Make Your Bed!

From the Headmaster's Desk, September 19, 2017

Last week, I read a review of a book that was released earlier in 2017, and for several weeks it was the best-selling book in its category in the United States.

The book is titled, ‘Make Your Bed: Little Things That Can Change Your Life . . . And Maybe the World.’

It is written by Admiral William McRaven, recently retired from the US Navy, where he was a Navy Seal.  Admiral McRaven’s military career lasted 37 years, and when he retired he was the longest-serving Navy Seal on active duty.  In case you don’t know, Navy Seals are the US Navy’s primary special operations force and widely considered to be one of the most effective special ops forces in the world.  In America, Navy Seals hold a similar status to James Bond.  But of course, Navy Seals are not fictional characters.

Admiral McRaven gained international recognition in 2011 for organizing and overseeing Operation Neptune Spear, the raid that led to the death of Osama bin Laden.

So why does this military hero, who has travelled and fought and led many covert missions around the world, argue that making your bed is important?  Well, he says it is precisely because of what he experienced in his career that he knows it is.  When he was stationed in Afghanistan, his days were filled with constant stress, chaos, unpredictability, failure and hardships, including witnessing military and civilian casualties.  His starting point each day in this stressful environment was making his bed properly, as he learned to do when he first joined the military.

He argues that all of us need an anchor point for our day, and sometimes that anchor is as simple as making your bed.  It will give you a small sense of pride, and it will encourage you to do another task and another.  And do them well.  I will quote him directly:

‘If you make your bed every morning, you will have accomplished the first task of the day.

‘The idea of making the bed is a sense of discipline. It’s the sense that you’re going to get up and do something, but it’s an easy task to undertake. You roll out of bed, you make it straight… You get it right, too. It’s not just about kind of throwing the covers over the pillow. It’s about making your bed right and walking away and going, “OK, that’s good. That looks good. I’m, as simple as it sounds, I’m proud of this little task I did.” And that is really what I think sets the tone for the rest of the day. 

‘I think it is also the amount of time that it takes to make your bed. It doesn’t take an hour to do, and yet you get this sense of accomplishment… It will give you a small sense of pride, and it will encourage you to do another task, and another, and another.  And 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 the little things in life matter. If you can’t do the little things right then you’ll never be able to 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.’

Admiral McRaven acknowledges that making your bed is a rather mundane task; when he joined the military, aspiring to be a real warrior, it seemed ridiculous that so much attention was given by his senior officers to making his bed.  But it has kept him grounded over the years.  He notes that when you’re facing big tasks in your life, the little details are important.

Now last week I asked you not to keep your mobile phones in your bedroom and this morning I’m advising you to make your bed.  And to be honest, I think keeping your phone out of your bedroom is much more important than making your bed.

However, the lessons here are larger ones, about good habits, good routines, sleeping well and starting your day well.  I do believe that little things, added together over time, make a big difference.  I hope this week you will pay attention to detail, and think about how you can make improvements in your own life. I, for one, made my bed this morning, and it did feel like a good start to the day.

n.b.  Admiral McRaven decided to write his book after this commencement address at the University of Texas went viral.  Making your bed was just his first of ten tips.


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