Make Your Bed:  Little things that can change your life...and maybe the world

William H McRaven


Former US Navy SEAL, William H McRaven, shares some simple, yet powerful, life lessons that saw him through the toughest moments of his life and career, and demonstrates how these can help us to find strength and courage to overcome the obstacles that life throws in our way!



This is a handy little book which will become my go to when I’m in need of courage and inspiration to pursue my goals, and a healthy reminder not to let that all-too-familiar creeping sense of self-doubt get the better of me!  

McRaven gives us an insight into the brutal and relentless conditions of SEAL training, but also draws comparisons with the hardships and misfortunes experienced by ordinary people, and how they have found the courage and determination to keep going against all the odds.  Whilst not many of us will know what it feels like to endure days and months of combat, most of us have experienced grief, loss, disappointment, failure and misfortune.  

My biggest take-aways from this book are recognising how self-limiting the fear of failure can be; that you can’t go it alone all of the time (control freaks, beware!); and how adjusting our mindset can enable us to make positive changes in our lives, however small.


The principles set out in this book are not particularly ground-breaking; instead they are tropes that many of us will already be familiar with. However, they are a healthy reminder to keep ourselves in check, maintain focus, not let self-limiting beliefs hold us back, and find joy in hard times.  However, this book does not profess to be a comprehensive ‘how to’; it is more guidance and inspiration from someone who has ‘been through the wars’ – quite literally. When you think of the original audience – a graduating class about to enter ‘the real world’, it feels about right. It occasionally veers a bit too heavily into what feels like “tough love”, but what else might you expect from a former navy SEAL?!


Read this if you are preparing for some big life changes (e.g. reversing or changing your career), or where you’ve had a run of disappointments or bad luck, and are in need of some practical advice and inspiration from others who’s strength and resilience has been tested, but who have found the motivation to keep on striving, or to continue to find joy in everyday life.


This got me thinking about the power of the growth mindset, a theory developed by psychologist Carole Dweck, and is something we draw on in our workshops.  This explains how self-limiting beliefs can prevent us from pursuing what we really want to do, and how people with a growth mindset are much more likely to achieve their goals than those who believe their skills and abilities are ‘fixed’.  McRaven teaches us that it’s ‘the size of your heart that matters’, i.e. it doesn’t matter how tall, short, fit, or educated you are – you can learn anything, as long as you put your mind AND heart into it.

Also, we need to stop being embarrassed by failure – all humans make mistakes – and McRaven will tell you that what really determines our character is how we learn from failure and the will to persevere.


“They all understood that life is hard and that sometimes there is little you can do to affect the outcome of your day.  In battle, soldiers die, families grieve, your days are long and filled with anxious moments.  You search for something that can give you solace, that can motivate you to begin your day, that can be a sense of pride in an oftentimes ugly world.  But it is not just combat.  It is daily life that needs this same sense of structure.”

Chapter 1, 'Start your day with a task completed'   

“None of us are immune from life’s tragic moments. ...It takes a good team of people to get you to your destination in life.  You cannot paddle the boat alone. ...Make as many friends as possible, and never forget that your success depends on others.”

 Chapter 2, 'You can't go it alone'   

"It is easy to blame your lot in life on some outside force, to stop trying because you believe that fate is against you. ...Nothing could be further from the truth.  The common people and the great men and women are all defined by how they deal with life’s unfairness..”

Chapter 4, 'Life's not fair - drive on!'  

“I realized that past failures had strengthened me, taught me that no one is immune from mistakes.”

Chapter 5, 'Failure can make you stronger'

“Life is a struggle and the potential for failure is ever present, but those who live in fear of failure, or hardship, or embarrassment, will never achieve their potential.  Without pushing your limits, without occasionally sliding down the rope headfirst, without daring greatly, you will never know what is truly possible in your life.”

Chapter 6, 'You must dare greatly'




There should be no embarrassment about failure – we have something to learn from failure, and we can't always ‘smash it first time’, so if you really want something, keep striving for it!!

Life is not ‘fair’ and all of us will likely suffer misfortune at one point or other.  This books reminds us that we can’t always control what happens to us, but we can influence how we respond.

As small an act as making our bed each morning can influence how we feel about our day – so, think about routines that make you feel good (e.g. regular exercise, eating well), and stick to these as they may provide the structure you need in busy, stressful or uncertain times.

Lots of love, H x