“If you can’t do the little things right, you’ll never be able to do the big things right. And, if by chance you have a miserable day, you’ll come home to a bed that is made–that you made! And a made bed gives you encouragement that tomorrow will be better. So, if you want to change the world, start off by making your bed.” Admiral William H. McRaven, United States Navy
When I was a kid, my mom and grandmother constantly stayed on my case about making my bed every morning before school. “Did you make your bed,” they’d ask, knowing the answer already. After my standard grunt, moan, sigh, and eye roll, I would usually go do it. But, it seemed such a pointless task. No one but me slept in my bed. No one but me even saw my bed unless I had friends over, and they didn’t care because they thought the act of bed-making was equally as pointless as I did. It was obviously important to my mom and grandmother though, so to keep peace I would usually make it.
My ambivalence about bed-making didn’t wane as an adult. Even after moving out and living on my own I poo-poo’d the idea that it was necessary. Recently, though, I’ve come to a new appreciation for it. In 2014, Admiral William H. McRaven gave the commencement address at his alma mater, the University of Texas at Austin. In it, his listed 10 lessons from basic Navy SEAL training that can change the world. The first lesson–make your bed every day. “If you make your bed every day,” he said, “it will give you a small sense of pride, and it will encourage you to do another task; and another; and another.” I wish I could say that I took the admiral’s advice when I first heard the speech two-and-a-half years ago, but I didn’t. No, I didn’t start making my bed until just recently.
2016 was such a chaotic year for me. It seemed as though I’d lost control of everything. I remembered hearing the speech and thought to myself that
maybe–just maybe–Admiral McRaven and the Navy SEALs had a point. So, I started making my bed. To my great surprise, it made a difference. It was one thing that I had absolute, total control over. It was one thing that I alone controlled; that I could do regardless of any other circumstances. And, even if I didn’t do it perfectly (which I rarely do), it’s still done, and I feel better for it; and on the days when I forget or just neglect to do it, something feels different–something feels undone.
The lesson here is far greater than the simple act of making the bed. The lesson is getting up, getting moving, and getting things done. Too often I, we, all of us, give up before we ever get started. We live in a world and in a time when convenience is paramount and inconvenience is not tolerated. Too often, the end result of that mindset is that things–little things, big things, important things–are left undone. And we wonder why everything feels so out of control. I’m not saying that getting up and making your bed every morning will fix what is broken in the world, or even in your life. But, the admiral was correct, even if it is the only thing you accomplish, you will have accomplished SOMETHING!!
Below are two videos. The first is just the portion about bed-making. The second is Admiral McRaven’s full address. I encourage you to give it a listen because it is truly inspiring!
Now, go make your bed!