” list I had written down bureaucratic paperwork – and that is exactly what curriculum management is all about. I had never really considered that I did not like to do the tasks associated with curriculum development and management, but by performing this simple exercise I came to the realization that I really didn’t want to pursue it as a future career despite having many opportunities to do so.
Now move on to the THINGS I AM BAD AT and THINGS THAT I LIKE TO DO lists.
This pairing takes a little more consideration. Just because you are bad at something doesn’t mean that you can’t get better at it. So for this list, start at the top of the “LIKE TO DO” list and compare it to the “BAD AT” list. It may sound odd, but maybe you like skiing but have never had a chance to hit the slopes enough to improve past the bunny hill.
If there are any matches, then ask yourself this question:
“I really like writing (or woodworking, or gardening, or school, or whatever) but I am not good at it. Is it something that I am willing to dedicate my energies to becoming better at in the future?”
This is important because it may be a doorway into a new career path or other life choice. Maybe you can go to school to learn how to be better at whatever it is, or perhaps you will find an apprenticeship or some other program to enter that field. Or, if you really want to become a better skiier, moving to a state like Colorado or Utah may be a good idea.
However, if you are not willing to dedicate your energies to get better, then cross it off the “LIKE TO DO” list.
So now your lists should be a little shorter. Time for the next step.
Place your “LIKE TO DO” and “GOOD AT” lists next to each other. Now look for matches. What do you like to do that is also something you are good at? Circle those matches in big red marker.
Now line up the “BAD AT” and “HATE TO DO” lists. Any matches here? If so, circle those as well.
Here is the last step: Line up all four sheets on the table, starting with “LIKE TO DO”, then “GOOD AT”, then “BAD AT” and “HATE TO DO”. These four sheets of paper represent the spectrum of possibilities that you can pursue, based on your thoughtfully created lists.
What strikes you on the “LIKE/GOOD” side? Do any of those circled items jump out at you? Is there something that gets quickens your pulse? That may be a path to a rewarding future. How about the “BAD/HATE” side? Is there anything there that makes you nauseous? You probably ought to steer clear of those.
This is really an exercise in thinking about your future. All military people, whether they serve three years or thirty, depart the service with a set of skills and talents that they have dedicated themselves to. Just because you were really good at your job in uniform does not mean that it is the only thing you can do for the rest of your life. If you are not careful you will become myopic and it will significantly impact your future; if all you see yourself as is an infantryman then you will have a hard time finding a job in the civilian world.
A common problem that I see with veterans I work with is that they are fixated on who they were, and not on who they could be. Their military past so rigidly defined their persona that they have difficulty getting past their short haircuts and affectation for military jargon.
There is nothing wrong with being incredibly proud of your service and the Marine, Sailor, Soldier, or Airman that you were whilst in uniform. To start a new career, however, means that you must be willing to accept that you are no longer in the military but instead are able to follow a new path in life. You may have been the greatest infantryman on the planet but if you want a job in the corporate sector you need to recognize that there are no infantry units in the civilian world.
Hopefully this little exercise uncovered some opportunities that you can pursue in the future, and it showed that you are capable finding a new and rewarding career for your life after the military.
If nothing else, it gave you something to do for a couple of days.
All it cost was four pieces of paper.