Her husband was always losing his keys. He could finish a triathlon, but he had no idea how to buy groceries. He texted her for avocados, then got angry when she didn’t buy them.
Eventually he lost his job, then his marriage. Now he’s doing okay. He’s divorced, but happier. How?
He found a place for his keys.
This story isn’t about one particular guy. It’s about millions of us. We’re not broken, but we’re muddling. We’re constantly overwhelmed. Some days we don’t even know where to start.
Anywhere, that’s where.
Make your bed
A few years back, a retired admiral and navy seal gave some simple advice during his commencement address at the University of Texas. He reminded everyone to make their bed.
We roll our eyes at this kind of advice. We ask how something so inane could possibly make a difference. We tell ourselves you don’t pay off fifty grand in student debt by making your bed.
We tell ourselves life isn’t that simple.
Except when it is.
Pay attention to the simple things
Last week I got curious and tweeted a poll asking how many people actually make their beds. So far, 263 votes have rolled in.
64 percent of us don’t make our beds.
Hey, I get it. Making your bed sounds like a lame starting place if you have dreams to climb Mount Everest.
It also sounds dumb if you’re broke, lonely and single, or dealing with a situation that feels impossible.
Here’s the thing about Mount Everest — it’s gross now. We’ve turned it into a trash pile. This tells me one thing: Climbing the tallest mountain in the world doesn’t automatically mean you’re a great person.
It doesn’t mean you’re “together.”
Plenty of people fall apart after accomplishing their dreams. They don’t know what to do with themselves. The forget the basics.
Don’t skimp on the basics
The biggest mistake we make is skipping the beginner’s guide. The smarter you are, the more likely you’ll blow past the first chapter of a manual. You’ll try to put IKEA furniture together without the instructions. You’ll make your life harder, because you think it’s supposed to be.
And yet, we keep blowing off the little things. We don’t dismiss them because we lack time, motivation, or follow through.
We think they’re easy. So we don’t do them.
Later we get ourselves into trouble.
We literally think it doesn’t matter if we organize our books, or clean out that closet. Then someone or something compels us to, and we feel better. We even admit it. The trick is remembering that feeling.
Little things can change your life
Last month I looked around my house and my life and realized a lot of it wasn’t going the way I wanted. There were some big things I needed to take care of, and I wasn’t.
Turns out, the little things were getting in my way.
My books were spread across three different offices. My Internet was crap. My desk wobbled. Power outlets in our house didn’t work. Our sink was too small to soak pots and pans. Stuff had piled up everywhere that we’d been meaning to donate or drop off at recycling centers.
Doing simple stuff felt like a huge pain.
It was making me miserable.
So I changed it. We finally spent the money we’d been saving and got a nice new sink. We put up shelves galore. We hired plumbers and electricians. We stopped killing ourselves at our big goals and drilled down on the little ones. Now life feels manageable again.
Let go of your big dreams for a minute
Everyone and all the gurus tell you to dream big. Set goals. Change your environment. Don’t give up too soon.
I’m going to tell you something a little different: Forget all of that stuff right now. Forget your fantasies about climbing mountains, starting companies, and running ultra marathons.
Big dreams can crush you if you’re not careful.
I’m not saying abandon them forever. But for now, just make your bed. Clean your dishes when you’re done eating.
Make a place to hang your keys, so you can find them.
Little things are so easy, they’re hard
We look past the simple stuff exactly because it’s simple. We spend all our time chasing fancy nouns like love, success, happiness, meaning, and purpose. It’s easy to forget — those big nouns are made up of little ones.
Maybe the best way to change your life isn’t by looking for love, chasing happiness and success, and finding your purpose or passion. Maybe all you need to do today is find a place for your keys. Do one little thing right now, something that can make your life easier tomorrow.
Keep doing that.