“Never give up hope, no matter how dark things seem” – The Clone Wars “The Wrong Jedi”
Making the Bed
US Navy SEAL Admiral William H. McRaven delivered a commencement address to the graduating class of the University of Texas on May 17, 2014. In that speech the Admiral McRaven told his audience “If you want to change the world, start off by making your bed”.
The video of the speech was posted on YouTube and went viral with over 10 million views worldwide. McRaven shared ten simple principles he had learned as a Special Forces Operator and Naval Officer. Those principles can be applied in everyday life and recovery as they can in the meat grinder of Navy Seal Hell Week.
In simple terms they boil down to the principles of humility, courage, perseverance, patience, knowledge, simplicity, self-control, self-belief, selflessness, team work and a healthy sense of humor. We never ring the bell and quit. “Embrace the Suck”. Through principle and actions you can change not only yourself but the world as well. The first step is making the bed.
The transcript is here: https://www.realclearpolitics.com/video/2014/05/22/10_lessons_to_help_change_the_world.html
“If you want to change the world, start off by making your bed”. – Admiral William H. McRaven
The video is a timely reminder of the power of small daily rituals in our lives. Making a bed may seem like a fairly trivial thing to do. I for one don’t feel right not making the bed in the morning. Decades of habit since childhood reinforced in the crucible of the military ensures that the bed is made as soon as my feet hit the floor in the morning.
Not only is the bed made but the top sheet is folded over and the corners are tucked in and the cover smoothed over. This is a conscious act I do every morning no matter what. Even if I achieve nothing else that day at least I have made the bed. I start the day with purpose. This purpose hopefully carries on in to other tasks.
“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.” – Admiral William H. McRaven
Being Jedi is about having daily rituals as well as the discipline to carry them out. In time these rituals become habits. We are conscious that meditation, exercise and being aware and mindful in our daily activities and interactions with others are all constructive and healthy habits. These are called disciplines for a reason. Like rolling out of bed every morning and taking a minute to make the bed, it takes conscious application, effort and purpose. No trivial or mundane feat.
“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.” – – Admiral William H. McRaven
Negative habits also become ritual. Going for a drink was part of a ritual. It started off small but soon took over. If I had had a good day, a bad day or a mediocre day it was all good enough reason for a drink. Bitter disappointments and sorrows were dispelled with alcohol. Celebrations, victories and wins were all good reasons to get drunk. There was no excuse, no ritual and no reason not to have a drink. If I drank, I got drunk and reasoned that those times were justified even when I knew they weren’t.
After living like that for years and decades you begin to realize that your ideas and beliefs may be flawed. Addiction over rides rational thought and reasoning. Soon you discover that most of the rituals, routines and habits you have come to develop have become part of your character. You discover that your character has evolved over time to tolerate, normalize and then defend some very nasty attributes.
What we might have once been considered unacceptable in our selves soon becomes the new normal. We soon find ourselves on a downward spiral trajectory to rock bottom unless we change direction.
Break the Chain
Breaking the addiction cycle is an exercise in forming new habits. I found that it is easier to form new habits than break old ones. The new habits will simply over time phase out and replace the old ones. Knowing what your thought patterns are, being aware of triggers as well as the rituals that lead to abuse and knowing how to avoid them or respond effectively is the key to breaking free. We have to train ourselves in to a new way of thinking and acting. Embracing new habits and rituals that replace old destructive habits is the key.
Addiction is a habit, so is a healthy and sober life. Replacing one with the other is simply about choosing and taking action. Action is repeated. In time action becomes habit and habit becomes character. In time changes happen that in hindsight seem nothing less than miraculous.
Here are ten ways that change may manifest if we extend the principle of making the bed every morning to other areas in our lives as well:
- Instead of blaming others we start to look at what role we had played in our problems;
- Rather than insisting others apologize we begin to forgive and let go of resentment;
- Instead of being focussed on the harm others did to us we start to consider the harm we have done to others;
- We seek to make amends to others rather than expect special treatment;
- An attitude of entitlement is replaced with simple acceptance and gratitude;
- Words such as honesty, humility, patience, temperance and respect became personal principles and strengths;
- People become more important than things;
- Spirituality instead of our attachments begin to define us as human beings;
- We begin to see ourselves as part of the whole rather than separated from it;
- We begin to feel a conscious connection to the Living Force.
Start by making the bed today and every day. Eventually other tasks will become easier to do. Quitting even when things seem hopeless is no longer an option.
Embrace the Suck, Change the World
Some of us start to make the bed every morning, some of us just continue to make the bed as we had always done. In a way I’m glad now that I kept making my bed even during the darkest days. Perhaps while I still did there was a glimmer of hope that I would one day accomplish much more.
Every morning some people roll out of bed to face the day. They stumble to the bathroom, get dressed and have breakfast before immersing themselves in the noise and distraction of the day. They stare at the mirror blankly as they brush their teeth, mind preoccupied with mental chatter. Food is shoved in to mouths while scrolling through the news feed on phones or staring at the morning show on the Television. Some people lurch outside of the door and barely notice the world around them as they head off to work. They rinse and repeat every day. Those are some people, not Jedi.
Some of us wake up, pause and then put our feet on the floor. We turn and make the bed and begin our morning routine. Same routine as ever. The day begins with a simple and mindful act. A task is completed. We take that moment in to the day no matter what it has in store for us and complete more tasks. To quote the Navy Seals we “Embrace the Suck” and in doing so we change the world.
“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 William H. McRaven