If You Want to Change the World, Start Off by Making Your Bed

What does making your bed have anything to do with changing the world?

I just watched last year’s University of Texas commencement speech by Adm. William H. McRaven, ninth commander of U.S. Special Operations Command. In his 20 minute long commencement speech, he tells stories and gives advice based on his experience in Navy SEAL bootcamp. Here is an excerpt (http://www.utexas.edu/news/2014/05/16/admiral-mcraven-commencement-speech/):

I have been a Navy SEAL for 36 years.  But it all began when I left UT for Basic SEAL training in Coronado, California.

Basic SEAL training is six months of long torturous runs in the soft sand, midnight swims in the cold water off San Diego, obstacles courses, unending calisthenics, days without sleep and always being cold, wet and miserable.

It is six months of being constantly harassed by professionally trained warriors who seek to find the weak of mind and body and eliminate them from ever becoming a Navy SEAL.

But, the training also seeks to find those students who can lead in an environment of constant stress, chaos, failure and hardships.

To me basic SEAL training was a life time of challenges crammed into six months.

So, here are the ten lesson’s I learned from basic SEAL training that hopefully will be of value to you as you move forward in life.

Every morning in basic SEAL training, my instructors, who at the time were all Vietnam veterans, would show up in my barracks room and the first thing they would inspect was your bed.

If you did it right, the corners would be square, the covers pulled tight, the pillow centered just under the headboard and the extra blanket folded neatly at the foot of the rack—rack—that’s Navy talk for bed.

It was a simple task—mundane at best. But every morning we were required to make our bed to perfection.  It seemed a little ridiculous at the time, particularly in light of the fact that were aspiring to be real warriors, tough battle hardened SEALs—but the wisdom of this simple act has been proven to me many times over.

If you make your bed every morning you will have accomplished the first task of the day.  It will give you a small sense of pride and it will encourage you to do another task and another and another.

By the end of the day, that one task completed will have turned into many tasks completed. Making your bed will also reinforce the fact that little things in life matter.

If you can’t do the little things right, you will never do the big things right.

And, if by chance you have a miserable day, you will come home to a bed that is made—that you made—and a made bed gives you encouragement that tomorrow will be better.

If you want to change the world, start off by making your bed.

“Making your bed will also reinforce the fact that the little things in life matter. If you can’t do the little things right, you will never do the big things right.” Man, I just love that.

This excerpt really makes me think just how important morning routines are. It also really makes me think of discipline habits in general and how important they can be. After taking a cold shower 100 mornings in a row, I learned that having discipline is hard. It’s incredibly hard to stick to something like that, but I learned to have the discipline to do it, and that discipline was beneficial in other areas of my life, with work, relationships, health and more.

I also just read a good article on the Zen Habits blog about how to start a discipline habit. Leo says “you start by washing your dishes. It’s just one small step: when you eat a bowl of cereal, wash your bowl and spoon. When you finish drinking coffee or tea, wash your cup. Don’t leave dishes in the sink or counter or table.” (http://zenhabits.net/start-discipline/) Again, you start with a small task, because it’s the little things that matter.

Accomplishing big goals and changing the world – it starts with discipline, being able to stick to something, being able to take pride in the little things, the little details – like making your bed or washing your dishes.

I highly recommend investing 20 minutes watching the rest of the commencement speech. Other stories end with “If you want to change the world get over being a sugar cookie and keep moving forward” and “So, if you want to change the world, start singing when you’re up to your neck in mud.” You’ll be glad you watched it.


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