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If You Want to Change the World, This is How You Do It

If You Want to Change the World, This is How You Do It

If I told you making your bed every morning was a good way to change the world, would you believe me?

Early summer always seems to produce an influx of inspirational content on the Internet. There are commencement speeches being given at universities all over the world, and the Internet always seems to find the best ones. This one in particular has garnered a lot of attention and for good reason:

Here are the 10 lessons McRaven learned from basic seal training that will help anyone who wants to change the world.

1. If you want to change the world, start off by making your bed.

Every morning the seals are required to make their bed to perfection. Why is this important? ”

“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 encourage you to do another task, and another, and another.

Though it’s a seemingly small task, it has big implications.

“If you can’t do the little things right, you’ll never be able to do the big things right.”

Plus, if your day sucks, you still come home to a made bed.

2. If you want to change the world, find someone to help you paddle.

In basic seal training, students are broken down into boat crews of seven people. Every day they gather on the beach and are instructed to paddle through the surf zone and then several miles down the coast. Each paddle must be synchronized and exert equal effort or the boat will turn and be thrown back by the eight to ten foot waves of the surf. If you try to make it through life on your own, you’ll never make it. Be grateful for those who help and help others in turn.

3. If you want to change the world, measure a person by the size of their heart, not by the size of their flippers.

The best boat crew in McRaven’s class wasn’t the one with the biggest, tallest men. It was a group of diverse men who were no taller tan 5′ 5′. The crew was nicknamed the “Munchkin Crew”. The other students would often make fun of the “teeny tiny” flippers they would put on. However, they always out-paddled, out-ran and out-swam the other boat crews.

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“Nothing matters but your will to succeed. Not your color, not your ethnic background, not your education, not your social status.”

4. If you want to change the world, get over being a sugar cookie and keep moving forward.

Uniform inspection happened often in seal training. Students would put excessive effort into starching their hat, pressing their uniform and shining their belt. However, no matter how much effort they put in, the instructors would find something wrong. If you failed inspection, you had to run fully clothed and submerge yourself in the surf zone. Then you had to run onto the beach and roll around in the sand until you were completely covered. The result was appropriately deemed a “sugar cookie”. You had to stay in that uniform the rest of the day. Many of the students couldn’t accept the fact that no matter how hard they tried, they would fail. They didn’t understand the purpose of the drill.

“You were never going to succeed; you were never going to have a perfect uniform – the instructors weren’t going to allow it. Sometimes no matter how well you prepare or preform, you still end up as a sugar cookie. It’s just the way life is sometimes.”

5. If you want to change the world, don’t be afraid of the circuses.

There are certain time requirements students are expected to reach in their daily training. If you fail to reach a time requirement, you are invited to “the circus”. The circus was two extra hours of calisthenics designed to break you down and force you to quit. It meant you would be more tired and have less energy the next day to meet the time requirements – meaning another invite to the circus. However, over time, those students who were in the circus got stronger and stronger. The pain built inner strength and physical resiliency.

“Life is filled with circuses. You will fail. You will likely fail often. It will be painful. It will be discouraging. At times it will test you to your very core.”

6. If you want to change the world, sometimes you have to slide down the obstacles head first.

Twice a week trainees are required to run the obstacle course. The most challenging of the 25 obstacles was the “slide for life”. It was a 30 foot tower at one end and a 10 foot tower at the other. in between was a 200 foot rope. You had to climb the 30 foot tower, grab the rope, swing underneath and pull yourself hand over hand to the other end. The record for the course had stood for years and seemed unbeatable. One day a determined student decided to go down the slide for life head first. Instead of swinging underneath, he bravely mounted the top. It was a risky move. Failure could mean a fall to the ground below and injury. He didn’t let that possibility stop him from trying. Instead of several minutes, it only took half that time. He broke the course record that day.

7. If you want to change the world, don’t back down from the sharks.

One of the required swims the seals had to do was a night swim off the coast of San Clemente. The waters there are filled with all kinds of sharks. Though the students were told no student had been eaten by a shark – that they knew of – they were also taught that if a shark began to circle, to stand their ground. They were not to swim away. If the shark did swim toward them, they had to summon all their strength and punch the shark in the snout, and it would swim away.

