MAKE YOUR BED
A simple step to finding flowIn the past two weeks, two different Coaching clients of mine have sent me the same You Tube video to watch. It is a commencement address given by Admiral William McRaven at the University of Texas at Austin in May 2014.
The reason they sent me this speech by Admiral McRaven is that he is offering some of the same advice that I had given to them, my coaching clients, over the years. Most particularly they were noting the advice about making one’s bed first thing in the morning. Admiral McRaven’s advice comes as hard-won wisdom from his training as a Navy SEAL. Mine was from a personal understanding of the concept of FLOW. I was never in any branch of the military, yet the concept remains the same.
Admiral McRaven explains it pretty well so here is an excerpt from his speech. If you want to read more or watch the speech in its entirety, you’ll have to google it.
“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.”
The way I see it, this describes the process of creating the optimal conditions to have flow in your day. The concept of flow is beautifully elucidated in the books, “Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience” and “Finding Flow” by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. In these books the author defines flow as the full absorption of one’s attention into a satisfying task or activity – the kind of absorption where time flies by and one loses one’s sense of self. He says it is the full involvement of “flow,” rather than “happiness,” that makes for excellence in life.
It is also akin to the Taoist philosophy of the “right way of living.” The ancient Chinese story of the rainmaker* is a metaphor for this principle and is a story I use in my coaching regularly. (*This story has appeared in these pages before. You can read about it here: https://ericksonian.com/the-rain-maker) The gist of the story is that a village that was suffering from a long draught sought the help of a sage who had the ability to make it rain. When the sage arrived in town he moved into a small cottage and, by simply living according to the Dao – rising with the sun, retiring with the sunset, eating when he was hungry, etc. – he caused the rains to return to the land. The metaphor being that when you live with balance in your life, flow (rain) happens.
And, although I’m not sure the original Chinese text includes it in the story, I’d be willing to bet that the rainmaker himself made his bed first thing in the morning.