Last May I swore in to the U.S. Air Force. Ever since then, I’ve been waiting to go to training and get my service started. It will have been about three years since I started the recruitment process and almost a year since I swore in when I finally start training.
I’m a doer, so that’s a long time for me to sit on a goal without being able to officially “do” anything to achieve it. While the Air Force had a prerequisite online course for me to do while I wait to go to OTS, the rest of my time has been spent living normal life.
And waiting. Did I mention waiting?!
So I’ve tried to make good use of my down time the past year. If you’re like me and you find yourself stuck in the doldrums passing time until you can do something to achieve your goal, be intentional to change it from a time of discontentment to a time of growth and preparation. Here are 7 ways to make good use of your time:
I’ve worked on eating better, sleeping more, drinking more water. Did I do it perfectly? No. However, any growth in this area will help you achieve any goal because you’ll definitely be in a body while you’re doing it. Even if you know nothing else that lies in your future, you DO know that. Most people have something relating to physical health that they struggle with, and this period of waiting could be a good time to set a sub-goal you can work toward.
To tag on to the previous point, I’ve made concentrated effort to get physically stronger and faster. Of course, that’s necessary as I prepare for military training, but everyone benefits from activity and exercise. For me, going to the gym and running have been ways for me to see tangible steps toward my goal. I may not have been to training and I may not be an official airman, but dangit my biceps are bigger and when I am an airman I’ll be able to do a heck of a lot more pushups than I would have before. Find something you enjoy and work to become stronger, faster, more flexible, etc.
Invest in relationships
It’s totally easy to check out when I know I’ve got transition ahead, but I’ve fought that hard these past few months. When you know you’re going to have to say goodbye, it makes you want to avoid saying hello to anyone or anything else. However… I’m SO glad I have. I’ve made effort to remain connected to the community here. In fact, I just made an awesome new friend in January who has turned out to be a freakishly-similar-to-me kindred spirit. We’ll have fun hanging out until I go to training, and, happily, she’s an Air Force wife so I’m sure we’ll see each other again. Even if you’re unlikely to meet again, even short-term friendships can be full of encouragement and memory-making.
I’ve spent more time reading the Bible, praying, and memorizing scripture the last few months in preparation for what’s ahead. Especially in military life, spiritual care is so important. Military life is hard, and faith can make all the difference when times get tough. Reading my Bible helps me know God’s character and gives me wisdom for building my life. Praying helps me develop my relationship with God and hear from Him personally. Memorizing scripture helps me focus and meditate on what is true even when I don’t have my Bible around. I’ve also combined my spiritual and physical fitness in various ways. For example, between weightlifting sets I’ll review a verse. Usually by the end of a workout I’ve got a verse memorized!
“…I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” -Philippians 4:11-13
I’ve heard it said that you can quickly become an expert in your field simply by reading a book a week. I’ve been working on this and I’ve read a lot of books on topics that will help me in the military: leadership, character, history, strategy, etc. I’m not able to drop a lot of money on it right now, so I’ve been checking out a lot of books and eBooks at the library. I’ve also discovered that anyone with an Air Force email can check out eBooks from the online AF library, and I’m sure the other branches have something similar. For military people, a great place to start is by checking the yearly reading lists of the various service branch leaders. I’ve also done a lot of book reviews here on the blog you can skim for recommendations!
Try something new
It’s also hard to want to start new things while you’re waiting. If you’re anything like me, you’ve got an ongoing countdown in your head. “Three months to leaving… two months to leaving… one month to leaving…” This countdown makes it hard to want to try or start new things, but I’ve found that trying new things actually makes waiting a lot more bearable. It adds some excitement and interest to a period of time that could otherwise be boring or stuck in a routine. Attend a writing workshop. Learn a new technical skill. Buy an online craft class. Learn some sweet Krav Maga moves. Sometimes those periods when you least want to do something new is a time when you need it most.
Pace & refresh yourself
A military wife whose husband just retired after 30+ years of service once advised me, “Pace yourself and take life slowly when you can. There’s so much pressure and busyness in military life, so relish the slow times and don’t feel the need to fill them up with unnecessary activities. Take the time to recharge and rejuvenate.” Often, these waiting times feel slow and boring. Instead of being annoyed with that, I’ve enjoyed spending time doing things I love. I’ve watched movies, read books, done crafts, hung out with friends, and tried new things. There isn’t always margin in life to do this stuff, so I’ve taken time to refresh myself with these self-care activities.
On the other hand, sometimes waiting periods can be crazier than normal. If that’s the case, continue to pace yourself. Simplify where you can, drop the superfluous stuff and do what you need to do to wait well and prepare for your next phase.
So how about you? Are you in a time of waiting right now, or can you recall one? Do you feel like you waited well or could you have done a bit better? Do you have any other tips to turn a waiting period from a time of discontentment to a time of growth?