Overcoming tough times Published Nov. 19, 2019 By Master Sgt. Erik Larson "If you're going through hell, keep going." - Winston Churchill Commentary by Master Sgt. Erik Larson Master Sgt. Erik Larson poses for a photo during a deployment with the 449th Air Expeditionary Group at Camp Lemonnier, Djibouti. (Courtesy photo) Photo Details / Download Hi-Res Deployments away from home are a reality for military members. However, my assignment locations have given me more opportunities for short trips away rather than long deployments. In fact, it had been over 10 years since I experienced being away for more than several weeks. Then fate caught up with me and I found myself at an austere location in unbearable heat separated from my loved ones by what felt like millions of miles. I was in deep thought about the many months I would be away. I was feeling sorry for myself. “What did I do to deserve this?” I thought to myself. “This is what hell is like and I am in hell.” Fortunately, a miracle happened. Reading and listening to personal development books inspired me. I found a way to overcome the dreadful feeling of hell and make the most of unfavorable circumstances. In fact, I did more; I found a way to love any circumstance. I realized I had no guarantee of tomorrow. Life is delicate, and we can perish at any time. I asked myself if I would regret not making the most of my time. I recognized happiness was a choice and that the problem was not my circumstance. I was the problem! To overcome, I had to go further than making the most of the circumstance. I needed to fall in love with it. To do this, I needed to inject the things I love into my circumstance and turn it into an opportunity. The first step was making a list of what I love. For me this is God, family, serving others, learning and teaching. I then brainstormed ways I could integrate these things into my circumstance. I changed my focus from being a victim into making the most of it. I realized this opportunity gave me time to focus on my relationship with God, volunteer to serve others, read personal development books, and host a professional development seminar. I shifted my perspective into passion by engaging in meaningful activities that gave me purpose. This reignited my enthusiasm to charge forward and restore my feelings of reward for my actions. As I did this, I gained a clear perspective of what is most important and made sure my actions were in line with my priorities. The process took time. I examined the time spent on trivial things and cut those out to include more of the things I love into my daily routine. As I did this, my spirits rose and I felt a deep sense of gratitude and love for God. I recognized He put me in this circumstance so I could learn and grow. I could use the natural gifts and talents He gave me to bless the lives of others. I found this especially true in my relationship with a co-worker who went through a difficult career-altering circumstance. I was able to support him, and we became great friends. Being grateful for the things in the moment, I found my blessings outweighed my challenges. This all changed my negative perspective and helped me focus on improving personally and professionally, as well as having gratitude and not taking things for granted. As I continue to improve, I will return to my family stronger, healthier, and better able to care for them. This experience taught me to place more value on my family and motivated me to make the most of our time together when I return. It turns out this deployment has been the best thing for me. I challenge you to consider your current circumstance and take the steps necessary to turn it into the best opportunity possible.