How I Brought Creative Thinking to the Army

Last month I gave a workshop on Creative Thinking to a group of Army soldiers in Hawaii.

I was surprised at how much joy it gave me.

How Did I Get to Teach Creative Thinking to the Army?

Yuth Beyond Borders imageAbout 18 years ago, through a non-profit my friend Marty Kelly and I had formed called Youth Beyond Borders, we took teens to third world countries to work side by side with local teens.

Our first trip was to in the Blue Mountains in rural Jamaica, where we helped a community repair a church and a school house, and brought a dentist with us to perform needed dental work.

The second trip was to the rain forest of Guatemala where we also helped finish a new schoolhouse among other projects.

The 3rd country we visited was Namibia, Africa, where we worked with the Cheetah Conservation Fund to build an overnight campsite for visiting students who would learn about and help save the Cheetah population.

We would take a variety of teens with varying socio-economic backgrounds so they could learn from each other as well. I know that throughout our years of operation we helped theses students choose career goals and change trajectories of some of their lives.

I am still in touch with most of the students, now adults, parents and working professionals.

After the trip to Africa, we lost touch with one of our travelers, Muriel. She basically came to us with the encouragement of a mentor who had taken her under his wing. She was without the support of her family. We feared when we couldn’t reach her that she had gone back to the streets.


Fast Forward to the Present

Owen in tubThen, with the help of Facebook, I connected with Muriel. She had joined the Army.

This was not what I would hope for most people, but for Muriel it worked.

She stopped in for a group visit with her fellow travelers, who now all have married and had babies. Muriel was pregnant and relocating to Hawaii with her children and new husband.

As we were all playing with babies and catching up with our lives, Muriel shared with us about her work. She is in human services and helps with many aspects of army life especially with new soldiers.

She is one of the youngest Sergeant Majors in the Army. She told me that she used the things she learned when we traveled and then she gleaned things from my newsletters and posts that she used with her soldiers. At the end of our visit she invited me to come visit her in Hawaii!


What synchronicity!

I was presenting a workshop at another event on Maui the next month. So asked her if it was a good time. She said yes, and would arrange for me to do a workshop with some of her soldiers.

We decided some stress reducing tools would be good to share with them as they will be deploying in July to the Middle East. I took my Tools 4Success, feeling that visuals and hands on tools were always the best.


Training Soldiers in Hawaii

Teaching Creative Thinking to Army Eight soldiers gathered around the table, 3 of them women and the majority of them in there 2nd year of a 4 year commitment. And most of them were young. As I started sharing some of the tools, I realized that stress was not the main concern. It was a feeling of being stuck in their lives and not really engaging in life more than the robotics of getting through the next 2 years.

I switched gears and we talked about a vision for their lives, post-army. Once we established that, we used the tools to see how the army could be a path to their dreams.

For example, we used the “Switch your Thinking” which is a light switch that says Insecurity at the bottom and Empowerment at the top. They took situations like “they just sit in their room when they have time off” and then looked for an Empowering thought; they could use the time for study toward their goal when they get out of the army, or they could connect with family that they missed so much, and more.

We used the 4 tools and there was value and insights from them in the process. It was like these soldiers were hungry for empowered thinking.

Up the Chain of Command

Christi with Army workshop attendeesThen Muriel introduced me around. All the way up to her Colonel. He asked me if I had any insights? I said that most of these people had dreams beyond the army and that right now they were feeling lethargy and disappointment in being in the army and that if they were encouraged to help them see the army as a path to their dreams, they could better engage in where they were now and being more engaged.

He said we offer them education and other support. I mentioned that their training was all geared toward staying in the army. It might help to have training about them accomplishing their life long goals. The army tends to be about the army.

He found it insightful and wrote down what I had said, “a path to their dreams” and asked the spelling of my name to quote me! He even noted that they never have civilians present training, and he liked the idea of a different perspective. He asked if perhaps I could come back again.


Joy In Teaching the Army

So why did I find more joy in this than in the other workshops I do?

Well I love doing them all. I think this one actually gave me another perspective. And it gave me hope to know that Muriel is doing amazing work with and for her group. And to know that the Army was the best move for her, that she had been passing on what she learned from me so many years before. I also loved the glimmer in these soldiers eyes by the end of our time together.

Bottom line, that the seeds of hope and betterment exist in at least part of our military.


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