One Simple Habit That Will Change Your Life

April Arotin

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photo by Mohamed Nohassi - Unsplash

There's a highly influential piece of advice from a man who spent his career in the military, and perhaps you've already heard about it. In 2014, US Navy Admiral William McRaven gave a speech at the commencement for the graduating class at the University of Texas at Austin. His best advice is to make your bed the minute that you wake up so that you start your day with a feeling of accomplishment.

He said, "If you want to change the world, start off by making your bed."

His advice left the crowd speechless, and the official version of his commencement speech has garnered millions of views online. Later, he wrote a book about it entitled, Make Your Bed: Little Things That Can Change Your Life...And Maybe the World.

It quickly became a #1 New York Times Bestseller.

No doubt, the advice that Admiral McRaven offers advice is life-changing, hard-fought through adverse experience, and built by years of experience coaching and teaching through his tenure in the military as he rose through the ranks. One thing is certain, and that is, the way that we celebrate our accomplishments throughout the day colors our perception of ourselves. When we feel the small successes, we make room for increasing our confidence to take on the larger and seemingly insurmountable challenges in life. As our confidence builds via our accomplishments, what we set out to do gradually becomes bigger.

There is something to be said for the value of incremental progress. The small things truly add up over time, and if we watch them closely enough, pay attention to where we place our time and attention, we can measure this over time.

Here's the thing: I'm not going to tell you to start making your bed everyday, but you could, and maybe you should, if you don't already. It's undoubtedly valuable advice. I'm also not going to say that the advice I have for you is nearly as influential as Admiral McRaven offered, but it's definitely just as simple and easy to add to your daily routine.

I'm not going to say that you need to start working out, eating better, practicing meditation or join a club to expand your network and enjoy the benefit of relationships with others. I'm definitely not going to suggest you start a journal or write down your dreams or anything related to standard self-care practices, even though all of these have a strong benefit.

I'm definitely not going to suggest that you do something that costs money or has you purchase a plan or a book or a journal or anything else that you don't need. I'm definitely not encouraging you to start an expensive hobby to learn the value of time well spent.

What I'm going to say relies on the two most valuable things that we have - our time and our attention.

The habit that I'd like you to consider is much, much more simple.

It starts with redefining the relationship that you have with yourself by committing to one small daily act that just takes a moment and a steady dedicated intention.

Are you ready for this simple gem?

Before I share it, I will tell you that employing this tiny strategy has given me the inner space to make bold leaps forward in the way I live in all areas of my life. The tiny caveat is that it's a little more difficult if you, like me, have small children at home. It's still not impossible.

Wake up earlier.

Get up before anyone demands your energy or attention.

Give yourself ten minutes to set your own tone for the day, to determine how you approach your day.

It's incredibly simple, but groundbreaking at the same time.

Let yourself have the freedom to decide that your approach to the day matters, that your thoughts and feelings about the day at hand are more important than the tasks that chip away at your internal state.

Pay attention to yourself first and invest your time in yourself first, even if just a few minutes.

The funny thing about the way we live is that we spend a lot of time glorifying busy, honoring the hustle without honoring ourselves first. When we put ourselves first, make the decision to honor our own wisdom and well-being by holding space for ourselves first, we give ourselves permission to make better decisions about how we spend our time and energy.

We have a tendency to protect our sleep, but not strategize our rest.

We have a tendency to make excuses when it comes to putting ourselves first, as we are trained to believe that anything we do for ourselves first is selfish. Taking care of ourselves first is one of the most selfless things that we can do.

This tiny action brings us to a place where we are literally and figuratively putting ourselves first, first thing in the morning.

Waking up a little bit earlier and sitting with our own energy, without outside influence, is one of the most valuable ways to practice radical self care.

Radical self care hinges on the idea that by putting ourselves first, we are better able to be of service to the world around us. It's the combination of 'put your own mask on first,'

That small amount of space we can grant ourselves, first thing in the morning, offers a large amount of benefit and will undoubtedly support your personal growth in a way that few other habits will.

We can make plans to change our diet or to work out more, or to do any number of tasks that scratch the surface of making lasting change. Until we sit with ourselves and hold space for ourselves to enrich our inner experience by choosing how we spend our energy every single day, many of those "healthy" life changes will be fleeting and temporary.

My suggestion is that you take a week or two and try it out.

Spend that time with yourself, for yourself, in any way that feels expansive, neccessary and beneficial for you in your life.

Because it is your life to live and your first obligation each day should be to yourself before anything and anyone else.

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Contemporary artist and jewelry designer. Advocate for radical self care. Meandering wordsmith, lady metalsmith. I write about radical self care through unapologetic creativity, outline strategies for living a more creative life and honoring the call to be creative.

Cleveland, OH
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