It’s that time of year when masses of military families are on the move. Are you one of them? Even the best moves can be stressful, and are especially disruptive to military spouse careers.
If you’re in that boat, take some time to think about your goals for the next PCS before the moving trucks arrive. How do you feel about the next assignment? What do you hope to accomplish there? Is this a good time to reach for a career milestone or focus on another priority? Here are 3 things I recommend you do to help find peace in your PCS:
1. Set personal goals for your next assignment.
Before you get caught up in the fast-paced blur of the moving process, take some time to reflect on what you want to get out of the next assignment. I recommend keeping a journal and writing about your goals for the next duty station. Visualize your best possible life and what it would look like. Will this be a good time to seek employment, make a career change, go back to school, or take a break and focus on family? What would give you the most happiness and satisfaction personally and professionally? Then challenge yourself to set 2-3 personal goals for the next assignment that can guide you through the next chapter of your military life. When I found out we were coming to Hawaii two years ago, I set 3 goals for myself:
- Maintain my coaching business.
- Write my book.
- Take up golf again (a much-loved hobby I had given up when I became a working mom).
I knew this assignment would be a good chance for me to slow down after having two kids, earning a PhD, and starting a business. For me, this assignment wasn’t about hitting my next career milestone, but about enjoying one or our last duty stations before military retirement. Having these goals clear in my mind has helped focus my energy and prioritize my time during this assignment.
2. Make sure your goals fit with your 3M’s.
If you are going to succeed in meeting your personal goals, make sure they realistically fit those 3M roles in your life (marriage, motherhood/fatherhood, military life). Will your spouse be supportive of your priorities? If you have children, will you be able to accomplish your goals while still being the parent you need to be? And are your goals realistic given the demands of your military life (e.g. expected deployments, length of time at this duty station, your service member’s work demands)? I encourage you to dream big for yourself and craft the life you want to live. But also do the work to make sure those dreams are achievable in the context of your real-world life.
3. Expect to feel loss and look for unexpected gains.
Sometimes we underestimate the emotional toll of moving, especially when we think we’ve become experts at the process. But the reality is that each move is a like a small death. We experience some loss each time, no matter how small it may seem on the surface. (Sue Jervis, a British military spouse and psychologist wrote a fascinating book about this if you want to learn more. She says these losses accumulate over a life of repeated moves, and are often internalized in ways we don’t really acknowledge or learn to repair before the next move comes along.)
I’ve discovered for myself that 4 months is about how long I typically feel out of sorts. I may be sad one minute and excited the next, or hopeful about one thing but really down about another. So I’ve made a promise to myself not judge anything about a new assignment for the first 4 months. I cut myself some slack about any ups and downs and try to withhold judgment if I find myself worrying too much. I expect to feel some loss during those first few months and I try not to over-react when it comes. At the same time, don’t wait to embrace new opportunities and look for gains that you might not have expected. In other words, give yourself permission to accept the loss, sadness, frustration during the transition AND be open to the good stuff that will come your way if you let it.
If this is a summer on the move for you, I wish you peace in your PCS.