Trying to stay motivated at your MOS school can sometimes be challenging. Trust me, I’ve been there myself.
The first year in any service member’s journey is ripe with a contrasting combination of intense training intervals and long periods of down time. While the scrutiny recruits and trainees are subjected to during basic training may wane as they reach the school house, there’s a new series of seemingly stifling rules about what you can and can’t do while waiting for classes to pick up and then throughout your tenure at combat or MOS (Military Occupational Specialty) training.
While many of these rules exist to ease new service members into their independent lives as members of the armed forces, during the training, it’s not at all unusual for these strict environments, and the boredom that can sometimes come along with them, to sap a service member’s motivation. If you’re reading this article from a military school house, you undoubtedly already know how rough it can be… so let’s talk about what you can do to keep your motivation levels high until you’re out of training and headed to your new unit.
Remember why you’re here
If you’ve got a few weeks to wait before your classes pick up, you may find yourself stuck in forming, where there’s little to do but get tasked with working parties and try not to get in trouble. Then, once classes begin, you find that classroom instruction isn’t that much more exciting than forming, and you may find yourself in a slump.
In those moments, take a step back and think about the reasons you chose to serve in the first place. It may have been spurred by a love of country, a drive to pay for your education, the desire to see what you’re made of, or any combination of thousands of reasons. Think about what it was that first gave you the nudge in a recruiter’s direction, and remember that this period of time and training is the cost of entry. You’ll have your chance to meet your goals, but first, you’ve got to meet the service’s requirements. Remember that the school house is a part of the foundation you’re building for a great career, and it won’t be as hard to stay motivated at MOS school.
Focus on what you can do right now
It’s not uncommon for service members to have a fair amount of down time as they make their way through the accession pipeline (the collective initial training prior to arriving at your first duty station). However, that down time often comes with strict rules about what you can do and where you can go. If you feel as though you’re stuck a standstill, focus on things that you can work on right where you are.
If you have an eye for promotion, the school environment is a great place to work on correspondence courses on platforms like the Marine Corps’ MarineNet. If your PT score could use some work, most school houses have gyms nearby you can access for free. You may not be able to go out and have fun at the mall, but you can spend this time setting yourself up for success at your future unit. Anything you can knock out toward promotion before you leave school will only put you ahead of the game once school is over. Out there in the world, finding time to catch up on reading or to hit the necessary wickets for your next promotion may be hard to come by, but at the school house, it isn’t. Getting a leg up on the competition is a great way to stay motivated in training.
Disregard the naysayers
No matter where you are or what you do, you’ll always come across people with a negative mindset. In a training environment, those with a negative mindset have a habit of trying to drag others down with them. MOS school is challenging, and those who are worn out from the training or who have lost sight of why they’re there will often speak up about how much they hate what you’re doing and how “stupid” it all is. Outspoken naysayers are often fairly popular folks — or else they wouldn’t be comfortable being outspoken. As a result, sometimes there may be peer pressure to adopt a negative mindset too.
But just like high school, the training environment only feels like it’s the whole world until you’re out of it. Those naysayers may find some solace in complaining their way through training, but that doesn’t have to be you. When others feel the need to moan and complain, feel free to sit that conversation out and keep your focus on getting as much out of your training time as possible.
Keep your eye on the prize
Just like basic training, your time in the school house will eventually come to an end. In the years that follow, you’ll find yourself picking up ranks and developing a thorough understanding of your occupation and your branch. Remember that the school environment is a temporary holdover before a career that could span continents and decades, if you’re so inclined. In the grand scope of service, your months in training will amount to little more than a drop in a bucket full of rich and meaningful experiences.
When I was at my MOS school, I couldn’t have imagined that my service would one day take me all over Africa, or that I’d get to help build schools for communities in need. I knew the Marine Corps had a lot to offer, but couldn’t in my wildest dreams predict what “a lot” actually meant. Today, I am the man I am thanks to my time in uniform–and that’s really what my young self was hoping for. Now, as you look off into the uncertain future, there’s no telling where your service will take you, but some boredom in training is worth it.
Focus on things you enjoy
As silly as it may sound, sometimes it’s the little things that make all the difference. Maybe it’s a great book you can’t wait to get back to your bunk to read. Maybe it’s the chicken nuggets they’re serving at the mess hall. Maybe it’s re-watching old TV shows on your phone in the barracks or your squad bay. Back home, these little things may not have seemed like much of a treat, but after months of basic training, those little luxuries (and liberties) can become really meaningful.
On those days when you’re having trouble finding the motivation to keep pushing, don’t think about how much longer you have to go in training, just think about how much longer you have to go before getting back to that little luxury that means so much to you. A rough morning is only a few hours from lunch. A rough afternoon is only a few hours from liberty. A rough Wednesday is only a few days away from the weekend. Keep your focus on shorter intervals, and the long ones will pass without you noticing.
Feature image courtesy of Cpl. Tia Dufour, U.S. Marine Corps