Last year Admiral William H. McRaven was invited to the University of Texas to give the year’s commencement speech. He detailed the 10 valuable life lessons he learned while being a Navy Seal. His top lesson for newly mint graduates: make your bed every morning.
“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,” -Adm. William H. McRaven
Could it really be this easy to start the day right? I rarely make my bed in the morning, mostly because it never made logical sense to me to make up what would be undone later. So, I gave it a shot. It took less than 5 minutes to do and I admit I did sense a small amount of pride in myself. As I walked out of my bedroom I stopped at the doorway for a last glance into my room. Making my bed did make my bedroom look less cluttered and more welcoming.
“Making your bed will also reinforce the fact that little things in life matter.” -Adm. William H. McRaven
After I made my bed I was taken by surprise. I went into my kitchen and instinctively started loading yesterday’s dishes into the dish washer. I then took the broom and swept the floor of my small kitchen. I didn’t even think about the tasks I was doing. Later in the day I found myself arranging the towels in my bathroom and spraying windex on my mirror. By the end of the day I had completed many little tasks and I was in good spirits.
“If you can’t do the little things right, you will never do the big things right.” -Adm William H McRaven
So why is this such a simple life hack? According to Karen Maezen Miller, a Zen priest and author of Hand Wash Cold and Momma Zen, the state of your bed is the state of your head. Simple tasks such as making the bed or washing the dishes every day help us to be mindful of our actions. It makes us slow down and concentrate solely on the task at hand. Brad Warner, Soto Zen priest and author of Hardcore Zen, states “Zen is boring” and people will go out of their way to avoid boring tasks.
“People long for big thrills. Peak experiences. Some people come to Zen expecting that Enlightenment will be the Ultimate Peak Experience. The Mother of All Peak Experiences. But real enlightenment is the most ordinary of the ordinary. Once I had an amazing vision. I saw myself transported through time and space. Millions, no, billions, trillions, Godzillions of years passed. Not figuratively, but literally. Whizzed by. I found myself at the very rim of time and space, a vast giant being composed of the living minds and bodies of every thing that ever was. It was an incredibly moving experience. Exhilarating. I was high for weeks. Finally I told Nishijima Sensei about it . He said it was nonsense. Just my imagination.” -Brad Warner
To be mindful we must be ordinary and do ordinary tasks. Making the bed can be the first ordinary task of the day. The first boring task of the day to instill in us the habit of completing more boring tasks. It trains us to find fulfillment in small accomplishments. It helps us build self esteem through our ordinary accomplishments and gives us a feeling of gratification.
“If you really take a look at your ordinary boring life, you’ll discover something truly wonderful. Our regular old pointless lives are incredibly joyful — amazingly, astoundingly, relentlessly, mercilessly joyful.”- Brad Warner