Recommended by Admiral William McRaven at the 2014 University of Texas at Austin Commencement Address…making your bed is a simple task that everyone should do upon waking. What I like and really connect to about this idea, is not the literal task and timing of making the actual bed…but the idea that doing one small task really well…leads to doing other tasks really well. This is the case with so many things in life. You can build momentum off of your behavior, and use it to carry yourself into your subsequent experiences.
When you make your bed…and make it really well by the way…not simply throwing it together, but being really mindful, and making sure that it’s just right…you walk away and into your day with a sense of pride and accomplishment. Yes, the task you just completed was small and somewhat trivial. However, you’ve checked off an item on you list, and you’ve done it with integrity. This little piece of success will now shape how you approach the rest of your day. You’ll carry yourself with a bit more confidence and pride. You’ll be holding your chin up a bit more. You’ll show more of a sense of happiness, and will positively influence those around you. You’ll approach other situations with optimism and hope, knowing that adversity can be taken care of with the right approach. And when you come back to that bed, after a full and rich, hard-fought day, you’ll feel so appreciative that it’s there for you…so crisp, comfortable, and inviting.
I like to compare this idea of making the bed to people’s choices of right and wrong. This speaks to the compounding effect or the ‘contagious’ element of our decisions and behaviors. When we make the right choice (you could say…when we choose good over evil, or when we choose not to sin), we get that small sense of pride and integrity similar to that of which we feel after having made our bed. That behavior shapes us, and carries us into what comes next. When we approach our next choice, we have that background and foundation of good, correct, right, positive…and that helps us stay on the right side of things. We have a tendency then, to continue making the correct choice and the right moral decision. The opposite is true as well though. It’s easy to see how when we start making the wrong choice…the lazy, uneducated, selfish, short-term thinking type of choice…we tend to continue making poor choices. It’s momentum in the wrong direction, and it’s hard to stop…never mind turning back in the other direction.
We are so very fortunate though, that we can change. We can be forgiven. Tomorrow is a new start, and another chance to correct your path. If your bed is scattered when you get to it tonight, you can still make it up perfectly in the morning. Now, if you’ve burned a bunch of bridges, your road trip will take longer. You’ll have to mend some wounds that were created in the past. And it will be challenging to create that positive momentum again. But…you get one chance at this life. This is it…right now. I’m rooting for you. Make your bed. Make it well. Do it with integrity. See what happens.