Return to Civilian Life Helped By Mindset

Military Success Network guest author Phyllis Zimbler Miller

Military life develops many life and operational skills. The transition from military to fulltime civilian family life combined with potential new occupations and daily community participation brings with it opportunities and challenges. Awareness, preparation and specific supports help military men and women return to civilian life. For starters, it requires an open mindset.

Military Success Network begins the guest posts from “people who have been there”  and done and learned “that”. Posts and articles will cover the process and the people and resources to boost success for those in transitions. What’s YOUR story? Do you see your self in this one?

Please share- we will all grow as we Hear, Understand and Acknowledge – our HUA mission on Military Success Network.

And now to our first special guest, Phyllis Zimbler Miller, former army wife, blogger and author:

My mother saved the letters from September 1970 to May 1972 that I wrote home when my husband Mitch and I were stationed in Munich, Germany, with the U.S. Army. (We met at Michigan State University as undergrads where he was in R.O.T.C.)

When reading those letters, I am surprised by how much worrying I did about what would happen after Mitch served his active duty commitment. My fears centered on how we would be behind our friends who had not put their lives on hold – who had not left good jobs to serve and now needed to start back at square one.

While my worries are from many years ago, the same concerns exist today with military personnel and their families returning to civilian life.

The more I think about this transition, the more I realize a core value of military service may be hindering successful transition.

In the military, both personnel and their dependents must adhere to the military’s rules and expectations. Active duty personnel have their specialty and that is what they are good at doing.

Now, suddenly, these people must exist in a society where there is not a ranked hierarchy telling them what to do and when to do it. These former active duty military personnel must be willing to learn new skills in order to forge ahead.

A book that I highly recommend for everyone is MINDSET: The New Psychology of Success by Carol Dweck. She explains why a closed mindset – the fear of failure – can prevent us from being willing to learn new things. If we do not have an open mindset – the willingness to fail at new things in order to learn – we will probably not have the psychological components needed to adapt to new situations and new opportunities.

While I recommend this book, I do realize that reading one book is not a magic wand. If you have a closed mindset by nature, you are probably not going to be immediately willing to tackle new things. But, you can work on moving along a continuum towards an open mind, and I expect that many of the coming resources on this site will help you to do this.

For the last four years, since the publication of my novel “Mrs. Lieutenant” (available as a paperback and e-book on Amazon), I have been involved in a voluntary capacity with sharing information to help military personnel, their families, and veterans.

During this time I have especially tried to help spread knowledge about PTSD (see the info on my site www.insupportofourtroops.com). Currently I am working on getting attention for a proposed TV project – learn more about this project at www.SolomonsJustice.com

Knowledge is power. The more you learn about different components of returning to civilian life the more opportunities you’ll have to make your own success. Read the book MINDSET to set the stage for your progress forward – and start working on cultivating an open mindset.



Phyllis Zimbler Miller is the author of fiction and nonfiction books – see her Amazon author page at http://amazon.com/author/phylliszimblermiller – and the co-founder of the online marketing company www.MillerMosaicLLC.com

The novel MRS. LIEUTENANT, which was a 2008 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award semifinalist, grew out of her own experiences as a new Mrs. Lieutenant during the Vietnam War. She wrote the technothriller LT. COMMANDER MOLLIE SANDERS with her husband, and her newest fiction book is CIA FALL GUY, the backstory of which is at www.CIAFallGuy.com





  1. The transition from military life to civilian life after more 4 years was very difficult. It was hard to make friends when we attended college afterwards. Then when we moved home (by now, it had been 8 years between the Army and college), we were way behind the power curve with our friends who already owned lovely homes and had well-established careers. My husband ended up going back in the mlitary — the only place we had ever really fit. After he retired, the transition was once again difficult. We are well established in our civilian life now, not even living near a military base, but still miss our old way of life. This would be a good book to read. Also, Jacobson’s book Retiring From Military Service, was a good one, showing how to be prepared for what is out there in civilian life. For my husband, “not being able to make civilians do anything,” was the hardest part.

    • Helena Kaufman says:

      Thank you “Ellie Rae” for your comment. Life is full of transitions, some planned some unexpected. It’s great to have resources and friends, even from afar via books and online interactions, to help us see the possibilities, and to understand what the ‘new normal’ might be for us. (Helena of the MilSuccessNet Team.)

      Follow us on Twitter @MilSuccessnet or Facebook as Military Success Network and so let us know how your life is unfolding in your ‘legacy’ phase.

    • Mary —

      Your comment about your own transition will hopefully help others who are experiencing this transition now. I think particularly relevant in your comment is your last sentence:

      “For my husband, ‘not being able to make civilians do anything’ was the hardest part.”

      • Helena Kaufman says:

        Indeed Phyllis, I was struck by that very same line in Mary’s comment. Short sentence with a long road of transition overlaid onto it. Thank you Mary and Phyllis for your shared experiences.


  1. […] Read her original post on transition from military to civilian life and the core value of military … […]

  2. […] Helena Kaufman, Military Success Network editor, in collaboration with Phyllis Zimbler Miller who is a member of the Department of Defense’s Bloggers’ Roundtable. She frequently writes about PTSD. See her recent blog post “Update on PTSD Help for Veterans”    Zimbler Miller first appeared on MilSuccessNet with her guest blog post on the mindset required for the successful return of military to civilian life. […]

  3. […] “net-met” friend and “sister-Mil-spouse” (editor interpretations) author, Phyllis Zimbler Miller said to me when she introduced us in email, “No one can fully understand military culture […]

  4. […] Dad had the courage to seek help for his PTSD and I tell his story so that others will follow his lead and seek treatment. No one should suffer in […]

  5. […] articles by military spouses adjusting to life back in the civilian lane include Phyllis Zimbler Miller and a different take in the series by Mary Elliot […]

Speak Your Mind