Joint Base Charleston


Be the eye of life's hurricanes

By Master Sgt. Brett Hopkins | 437th Operations Support Squadron first sergeant | September 04, 2014

JOINT BASE CHARLESTON, S.C. -- I'm certain this will get the attention of your co-workers, but raise your hand if you think the Air Force provides too much resilience training. I sometimes think so too, but then I step back to see the larger picture and how resilience can make you the calm eye in the hurricane of life's problems.

"Perception is reality" is a phrase you hear often, but probably discount as soon as it is said. I remember a lot of people asking last December, "Why does the Air Force want to kick me out?" The reality of the situation is that cuts had to be made to reach end strength and service goals.

Our leaders tried to determine the most likely cuts based on manning, Air Force Specialty Codes and grades, and then notified effected personnel that there was a potential for involuntary separation. At the same time they offered several voluntary programs to encourage those who wanted to leave to get out and reduce the involuntary burden. While some were forced to involuntarily separate, the numbers were much less than initially feared.

For those members who are being separated, the skills gained through resiliency training may prove to be the difference in their transition being steady and successful, or uncontrollable and subject to the shifting winds of this hurricane of life.

I once worked for a wise master sergeant who liked to both confront and embolden his personnel, long before the emergence of resilience training, by saying "your actions are only 10 percent driven by what is actually happening, the other 90 percent is how you choose to react to it."

You may recall an emphasis on the ABCs of resilience. This is used to help you easily understand how a situation can be made worse through your own actions.

A is for Adversity. These are the problems, or hurricane's winds life is throwing at you. Force reduction was the same for every person identified in the most likely groups. The game changer was the B or Beliefs.

Many thought the announcement was a certain death knell for their careers while some were completely unmoved, or others began deliberate planning what to do should they be separated. This was the "perception is reality" portion of resilience. The circumstance wasn't different, but the perception of it varied based on individual beliefs. Those beliefs led to different action sets for each individual. Some began a noticeable withdrawal from their normal activities or personality. As Wingmen I hope we all took notice and helped in whatever way we could. Some began planning for the possibility of being told to separate. Still others placed no effort into an action, certain of their retention.

What resulted was the C or Consequences of those actions. Personnel were both retained and separated. Some were caught off guard due to a complete lack of planning. Some may have sunk further into social withdrawal and needed more of our help and caring. Still others were prepared and began, or continued, execution of their separation plans.

The point of resilience isn't to say people believed wrongly, but rather they reacted differently to the same adversity based on their beliefs which led to their consequences. In some cases this created a new adversity for them to deal with.

Resilience isn't about a magic formula to make the best choices, it is about recognizing the beliefs that shape your actions in the face of adversity to better prepare yourself to deal with consequences. This is an age-old dilemma that has been presented as coping with stress, overcoming adversity or even learning from your mistakes.

The importance and value of the ABCs of resilience is all of these areas are addressed while allowing you to understand the beliefs that drive your actions in hopes you can dismantle destructive patterns and create useful ones instead - becoming the calm eye of life's hurricanes.

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