I spent four short years in the army, one of those training at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst, then I was fortunate enough to train in Canada and Jordan, before being deployed to Afghanistan. In my time there I learnt a lot that can be applied to being in the outside world (because the army is a world of its own), and here I share with you my top five takeaway points:
You are the only person that can motivate you
Throughout my training, I was shouted at, a lot. And I was encouraged, a lot. The effects of both of these were for me to be motivated to work harder, keep going, do more. But it wasn’t a given that this would be the effect; I could have taken the shouting as demoralizing, making me want to give up. I could have taken the encouragement as a sign that I was doing enough; I didn’t need to work harder. But I used these things as motivation to make me better… I don’t want to be shouted at again, I want to be encouraged more. I turned my instructor’s actions into fuel for my own motivation, as inspiration. Motivation must come from you.
2. To be the best, you have to work the hardest
The army advertising slogan in ‘be the best’. But joining the army doesn’t make you the best. Everyone at RMAS had been the best at something growing up, the cream of the crop, now all together and your realize you are distinctly average. So in order to be the best, you have to use your motivation (see above) to push yourself harder, read deeper, ask questions and never stop learning. Don’t sit on your natural talents and expect to stay the best… nurture, develop and grow.
3. You learn more being outside your comfort zone
It was on the side of a mountain in the Black Mountains, Wales, during my first 10 weeks in the army that I though I may actually die. I couldn’t believe a group of 8 female cadets had been left alone to navigate their way around in the snow, in the dark. I genuinely thought I might die. Clearly I didn’t. And we navigated our way around those mountains like the bad-asses we were. I learnt more on that mountain about perseverance, self-belief and team spirit than any book or lecture could teach me. Physically push your limits, and you will learn more than you thought possible.
4. If you keep going when you want to quit, amazing things start to happen
During my first week of training our Old College Commander gave us a welcome speech were he said that we would fail at some point during our training, and this was something we were probably not used to. I dreaded the thought of failure, fearing disappointment and reprimanding. But throughout the training there were lots of things I couldn’t do first time, and I wanted to quit. Decided it wasn’t for me. But some wise words and reminding myself why I was there made me stick with it, and the feeling of success that comes after failing is more satisfying than getting everything done first time, without any real struggle. I felt I earned it!
5. Alone there is no army
Whilst at Sandhurst training I wrote letters to my sister to tell her how I was doing and what I was getting up to. And reading back through those letters there is one point I wrote that stands out (and I’ve included pictures of my diary.. ignore the other stuff… I think I was very tired!). We were constantly doing ‘bone’ tasks: things that seemed pointless and a waste of time. Made to stay up late at night cleaning and folding and polishing… you name it, we did it. And it sucked. And together we whined and moaned, but we got through it. Together. Each Officer Cadets was experiencing the same struggles, the same inner turmoil and the same confusion about our latest life choice. But we were doing it together. We were bonding, and learning to encourage and support each other; a vital skill when one day you will be called upon to fight along side your peers. I realized all the training was trying to do was make us a team, make us work together, and I wrote ‘alone there is no army’. The same applies outside of the army. We are all here sharing the same spaces, and life is so much more fulfilling if we endeavor to get along with our neighbors, share experiences and help each other out.
So there we have it. An insight into my life in the military, and what I have carried with me since leaving.