“Making my bed correctly was not going to be an opportunity for praise. It was expected of me. It was my first task of the day, and doing it right was important. It demonstrated my discipline. It showed my attention to detail, and at the end of the day it would be a reminder that I had done something well, something to be proud of, no matter how small the task.”
― William H. McRaven,
Before I write about the importance of the habit of making your bed, I want to share a basketball story with you that captures the essence of what this habit will give you.
There is a story about the basketball coaching legend, John Wooden. It captures the essence of why making your bed boosts your self-discipline, and why the small things matter. John Wooden has won with his team 10 NCAA Championships, and many people consider him the greatest basketball coach of all time. He is the author of many bestsellers, such as Coach Wooden’s Pyramid of Success.
One of Wooden’s most famous players, Bill Walton, replayed how it was to play under Coach Wooden.
You know, basketball is a game that’s played on a hardwood floor,” Wooden said. “And to be good, you have to … change your direction, change your pace. That’s hard on your feet. Your feet are very important. And if you don’t have every wrinkle out of your sock…”
Wooden paused and looked at Robert: “You washed your feet, I see.”
The coach then took a black athletic sock and started to put it on Robert’s foot, asking the boy to complete the task. Wooden: “Now pull it up in the back, pull it up real good, real strong. Now run your hand around the little toe area … make sure there are no wrinkles and then pull it back up. Check the heel area. We don’t want any sign of a wrinkle about it … The wrinkle will be sure you get blisters, and those blisters are going to make you lose playing time, and if you’re good enough, your loss of playing time might get the coach fired.”
To audience laughter, Wooden pulled out an athletic shoe.
“Now put it in wide, now pull it up,” he told Robert. “Now don’t grab these lines up here, go down, eyelet by eyelet … each one, that’s it. Now pull it in there … Tie it like this…”
The coach teased Robert gently as he explained why this was so important.
“There’s always a danger of becoming untied when you are playing”, he said. “If they become untied, I may have to take you out of the game — practice, I may have to take you out. Miss practice, you’re going to miss playing time and not only that, it will irritate me a little too”.
The coach talked Robert through double-tying his shoelaces so they wouldn’t come undone. Then he talked him through taking the shoes off by untying the strings, eyelet by eyelet. “You gonna remember that?” Wooden asked Robert. “I hope you never get any blisters”.
What Has Getting The Wrinkles Out Of Your Socks To Do With Becoming More Disciplined?
So, what has making your bed, or getting the wrinkles out of your socks to do with developing self-discipline?
How you do anything is how you do everything. T. Harv Eker
This quote captures the essence of that story quite well, and it is one of my favourite quotes.
As a basketball player myself, I was always taught in a way that emphasises that if I want to make the big things right, it starts with the small things. Before learning the complicated things like dunking, or shooting a 3 pointer, I had to learn the little things, the basics.
The following article is about my first-morning habit, the habit of making my bed.
I came in contact with this habit when I was searching for routines, habits, and mental patterns of successful people. In my work at psychiatric facilities, I learned about the habits of people with mental disorders and cross-compared them with successful, happy people. One of the things that fascinated me was discipline. I was interested in discipline because I was struggling with it from time to time. I was always late, missed deadlines, and at a point, it got so bad that I got expelled from school and university. I needed to do something. In psychiatric facilities, I observed that one of the typical demeanours of depression, for example, was the lack of discipline. People with depressive symptoms often appear to be lazy and undisciplined. They are often late or do not show up at all. It is because they think subconsciously that going outside into the world only means pain for them.
After learning that, I was curious to find out how the other side of the spectrum looked.
I wanted to understand the disciplined. To do that, I first needed to identify who they were.
Who are the disciplined? I was looking for a specific group of people who have a reputation for being extremely disciplined. The first thing that came to mind was the US Navy Seals. Navy Seals are notorious for being disciplined, they get up super early, swim through ice water, run towards danger, and they jump out of aeroplanes. I decided that I wanted to investigate their psychology and dissect their habits. I wanted to know why Navy Seals were so disciplined.
How Do Navy Seals Think About Discipline And The Habit Of Making Your Bed?
Let us take Jocko Willink as a case study. Jocko is a retired United States Navy SEAL who received the Silver and the Bronze Star. He is a podcaster, author, and martial artist, and he lives his life on his own terms; to me, he is the definition of discipline. He wrote the book Extreme Ownership.
The short video below will show you what his ideas are on discipline.
Let us dissect his morning routines. Watch the video below to see what Jocko does every morning.