8. If you want to change the world, you must be your very best in the darkest moments.

Underwater attacks on enemy ships is practiced often in training. You are dropped outside an enemy harbor and required to swim over two miles, under water, using no more than a depth gauge and a compass. During the approaching swim, there is some visibility from light that shines through the water. However, as you approach the ship, all light becomes blocked by it. To be successful, you have to swim under the ship and find the keel. At that point, it becomes so dark you can’t see your hand in front of your face and the noise from the ship’s machinery is deafening.

“Under the keel, at that darkest moment of the mission, is a time when you need to be calm. When you must be calm. When you must be composed. When all your tactical skills, your physical power, and your inner strength must be brought to bear.”

9. If you want to change the world, start singing when you’re up to your neck in mud.

Hell week is 6 days of no sleep. You are under constant physical and mental harassment. On Wednesday of hell week, they went to the mud flats, an area between San Diego and Tijuana. The mud flats was a swampy patch of terrain where the mud will engulf your whole body. You have to paddle down and spend 15 hours surviving the freezing cold, howling wind and incessant pressure from instructors to quit.

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On this day, as the sun was setting, McRaven’s training class had committed some infraction of the rules and was ordered into the freezing mud up to their necks. They still had eight hours of until the sun came up. Instructors told them if only five men quit – just five – they could get out. It was obvious some students were about to quit. At that time, one of the students started singing with great enthusiasm. One voice turned to two and two into three until everyone was singing. That one voice of song brought hope to the group and a renewed strength to endure.

“If I have learned anything in my time traveling the world, it is the power of hope. The power of one person. A Washington, a Lincoln, King, Mandela, and even a young girl from Pakistan, Malala. One person can change the world by giving people hope.”

10. If you want to change the world, don’t ever, ever ring the bell.

There is a brass bell hanging in the middle of the training compound for everyone to see. If you didn’t want to wake up at five every day, swim in the freezing cold, run for miles, complete the obstacle course or endure any of the hardships of training, all you had to do to quit was ring the bell. It was that easy.

Featured photo credit: Texas Exes YouTube via youtu.be

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Braden Thompson

Braden is an advocate for better living who finds fulfillment in helping others become better.

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Last Updated on October 22, 2020

How Not to Feel Overwhelmed at Work & Take Control of Your Day

How Not to Feel Overwhelmed at Work & Take Control of Your Day

Overwhelm is a pernicious state largely caused by the ever-increasing demands on our time and the distractions that exist all around us. It creeps up on us and can, in its extreme form, leave us feeling anxious, stressed, and exhausted. Therefore, if you’re feeling overwhelmed at work, it’s time to do something about it.

Here are 6 strategies you can follow that will reduce the feeling of overwhelm, leaving you calmer, in control, and a lot less stressed at work.

1. Write Everything Down to Offload Your Mind

The first thing you can do when work feels overwhelming is to write everything down that is on your mind.

Often people just write down all the things they think they have to do. This does help, but a more effective way to reduce overwhelm is to also write down everything that’s occupying your thoughts[1].

For example, you may have had an argument with your colleague or a loved one. If it’s on your mind, write it down. A good way to do this is to draw a line down the middle of the page and title one section “things to do” and the other “what’s on my mind.”

The act of writing all this down and getting it out of your head will help you stop feeling overwhelmed at work. Writing things down can really change your life.

2. Decide How Long It Will Take to Complete Your To-Dos

Once you have emptied your head, go through your list and estimate how long it will take to complete each to-do.

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As you go through your list, you will find quite a few to-dos will only take you five or ten minutes. Others will take longer, often up to several hours.

Do not worry about that at this stage. Just focus on estimating how long you will need to complete each task to the best of your ability. You can learn how to create a more meaningful to-do list here.

3. Take Advantage of Parkinson’s Law

Here’s a little trick I learned a long time ago to help when work feels overwhelming. Parkinson’s Law states that work will fill the time you have available to complete it, and we humans are terrible at estimating how long something will take[2]:

When feeling overwhelmed at work, use Parkinson's Law.

    This is why many people are always late. They think it will only take them thirty minutes to drive across town when previous experience has taught them it usually takes forty-five minutes to do so because traffic is often bad. It’s more wishful thinking than bad judgment.

