The word o’ the day is Choices. We make a lot of them. Big ones, small ones. Insignificant ones and life altering ones.
Those are all pretty easy to identify – making a job change, changing where your pencil cup is located. Throwing your loose change into a tip jar and throwing in the towel on a significant relationship.
But what about all those in between choices? The ones that we make on the daily without thinking about them at all but that really do impact our daily existence?
I hear a lot of women talk about how they no longer feel joy. They can’t remember when they last felt it even. Are you one of those women? Do you feel like you’re just going through the motions of life?
I felt like that for more years than I can count. That’s not to say that I don’t still have days like that but the pervading sense of meh that hovered over my existence was dark. And, yes, as I pointed out in my personal About page, I made a life altering choice a couple of years ago that changed my whole trajectory for the better. But at the same time I became acutely aware of all of those middle of the road choices that I had been making without realizing it and without realizing the impact they had on my overall happiness level.
MAKING THE BED
Case in point, at almost 48 years of age, I began making my bed in the morning. It seems like something so benign but it’s amazing what a difference it made to me. On Facebook recently, a video of the 2014 commencement address at University of Texas given by Navy SEAL Admiral William H. McCraven surfaced and went a bit viral.
“If you want to change the world, start off by making your bed. 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. And by the end of the day that one task completed will have turned into many tasks completed.”
Sounds like good lip service, but it’s absolutely true (if you haven’t seen the short excerpt linked to above, you MUST; it’s less than 2 minutes and packed with wisdom). Moreover, for me, it gave me control over something at a time when I realized I didn’t feel like I was in control of much of what was going on around me. It took less than 5 minutes. But, when I was finished, it looked neat and tidy and close enough to one of those pictures in a Bed, Bath, and Beyond catalog of perfection in motion.
Some days I didn’t want to. What would it matter? But then I would tell myself that it would just take a moment and I would force myself to do it. It wasn’t long before it became a habit. And at the end of the day, whether rough or easy, I returned to a space that at least in part looked put together and invited me to relax and let it all go for a spell.
Don’t believe me that something banal like making the bed is actually good for your sense of happiness? Just ask Gretchen Rubin. She’s a best selling author and happiness researcher (the guidance counselor at school never told me this was an option!). She found that the task of making one’s bed is one of the most effective and easiest triggers of happiness.
“When I was researching my book on happiness, this was the number one most impactful change that people brought up over and over.”
BEYOND THE BEDROOM
Of course there’s more to joy and happiness in our lives than just making our beds, though. It’s in all the choices we make.
The wall color in the living room that we’ve never really liked. The ill fitting bra that we wear regardless because we just don’t want to shop for another one. The french fries on the backseat floor of the car that we just shove under the seat and ignore. The disorganized pile of stuff that stares at us daily that just needs to go to Goodwill but overwhelms us all the same.
Choices. It’s the word o’ the day. What kind of choices are you making today that affect your joy? Which ones will you make tomorrow?
Life is short. No one’s the boss of you. Eat cake for breakfast. Buy the shoes. Book the vacation. Paint the living room.
But, first, make your bed.