So it's fast approaching two years since I left the armed forces and I have to say two things. Firstly, I have never missed it, not even for a second. Don't get me wrong, I'm not all bitter and twisted and I really do acknowledge all the wonderful gifts that my former career gave me. It let me begin my journey of exploring just how people tick by getting alongside them and giving them support. This was a true privilege, even though it resulted in some serious burnout for me, and the admiration for those good souls that came my way will remain with me always.
I haven't missed it mainly because of my second point, which is that since my discharge time has passed me by like Usain Bolt. I mean really, it's been a blur. I remember looking outside of the service and wondering just what the hell I would do on leaving. I wasn't in the best of places then, as I alluded to earlier. I had gotten myself into a dark hole and knew that my work supporting people through the most difficult moments of their lives was over. I had nothing left in the tank and my mental health was shaky to say the least. The future seemed bleak.
At around the same time I had begun to undertake an initial course in Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy at Bangor University, which was unlike anything I had ever done. I always thought that people who mediated were either Tibetan Buddhist monks, or hippies (not trying to offend, just true!) and that it was about trying to find some utopian internal state of peace by sitting on an imagined mountain top, or floating at the centre of a calm lake. However, I found it to be something entirely different all together. Instead of utopia I actually found myself sitting in silence with an abundance of different thoughts and sensations, some wonderful and enlivening and some down right wretched. But in keeping with Rumi's poem 'The Guesthouse', I let it all in and embraced it, without judging myself.
I learned that we are more than just the sum of our experience. We too, are responsive organisms who can change and grow through time. Even our brain's structure can change, which is known as 'Plasticity' in the scientific world. As my brain changed, I began to develop a fresh perspective on what I might be able to do after military life. I realised that I had over a decades worth of experience and research in the fields of positive psychology, psychotherapy/counselling and in coaching. I also knew that I had become an accomplished trainer, having received great feedback in this area. I still remember the day that the penny dropped and I realised that I had purpose and that there was now a pathway down which I could confidently stroll.
Now don't get me wrong, becoming the owner of a training company has not been easy. But, nor has been difficult, in the sense that my last occupation was. I guess the difference is that I feel a true sense of purpose, excitement and drive, which had become so lacking before and it was those qualities that made me review my life, stand and dust my self off; and move forward. That momentum has resulted in the time blur, which I spoke about a few paragraphs ago. During that time my wife and I have had some wonderful times in the training room and have our delegates emote, reflect and change right before our very eyes. It's mind blowing!
And that's why I bother, because helping people change for the better is worth bothering for. That's also why I want to keep doing it too. To get alongside good folk, either from the coalface or the boardroom and stand at their shoulder as I guide them through a day of personal reflection and growth. Seeing delegates arrive in the room with that "Oh god, why do have to do another crappy training day?" look on their faces and have them leave you with a round of applause is confirmation that I am doing the right thing, right now in my life. It's also confirmation that my brand of training isn't crappy.