Start Every Day With a Sense of Accomplishment

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "Make Your Bed" by William H. McRaven. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.

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Do you want to know why making your bed is important? Why do the Navy SEALs try to start each day with a sense of accomplishment? Does it really make a difference?

When you make your bed first thing in the morning, you start the day with purpose and confidence. You have a sense of accomplishment, and regardless of what else happens during the day, you will feel pride. This is how you set yourself up for success.

Keep reading to learn how starting your day by completing a task can give you a sense of accomplishment that will last all day.

Start Your Day With a Sense of Accomplishment

In 2014, Admiral William H. McRaven, a retired Navy SEAL with 37 years of experience, gave the commencement speech at his alma mater, the University of Texas at Austin. In his speech, McRaven provided guidance to the graduates on how to manage life’s challenges and lead a meaningful life. His advice comprised 10 lessons he’d learned during his tenure with the Navy SEALs that helped him deal with the trials of training and combat.

For years following that speech, people reached out seeking more information about those lessons. In response, McRaven wrote this book to disseminate his lessons to a wider audience and share some of the personal anecdotes about the experiences that helped shape him. Although these lessons were developed in a military environment, McRaven believes they apply to the universal struggles people encounter in their daily lives. 

In the first chapter, McRaven discusses why you should start each day with a sense of accomplishment.

Why Making Your Bed Is Important

Each day, you’re likely required to manage various tasks. These tasks may include working, raising children, cleaning your home, or completing a project. When faced with this long list of responsibilities, you may often feel overwhelmed. But if you can start your day with a sense of accomplishment from completing a task, such as making your bed, you can find the motivation to tackle others. That’s why making your bed is important.

When you make your bed first thing in the morning, you start the day with purpose and confidence. You have a sense of accomplishment, and regardless of what else happens during the day, you will feel a sense of pride. In addition, the pride you feel when you come to your made bed at night provides satisfaction that washes the day’s struggles away and prepares you for tomorrow. Start each day by making your bed, and set yourself up for success. 

The Backstory

While training to be a Navy SEAL, McRaven lived in the barracks off the coast of Coronado, California. Each morning, his commanding officer inspected his uniform and bed. The officer started at the top, ensuring his green uniform hat was starched, and descended until he reached the boots. The boots needed to be polished to the point of reflection, like a mirror. 

After inspecting the uniform, the officer moved to the bed. The proper way to make a bed in the Navy was to tuck the sheets and top blanket tightly under the single mattress. Another blanket was folded and placed at the foot of the bed. And a pillow was placed at the top, perfectly centered. Every layer had to be stretched tight with squared corners. 

The officer pulled out a quarter and flipped it in the air. The quarter landed on the bed and sprung back up high enough for the officer to catch it. This was a sign of a well-made bed. McRaven received the customary nod of approval. 

A perfectly made bed represented McRaven’s discipline. He started each day receiving acknowledgement of his fulfillment of his duties and a sense of accomplishment. This acknowledgement greeted him at the end of each day, and he went to bed proud of his success. 

This habit became important later in McRaven’s life. When 9/11 happened in 2001, McRaven was stuck in a hospital bed at home after a parachuting accident. It was maddening for him to be convalescing when his country was beginning its fight against terrorism. He was eager to recover and get back to work. The first thing he did when he was finally able to get up was make the hospital bed. This act symbolized his return to normalcy after his injury and his readiness to move forward. 

McRaven’s life as a soldier was often difficult. In a time of war, service members die, the work is hard and taxing, and the threat to your life is ever-present. It is difficult to stay focused and hopeful at times, but he always found solace in the simple task of making his bed. And in his often ugly world, the pride that action gave him was everything. 

Start Every Day With a Sense of Accomplishment

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Like what you just read? Read the rest of the world's best book summary and analysis of William H. McRaven's "Make Your Bed" at Shortform.

Here's what you'll find in our full Make Your Bed summary:

  • Why making your bed each morning gives you a small victory to start your day right
  • The 10 lessons Admiral William H. McRaven learned during his time as a Navy SEAL
  • Why quitting is easy, but regrettable

Hannah Aster

Hannah graduated summa cum laude with a degree in English and double minors in Professional Writing and Creative Writing. She grew up reading books like Harry Potter and His Dark Materials and has always carried a passion for fiction. However, Hannah transitioned to non-fiction writing when she started her travel website in 2018 and now enjoys sharing travel guides and trying to inspire others to see the world.

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