“If You Want to Change the World, Make your Bed” and other Random Thoughts


In 2014,  Admiral William McRaven  gave the commencement address  at the University of Texas at Austin. It focused on the ten lessons he learned from basic SEAL training. The “making your bed” story from that speech has been revitalized recently because President Trump decided to take potshots at the Admiral, who recently stepped down as Chancellor of the University of Texas System to battle chronic lymphocytic leukemia. Here are Admiral McRaven’s comments on the importance of  making your bed:

“Every morning in basic SEAL training, my instructors . . .would show up in my barracks room and the first thing they would inspect was your 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.”

I don’t have to be encouraged to make my bed; I don’t like a messy bedroom. But as I pondered on McRaven’s words, I realized that most days now I need a motivator to just get out of bed.  My motivator is giving my husband a very important medication at 7:30 in the morning. Once I get out of bed to do that, I always manage to find the energy to keep on going the rest of the morning. I also realize that even at the age of 76, I still have the desire to “change the world,” something I can’t accomplish if I don’t get out of bed.


Recently my son Ryan related a story about watching college volleyball on TV or computer with his daughter. The game was being filmed by a camera located above the action.  He marveled at how much he learned about the strategy of the game by watching the players adjust their movements and positions from his bird’s-eye view. He was delighted by the new perspective. Later he shared this story with his college students to make the point that unless we get a perspective from above the fray, we can’t make wise decisions, or even useful comments.

This point is so important as we duke it out (mentally or verbally, hopefully not physically) in this politically charged atmosphere. We should be learning enough about our “talking points” so that we can present the argument from a bird’s-eye view – not from the sidelines.


Tales of frantic shopping on black Friday, reams of splashy ads in my daily paper, and the general hype surrounding Christmas this year have greatly informed my understanding of “less is more.”  The spiritual discipline of living simply has been my most helpful, and thus my favorite, discipline for decades.  This year, surrounded by the chaos of the world, it has been an easy decision for me to simplify Christmas, to go with less, to focus on what’s important by eliminating what is not. 

So – no gifts this year; special donations to causes important to me and my family will take their place. No Christmas tree or decorations this year, although I traditionally love them; I’m saving my time energy so that everyday life is less exhausting. No baking  Christmas cookies,  pecan pies, or  cinnamon rolls; this decision helps me keep my diabetes under better control, saves a lot of boring dish washing time, and eliminates freezer bags full of temptation long after Christmas has come and gone. Less is more! More time for reading, more time for conversations, more time for appreciating the beauty of this time of year – more time for making Christmas being about Christ.


In 2015, when I was diagnosed with cancer, I was advised to add a walker to our methods of transportation – just in case. Turns out I really didn’t need it for the cancer. So it just sat around, mostly in the way. Two years ago, when we moved from our house to a much smaller apartment, I was tempted to get rid of then walker because now it was even more in the way. But months ago when my back became painful and my balance worsened, I decided to try it out around the house. Now it is a necessity. However, when my family came over recently, my daughter-in-law asked, “Do you really need that?” 

I replied, “Yes, I do, but it has an unexpected silver lining.” I still have to schlep the grocery bags up our 14 stairs, but, once they are on the landing, they go into the basket in and onto the seat of the walker they go so I can push them into the kitchen. When I trudge down the stairs house to get the mail or the newspaper, the walker waits patiently until I get back, unload the Sentinel and magazines and junk mail and an occasional important envelope into the basket – and hang on to it while I take my coat and shoes off. Then we forge ahead.

The walker is also great conveyor of dirty laundry and clean, folded clothes. I put filled waste baskets on the seat and move them to the garbage container. And even more important, as soon as I think that something needs to be put in another place eventually, I put it in the walker basket. Most days I collect a full basket of stuff and go room to room easily putting things in place. It also is helpful when I clean – all the supplies go in the basket from room to room.  One more device that got in the way now keeps me safe – and makes less work.

As my son left the house that day, he said, “Everyone should have a walker to carry stuff in.”  More is less.

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