Shift Happens: adapt, overcome

by Maj. Ryan Anderson
86th Materiel Maintenance Squadron commander

Military life pushes us and our families toward all sorts of great opportunities, but sometimes these sudden shifts are unwelcome, unwanted and completely unexpected.

The most important thing to remember during the times you’re pushed outside of your comfort zone is we possess an unbelievable capability for adapting to change and remaining resilient.

Even though it has been drilled into us that we must focus on routine and develop strict habits, our true strength is often found only in the face of adversity.

Throughout our careers, we experience challenges and difficulties while transitioning through new stages of life: a marriage or divorce, being away from family, uncertainty of force management, or being forced to move around the world. Rightfully so, unforeseen shifts in our lives cause us distress, uncertainty and fear.

So what can we do to stay strong? Try keeping these rules in mind when it feels like the world won’t stop spinning.

Be prepared:

Don’t let an unplanned event sidetrack your life. Being ready and anticipating a change is the best way to not be your own worst enemy when you’ve been pushed out of your comfort zone. If you plan ahead and prepare yourself for the changes that are about to happen, you can better anticipate their outcomes and take the necessary steps to secure your well-being.

Understand the greater reason:

It is easy to only focus on the here and now and not look at the bigger picture. There is often a greater reason behind every new event. What may seem like a tragedy at first can ultimately end up being for your own good. Each one of your hardships is a catalyst for change.

Seize opportunities:

Life changes that you face come with challenges, but they’re also accompanied by brand new opportunities. You may be forced into a new position that you don’t know or feel comfortable taking on. These can actually be great opportunities to learn new skills, discover new ways to solve problems and create lasting solutions. Embrace your challenges and break from what you’re used to; new opportunities mean detaching from old patterns that may keep you stuck and unable to grow.

Get your head right:

Alter your mentality to adapt to your changes. Your training and education have prepared you to possess the skills required to succeed. Utilize your range of talents to thrive in your challenging situation. It all begins with having the right mentality and the right attitude.

Distract with productivity:

The single best way to overcome any life challenge is to be productive. Don’t focus on the negative of the challenge. Use it as an opportunity to take up new hobbies that can also help your physical, mental or social health, such as exercise, education or travel. Being productive allows you to reroute your attention toward positive activities, and it re-energizes you with something fresh and different.

Reflect on past challenges:

Whenever you find yourself feeling overwhelmed, remember that you have been through tough times before. Whether it was a previous move to a new assignment, deployment or struggle with family, apply some of the coping skills that you have used in the past. It is also important to remember that time is your inevitable healing force. Give yourself time to process the challenge and let the dust settle before you move forward.

Look toward the future:

Think about how in the near future you will feel secure, stable and in the right place. Visualize the issues getting solved. What steps do you need to take? Who can help you? How will you feel, look or react when that day is here? Paint the picture of a time when the details that seem disorganized have fallen into place.

We are creatures of habit, and it is easy to settle into our comfort zones. However, sudden shifts are unavoidable. If we accept our challenges as critical to our personal progress, we can get past the inconveniences of an unwanted situation.
The unpredictability of life can become what we thrive on, and maybe we will even begin to look forward to our next set of challenges. Shift happens; embrace it!