Make Your Bed : The Little Things that Can Change Your Life… And Maybe the World, by William H. McRaven.
This is a very short little book, just 102 pages of new material plus another 28 pages of the speech given by Admiral William H. McRaven (U.S. Navy Retired) at UT Austin.
I’m clearly deep into the self-reflection and self-improvement phase of my life, and I’m looking for good tips on growing up and being a good person. I’ve collected a lot of great advice from family, teachers, and friends of all ages.
Both my mom and an auntie-friend in Paris have always encouraged me to make the bed every morning, for relatively similar reasons. This book is based around that premise: start your day off with one thing that you can do, and do well, and that sets the tone for the rest of your day.
I’ve made my bed consistently since I arrived in France. It’s a bit of an odd behavioural shift, and I’m not sure why it became a consistent habit in France as opposed to back in the US, but here we are. It’s one of my favourite things to do, to be honest, and if I’m having a slow weekend or a glum day off from work, making my bed is one of the best ways to help me start to bounce back.
Other good tips are keep going, don’t underestimate yourself or others, and remember to be the light in a situation as often as you can.
One thing that’s been quite a strain on my recently is writing French. I slipped into a very weak mindset and honestly fell into the habit of underestimating myself. When my director gave me some major critiques last week (think, “we love the information but we’re going to completely rewrite it”) I let it really, really throw me.
When he came in on Monday morning to discuss my next report, I was ready. Instead of simply accepting his critique and saying, abstractly, that I will try to do better, I asked him what he specifically felt I could do to improve. That led to a very productive conversation and I’ve written down some of his tips to share them on the blog.
It’s not necessarily a “living abroad” thing so much as it is a “just growing up” thing, but I’m learning to push myself in completely different ways. In college, I practiced just powering through any situation, working with brute force to solve any problem that arose in my academic or social life. I’m learning that my modus operandi needs to evolve, and that sometimes it’s not an easy climb. If my English language writing skills are at the top of the hill, my written French is still bumbling around at the bottom, trying to find the trail to climb onward and upward.
This book, Make Your Bed was a good reminder that sometimes you are really bad at very important things when you first begin to do them. You get better when you practice, and you need to do it every day. So I’m trying to take this advice: I try to start with a small win, and I keep working on both my mental and practical approach to complex problems. I can’t just power through the French language; I need to be precise, careful, and determined!