02. August 2012 · Comments Off on The Two Fundamental Reasons People Join the Military · Categories: Joining the Military · Tags: , ,

Admittedly, I am not a psychologist. But I do habitually break down peoples’ motivation for doing, saying, or thinking different things. In some cases, it pays off, but mostly, it’s just habit. Joining the military, and all that goes into it is fertile ground for a lot of that kind of analysis, and therefore I find it pretty entertaining trying to break down why people consider joining.

To be clear-everyone, without exception-joins the military for their own selfish, personal reasons. Sometimes, they’ll express those reasons, but in many cases when you’re asked, you’re more likely to give a reason that’s mostly palatable to the person you’re talking about:

“I want to see the world”

“I want the job security”

“I want to ultimately get a degree and the military will pay for it”

“I love boys/girls”

Or whatever… There are millions upon millions of these reasons, and there are rarely more than a handful that truly apply to each person.

To me, what’s the most interesting is the commonalities. Meaning, while the reasons are diverse, the driving elements behind the reasons are bound to be similar, in principle. As with all methods, there are many, but principles are few.


A person considering joining the military is either:

1) Trying to get away from something, or

2) Is going after something

Based on what I’ve seen, you can determine which type of service person you’re dealing with if you know what to look for. Personally, I left for the military eager to get out of a small town and experience “the real world” (which I’m still not entirely convinced exists) the way my imagination depicted it. Incidentally, expectation and reality are often two different things, and certainly was for me and most likely will be for anyone else joining the military in the same way.

Saying that to say that joining the military to get away from something isn’t necessarily a bad thing, and gone are the days where you can join the military successfully trying to duck out of legal issues. The process has changed, and such things don’t happen much anymore. Getting out from under a bad financial situation, rough family background, area with awful job prospects, etc are examples of situations where getting away by joining the service can be a decidedly positive move.


Those who join with a highly developed sense of ambition, and clearly defined goals of what to set their sights on while in the military are often the ones you see being promoted ahead of the rest. Currently, legit psychologists are more convinced that positive stimuli serve as better motivators than negative stimuli. Put another way, if you say, study for this exam, you will be given an 8% pay raise vs. if you don’t study for this exam, you’ll stay at your current pay grade and take home the same paycheck.

I can’t count how many great examples of this persona, but there are many. Incidentally, and I’m not sure if there’s a connection or not, but a great many of the examples that come to mind are guys from my ship who weren’t natural-born U.S. citizens. They came from the likes of Nigeria, Bulgaria, Romania, etc. On the other hand, I saw many men and women from the states excel as well.


The moral of the story here is that you should dedicate some time figuring out your own motivation for joining the service. If you’re enlisting to get out of dodge in hopes that what’s on the other side of the fence is more enjoyable, more fulfilling, and just better, then that’s fine. But rarely is it enough to simply be against something (like staying in your hometown). It’s equally, or more important to be for something as well, should you choose to join. While there isn’t anything wrong with leaving where you are (contrary to what your family and friends may say), don’t get through the enlistment process, only to find yourself saying “I’m here… but it’s not much better than where I was.”

While it’s within the aim of this site to provide some clarity for those interested in aspiring to great things while in the military, you’re bound to come across many, many opportunities once you’re on active duty. Figuring out in advance how far you want to go in your military career and what how much you’re willing to exert to get there will provide clarity that no number of how-to’s can.

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