With a challenging and perilous job that requires you to adapt to new conditions and situations constantly, military life is simultaneously rewarding and miserable. However, the experiences of army life — good and bad — can offer valuable insight into how to survive better the next time you find yourself trapped between those unforgiving cliffs with only your wits, strength, and courage as your guides.

These pointers don’t just come from the personal experience of a cabin full of men who are all current or former servicemen who traded a desk job for crawling through mud under sniper fire; they also come from observing countless men who signed up for service and were tested on every level. 

So let’s look at how these lessons relate to surviving army life so that we might better prepare for any other challenges we may face in our lives outside the barracks…

Keep Your Skills Sharp

Your most significant asset — especially in a hostile environment — is your ability to think clearly. So keep your mental edge sharp by regularly using the skills you’ve acquired throughout your life. This can include techniques used in your job and hobbies or even just activities in which you regularly engage in your spare time.

Practice makes perfect for virtually any skill, so the more you hone your ability to play the piano or speak another language, the easier and more comfortable it becomes to use that skill. All these pursuits allow you to exercise your mind and keep fit. Doing so improves your ability to solve problems, develop creative ideas, and manage stressful situations. 

You also reduce your risk of growing conditions like Alzheimer’s disease by keeping your brain active.

Then, in times of stress, you won’t have to relearn everything from scratch; you’ll already have a developed and practiced skill in your muscle memory.

Stay in Good Shape

(Photo by Ketut Subiyanto/Pixabay)
(Photo by Ketut Subiyanto/Pixabay)

Part of being in good shape for military life is about aesthetics — you’re already in the most attractive uniform, after all — but it’s also about practicality. On top of ensuring you look your best, being in good shape helps you physically survive basic training and the rest of your service.

Being fit improves your endurance, strength, flexibility, and coordination. These help you stay active and avoid injury. They also allow you to pass the physical tests like push-ups and sit-ups required by every service member. These physical tests aren’t just for show. They test your strength and endurance, which will be vital to your success in basic training and beyond. When you regularly complete exercises designed to test your limits, you also constantly push your physical boundaries.

So regular exercise — preferably in the form of weightlifting, running, and the like — is necessary not just to survive but thrive. And in addition to helping you physically, keeping in good shape mentally enables you to cope with the stresses of military life.

Learn to Navigate

Military Navigation Skills (Photo by Pixabay)
Military Navigation Skills (Photo by Pixabay)

Navigation is critical when it comes to survival, whether it’s in the wilderness or the city. If you know how to find your way around and can recognize landmarks and other references, you’re far less likely to get lost and far more likely to arrive at your destination.

Unfortunately, this is one skill that few people regularly practice and one that can quickly deteriorate if you’re not careful. So to keep your skills sharp, you can periodically explore parts of your city you don’t know, read guides on navigating and navigating without technology, or even just read maps regularly

Don’t Limit Yourself to “Meals”

Military life is all about deadlines, schedules, and quotas, which can be incredibly challenging when you’re in constant pursuit of your next meal.

However, you can also use this to your advantage by regularly going without food. By forcing your body to go through periods of fasting, you can help improve your metabolism, reduce stress, increase focus, and improve your overall health. Of course, fasting isn’t something that you have to do daily. Once or twice a week can provide ample benefits.

If you’re a person who regularly skips meals, doing so as a routine keeps you from realizing just how much nourishment you’re regularly missing out on. So if you regularly go without food for some time — say, an hour — you increase your awareness of how important it is to eat.

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Learn Basic Soldiering Strategies

Military high command is filled with a regular cast of characters, but one of the most important is the strategist. A strategist figures out the best course of action in a given scenario and then guides other people toward that end goal.

This doesn’t have to be a stressful process. You can make it a game to see how fast you can prioritize your to-do list. You can even break it down into smaller, more manageable chunks.

Another critical aspect of prioritizing is being able to discern between the urgent and the important. Urgent tasks are those that must be completed immediately. Important tasks are vital to your overall success but aren’t urgent. This could involve looking at your overall goals and values in life and then determining which tasks are the most important to help you accomplish those goals.

Bottom line

As you can see, it takes more than a willingness to don a uniform and jump out of airplanes to survive the experience of military life. The best way to survive — and thrive — in the military (and life) is to apply the same principles necessary for survival in the wilderness: flexibility, adaptability, and a willingness to try new things.

Missed anything? Share your thoughts in the comments below. Tars out!