    We can use Parkinson’s Law to our advantage when we’re feeling overwhelmed at work. If you have estimated that to write five important emails will take ninety minutes, then reduce it down to one hour. Likewise, if you have estimated it will take you three hours to prepare your upcoming presentation, reduce it down to two hours.

    Reducing the time you estimate something will take gives you two advantages. The first is you get your work done quicker, obviously. The second is that you put yourself under a little time pressure, and in doing so you reduce the likelihood you will be distracted or allow yourself to procrastinate.

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    When we overestimate how long something will take, subconsciously our brains know we have plenty of time, so it plays tricks on us, and we end up checking reviews of the Apple Watch 4 or allow our team members to interrupt us with the latest office gossip.

    Applying a little time pressure prevents this from happening, and we get more focused and more work done. This will help when work feels overwhelming.

    4. Use the Power of Your Calendar

    Once you have your time estimates done, open up your calendar and schedule your to-dos to avoid getting overwhelmed at work. Schedule time for each task, especially high priority tasks, while also grouping together similar tasks. This will help relieve stress and anxiety in your daily work life.

    For emails that need attention on your to-do list, schedule time on your calendar to deal with all your emails at once. Likewise, if you have a report to write or a presentation to prepare, add these to your calendar using your estimated time as a guide for how long each will take.

    Seeing these items on your calendar eases your mind because you know you have allocated time to get them done, and you no longer feel you have no time. Grouping similar tasks together keeps you in a focused state longer, and it’s amazing how much work you get done when you do this.

    5. Make Decisions

    For those things you wrote down that are on your mind but are not tasks, make a decision about what you will do with each one[3]. These things are on your mind because you have not made a decision about them.

    If you have an issue with a colleague, a friend, or a loved one, take a little time to think about what would be the best way to resolve the problem. More often than not just talking with the person involved will clear the air and resolve the problem.

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    If it is a more serious issue, then decide how best to deal with it. Talk to your boss or a colleague and get advice.

    Whatever you do, do not allow it to fester. Ignoring the problem will not make it go away and will only make you feel more overwhelmed at work. You need to make a decision to deal with it, and the sooner you do so the sooner the problem will be resolved.

    I remember long ago, when I was in my early twenties and had gone mad with my newly acquired credit cards. I discovered I didn’t have the money to pay my monthly bills. I worried about it for days, got stressed, and really didn’t know what to do. Eventually, I told a good friend about the problem.

    He suggested I called the credit card company to explain my problem. The next day, I plucked up the courage to call the company, explained my problem, and the wonderful person the other end listened and then suggested I pay a smaller amount for a couple of months.

    This one phone call took no more than ten minutes to make, yet it solved my problem and took away a lot of the stress I was feeling at the time. I learned two very valuable lessons from that experience:

    The first was: don’t go mad with newly acquired credit cards! And the second: there’s always a solution to every problem if you just talk to the right person.

    6. Take Some Form of Action

    Because overwhelm is something that creeps up on us, once we are feeling overwhelmed at work (and stressed as the two often go together), the key is to take some form of action.

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    The act of writing everything down that is bothering you and causing you to feel overwhelmed is a great place to start. Being able to see what it is that is bothering you in a list form, no matter how long that list is, eases the mind. You have externalized it.

    It also means that, rather than these worries floating around in a jumbled mess inside your head, they are now visible, and you can make decisions about what to do about them.

    Often, it could be asking a colleague for a little help, or it could be that you need to allocate some focused time to get the work done. The important thing is you make a decision on what to do next.

    When work feels overwhelming, it’s not always caused by a feeling of having a lack of time or too much work. It can also be caused by avoiding a decision about what to do next.

    The Bottom Line

    It’s easy to feel like you have too much on your plate, but there are things you do to make it more manageable. 

    Make a decision, even if it’s just talking to someone about what to do next. Making a decision about how you will resolve something will reduce your feelings of overwhelm and start you down the path to a resolution.

    When you follow these strategies, you can say goodbye to your overwhelm and gain much more control over your day.

    More Tips for Reducing Work Stress

    Featured photo credit: Josefa nDiaz via unsplash.com

    Reference

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