In the interview, Jocko opens up about his morning routine. He says that he gets up at 4.45! Man, that is freaking early. He immediately starts working out and goes surfing right after. In this interview, he does not mention that he makes his bed because the habit is so automated for him that he does not consider it a habit anymore. But on other occasions, he mentions the importance of the habit of making your bed.
Why Do You Become More Disciplined By Making Your Bad? What’s The Psychology Behind It?
Maybe you are asking yourself, what difference does it make if I make my bed in the morning or not? In my opinion, all the difference in the world. The psychology behind it is elementary and very powerful. Navy Seal Admiral McRaven gave an epic commencement speech at the University of Texas.
As the title says, the most famous promoter of the habit of how the habit of making your bed can change the world!
McRaven is a former US Navy Admiral and was in charge of the United States Special Operations Command. He is also the author of the bestseller ”Make Your Bed”, which I highly recommend.
The psychology behind it is elementary. If you wake up and make your bed every morning, you have your first accomplishment. You just succeeded in the first task of the day. This will give you a sense of pride, and you will be encouraged to do another task and another task. The habit of making our bed will show you that the little things matter in life and that if you cannot do the little things right, you will never do the big things right.
3 Lessons I Learned From The Habit Of Making Your Bed
If you want to do the big things right, do the small things right.
As simple as this sounds, making my bed has changed my life. As a lifelong student of human behaviour, I have found that it is not so much the actual results that determine whether you feel like a winner or not, but our self-perception of ourselves. And, by starting the day with a small, conscious win, you gain a mental edge, and the habit of making your bed delivers this winners mindset. And, I believe that if you feel like a winner, you will win eventually.
As a child, I asked my father how I could build a house, and before he answered, he took a deep drag on of his cigar, and told me “you start with one brick, and you lay it as perfectly as possible”.
If you want to reinvent yourself, start with one habit at a time.
So where do you start if you want to become a new person?
You start with your habits. For me, my first step to turning my life around was to implement this habit of making my bed. Through it, I understood a big part of behavioural psychology. I successfully implemented the habit of making my bed. With this, I found the blueprint for adding habits to myself, and this meant that I could add other habits. Just like my father told me how to build a house, with habits, you can build the persona you want to be.
And, although this may seem like a small discovery, looking back at it, it is almost ridiculous at what a different place I am two years later in my life. The quality of our habits determines mostly what kind of person you are, and just like other people are collecting baseball cards, I collect habits from amazing people. From meditation, to exercise, to learning languages, to journaling, each habit that you implement is a brick that will ultimately change how your persona will look. Do you want to be a happy person? Maybe then you should accumulate healthy happy habits like working out, making your bed, or meditation.
If you want to build a shitty persona, you need bad habits like doing drugs, isolation, and junk-food. What I am trying to say is, that habits are the building blocks at our disposal to build ourselves, and if you want to start building the person you desire to be, start in the morning, with making your bed.
If you want to know more about habits, click here to read my article about habits.
It is easy to blame your lot in life on some outside force, to stop trying because you believe fate is against you. It is easy to think that where you were raised, how your parents treated you, or what school you went to is all that determines your future. Nothing could be further from the truth. The common people and the great men and women are all defined by how they deal with life’s unfairness: Helen Keller, Nelson Mandela, Stephen Hawking, Malala Yousafzai, and—Moki Martin. Sometimes no matter how hard you try, no matter how good you are, you still end up as a sugar cookie. Don’t complain. Don’t blame it on your misfortune. Stand tall, look to the future, and drive on!”
If you win the morning, you win the day.
For me personally, starting my day off with success is of great value to me. The fact that I make my bed means to me that I care about my bed and that I care about myself. I believe that if you live like a pig, you do not truly respect and love yourself. So, to me, this became a daily reminder that I care about me. And, this simple habit of reminding me that I care about me, has helped me to get rid of many other destructive habits, such as overeating, drinking alcohol, or taking drugs. I believe you are only able to have those destructive habits if you do not really respect, love, and honour yourself; otherwise, you could not do it to yourself. I know I have around 6 morning routines that I have built, on top of the habit of making my bed, and if I manage to accomplish 4 of them, I consider my morning a win, and I will most likely win the day as well.
Discipline equals freedom”.
Call to Action
- Write down what your morning routine is, what do you do in the first 60 mins of the day.
- Create the habit of making your bed.
- Write down ten things in life that you are missing out on because you are not disciplined enough.
- Watch this interview with General Stan McChrystal to learn more about Navy Psychology.