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Most new widows would agree that just to get out of bed each morning is a challenge. Making the bed is pretty far down on the “to-do” list.

Admiral William H. McRaven listed making the bed as the number one life lesson he learned as a Navy SEAL. His commencement speech at the University of Texas in May 2014 has been widely circulated. He played on the UT slogan, “What starts here changes the world.” And then he proceeded to list 10 Life Lessons from Navy SEAL Training.

Changing the world is even further down the list of priorities for new widows. Nevertheless, McRaven’s observations are applicable to us:

“And while these lessons were learned during my time in the military, I can assure you that it matters not whether you ever served a day in uniform. It matters not your gender, your ethnic or religious background, your orientation, or your social status. Our struggles in this world are similar and the lessons to overcome those struggles and to move forward—changing ourselves and the world around us—will apply equally to all….

“Every morning in basic SEAL training, my instructors, who at the time were all Vietnam veterans, would show up in my barracks room and the first thing they would inspect was your bed. If you did it right, the corners would be square, the covers pulled tight, the pillow centered just under the headboard and the extra blanket folded neatly at the foot of the rack—that’s Navy talk for 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.”

And I would add a fourth bullet point:

  • If you make your bed, you will be less tempted to crawl back in and pull the covers up over your head.

Admiral McRaven’s speech, which I quote here, was printed in the Wall Street Journal on May 24, 2014. I added bullets to the text. McRaven became Chancellor of the University of Texas System in January 2015.

Photo: After Lev died, I replaced the heavy bedspreads on all the beds with lightweight coverlets and duvets–easier to make, easier to keep clean and fresh.