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Advice: 'Think about what's important to you'

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Scott T. Sturkol
  • 380th Expeditionary Maintenance Squadron commander
Most bits of good advice have been around for a while, and have come from all different walks of life. Famous people, family members, friends and co-workers have all probably given advice that sounded good.

Some advice has been tried and tested for generations and have proven to be sound. For example, when I was going to college in New York and working a couple of jobs to make ends meet my mother told me to live on less than I make so I don't risk going into debt. Sounds like basic common sense. My priest said to me, "For what is faith unless it is to believe what you do not see?" My father once told me, "Stay in shape or you might get beat up." I lived in a tough neighborhood and I think he was worried about me.

My wife told me a "good marriage is the foundation of a good family." As a teenager, I worked in an Italian delicatessen and my boss would say, "Why do people spend more time and effort getting out of work then spending the less effort working?" He, of course, was talking about the other employees. Yes -- lots of people had good advice to give me.
I too have some advice to give. I think there are about seven areas where we need to make goals in life to ensure wellness and happiness. Those seven are -- physical, spiritual, family, financial, social, career and intellectual well being. I would like to talk about a few areas.

First, is physical. One of the best initiatives the Air Force has taken was to highlight physical fitness. I smile when I see our Airmen running and working out at all hours of the day. There are all types of exercise programs, books and trainers to help you establish a good life style of fitness. Despite all these resources and fitness campaigns, there are still some folks out there who resist and like my boss at the Italian deli used to say, "spend more time and effort getting out of work then the effort spent working out!"

Muhammad Ali said once, "Champions aren't made in the gyms. Champions are made from something they have deep inside them -- a desire, a dream, a vision." If you're one of those folks who dreads working out and you're almost to the point of giving up, look down deep inside.

I know there is something that motivates us to succeed. Once you know what motivates you, I think the champion and warrior will come out. I know you have a desire to pass your physical training test, maybe a dream of being in shape to win the next five-kilometer race. Think about setting a vision for a healthy lifestyle so you can enjoy retirement. I know you can do it.

Second, and just as important as physical health, is paying some attention to your spiritual health. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once said, "Take the first step in faith. You don't have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step." You may be surprised on what you can find or learn. People get inspired in many ways.

For some, God gives us inspiration to do great things and we use vehicles such as religion to get closer to him. Even if you're not a religious person, it is said that spirituality is at the top of Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs. At the peak of this hierarchy is self-actualization. The hierarchy suggests that when the other needs at the base of the pyramid have been met, the individual can then focus their attention on this pinnacle need. Self-actualization is described as "the desire for self-fulfillment, namely, to the tendency for the person to become actualized in what they are potentially."

Self-actualized individuals are often motivated by a strong sense of personal ethics and responsibility. They enjoy solving real-world problems and are often concerned with helping other people improve their own lives. If you think about what we do in the Air Force, we do solve real-world problems and are concerned about helping others. I'm willing to bet that if we keep our spirituality healthy, we can focus on doing our jobs right. Not only our jobs but almost anything we do.

One of the most important areas to work on is family. You only have one true family. Family members are the only ones who truly know and understand us. Building a happy and successful family takes a lot of patience and perseverance. When trouble knocks at your door, you can count on your family for help. As the whole world and the individuals who inhabit it get increasingly cocooned, it is critical that we spend time with our families. I heard a quote that made me think about this -- "A man travels the world over in search of what he needs, and returns home to find it." When you're finished here, take time and spend it with your family.

My last piece of advice, and often overlooked by younger people, is being smart with your finances. Get rid of debt and save. Don't just say, "I'm going to pay off my credit card." Get on a written budget and find out exactly when a debt will be paid off. Circle that date on the calendar and get intense about it. Don't be half-hearted.

Your debt is the enemy, so show your enemy who is boss! I often hear young Airmen talking about buying a new car, motorcycle or big screen TV but still owe thousands of dollars in credit card debt. Benjamin Franklin once said, "For age and want, save while you may; no morning sun lasts a whole day." The sun doesn't stay out all the time, which means it's going to rain. What better reason is there than to save for a rainy day.

If you do a little research, you'll find plenty of saving options for your money. Whether it is a money market account for an emergency fund or investment vehicles like the Thrift Savings Plan, individual retirement accounts, mutual funds or stocks, saving is the smart thing to do.

Being in the deployed environment has some tremendous responsibilities and being at the tip of the spear during this fight should make us proud Airmen. With this responsibility come some benefits. One of the benefits is the money we receive and can save while we are here. Why not take advantage of this opportunity?

As I mentioned earlier some advice has been tried and tested for generations and have proven to be sound. I haven't got beaten up in a long time -- I do work out regularly. I have faith in the important things like God, family and friends.

I took my mother's advice after a few trying years with money when I was young -- my finances are pretty good. Sometimes we forget what's important and take for granted the great life we can live. Think about what's important to you and set small goals to take care of yourself.

I leave you with a quote from Abraham Lincoln, "And in the end it's not the years in your life that count. It's the life in your years."