8 Inactions to Ensure a Messy Life

by  Jon Mertz  |  Leadership Development
8 Inactions to Ensure a Messy Life

Life is messy. Too often, we miss this fact.

The grass is not greener on the other side; the other side may be better cared for.

Even though life is more like a warrior dash than a journey, either way, too many muddy their paths in unnecessary ways.

We may try too hard to get from Point A to Point B, and we miss the longer term opportunity for growth and achievement. We may try too hard to keep up with someone, and we get distracted from our personal mission. We may also try a shortcut and only find ourselves at a dead end.

Messiness arises from our actions. What may be missed is the messiness that gets us stuck when we do not take positive steps. We may even make things messier in our inactions rather than in our actions.

Inaction Ensures A Messy Life

Highlighted below are eight ways inaction ensures a messy life and actions to take, avoiding as much messiness as possible.

  1. Don’t Define Your Leadership Philosophy & Core Beliefs – We lead and live on fumes. We think we have an idea of how we will act, react, and empower. When the path gets tough or the inevitable arises, we run out and wander in an aimless manner.

    A leadership philosophy and defined core beliefs are the fuel to keep us energized and on task. We know we need to refuel (learn) and tune-up (adapt), but there are certain beliefs that keep our backbone stiff and our thoughts resolute.

  2. Don’t Define Your Family Values & Goals – No different than our business life or our career path, our family life needs a center. Families can be messier than any team we may deal with, so we need a center we can return to, guiding us through how we want to live together in our differences and commonalities.

    My advice would be to define your family values and goals before you ever say “I do.” Sit down, put away your devices, and have a conversation on what each person values and how you want to interact as a family. Keep these values front-and-center. Keep refreshing your goals, especially as new, youthful voices join in.

  3. Don’t Evolve Your Leadership Philosophy Or Family Goals – Running in place gets us nowhere. Eventually, an unchanged leadership philosophy and family goals will leave most people unsatisfied. Evolution is natural.Things around us change. This does not mean we need to chase the next material thing. However, we need to determine how to lead and live in a changing, more modern world.

    New voices arise. As they mature, your kids will have a voice to be heard. As you hire new team members and engage new colleagues, they will have a voice to be heard. New voices will test our listening skills. More than this, they will test our leadership philosophy and family goals, as they should. The question will be: Are you strong enough to change?

  4. Don’t Develop Relationships With People Who Make You Better – We choose with whom we develop relationships. We can select from three types of relationships:
    • We can engage relationships with people who hold us in place – never challenged, never improving.
    • We can engage relationships with people who pull us down, getting us off track.
    • We can activate relationships with people who pull us up, giving us a hand when we need it, challenging us when no one else will and coaching us through good and bad times.

    We should always build relationships in the third type and actively avoid the other two. We need to be proactive in our relationships and develop friendships with people who make us better. And we return the favor.

  5. Don’t Read Books – There is so much content online that we can spend all of our time in a social world. Good content exists, but we need to unplug and read a book, too.Books tell a story. Books challenge our thinking. Books make us laugh and cry. Books bring to life lessons, and we grow through those lessons. By reading, we may keep our actions more centered. By reading, we grow, and we can never stop growing.
  6. Don’t Change – Some revel in being stuck in their ways:

    • “My beliefs are better than yours.”
    • “My ideas are smarter than yours.”
    • “You’re stupid; I’m smart.”

    Some success may come the way of individuals who do not change. However, at some point, they will be very alone.

    Standing still is falling back. Get better in:

    • How you think
    • How you interact
    • How you move projects forward
    • How you build relationships
    • How you raise kids
    • How you are a partner
    • How you__________

    Getting better is part of being human. Be human. Change. Listen. Engage. Learn. Adapt.

  7. Don’t Let Others Develop – When we do not change, we usually will not let others develop either. Some will cloak coaching as just a way to put someone down. If someone leaves your coaching session wanting to leave your team or department, you are not a good coach.

    When you do not develop others, you hurt a community of people. A hurt community holds many back, making life messier than before. Develop others. Coach to gain a visual cue that you made a difference. Be a good citizen in life, community, and business.

  8. Don’t Exercise, Eat Right, & Care For Yourself – Not caring for self lowers esteem and creates messier health situations. Yes, it takes effort to live a healthy life. The effort required includes:

    • Understanding what you are eating and maybe even why you are eating certain things
    • Eating the right mix of foods and beverages
    • Exercising regularly each week – walking, running, lifting weights, yoga, or whatever keeps you active
    • Unplugging and sleeping well
    • Taking time to give back by volunteering within your neighborhood and community

    Effort produces healthier results. Healthier mindsets and relationships begin with a healthy life.

    Avoid Leadership & Life Messiness

    Avoid as much messiness in life as often as you can. Life is messy enough to begin with, so be active in the storms. Being active will clear a better path forward, enabling you to lead change productively and live life fully. Defining how you what to live, lead, and build will create a more purposeful path ahead.

    Take the time. Embrace the everyday messiness. Avoid creating a self-mess as much as possible.

What other inactions should be avoided to declutter our leadership at work, home, and community?
Photo Credit: Purchased from Canva

About The Author

Articles By jon-mertz
Jon Mertz is one of the Top 100 Thought Leaders in Trustworthy Business and author of Activate Leadership: Aspen Truths to Empower Millennial Leaders. At Thin Difference, Jon writes and facilitates a conversation on how to empower, challenge, and guide the next generation of leaders.  »  View Profile

What People Are Saying

Jane  |  01 Oct 2015  |  Reply

You’ve covered so much and so well, I can’t really think of anything to add. Your instructions apply to everyone, leader or not.

The thing that makes my life a mess (thinking in terms of this article here) is not starting. Either I don’t know what my next step should be or there are so many options I don’t know which one to pursue first. I guess “What other inaction …?” is not acting, not moving off square one, not stepping into the unknown.

Jon Mertz  |  01 Oct 2015  |  Reply


Thank you for your comment and, I agree, not taking a step forward will make things messier. If we need to move from Point A to Point B, we must take the first step to make any progress. Getting unfrozen will help unfreeze other amazing steps forward.

Great add! Thank you.


John Smith  |  02 Oct 2015  |  Reply

Hi, Jon:)
First … what Jane said. This is a very comprehensive and thoughtful collection of wisdom and your sharing of it is much appreciated.

I have to admit that as I read your points, I remembered a old saying from my military days, which goes “When in trouble, when in doubt, run and holler, scream and shout”. Pretty much describes how many who attempt to work without following your excellent set of guidelines will end up.

Possibly the most valuable point you make is in the introduction, where you say ” … life is messy”:).

If we are honest, much of our activity and energy goes toward fighting this concept. We want things to be orderly, neat, predictable, and manageable. However, when we take your advice to set our foundations clearly, the messiness is less of a threat and our days become easier to move through.

Shoot, I suspect we may even enjoy life and work a bit more, when we approach it using your guidelines.

Appreciate this well-stated and comprehensive post, which could easily become a book:)


Jon Mertz  |  02 Oct 2015  |  Reply

John, I appreciate your feedback and insights as well! I agree that we seem to either spend too much time “hollering” about the mess or thinking life is “neat” all the time. Taking a real view and acting upon real plans can make a big difference. Appreciate all you do, John, and for your comments! Jon

Jon Mertz  |  02 Oct 2015  |  Reply

John, I appreciate your feedback and insights as well! I agree that we seem to either spend too much time “hollering” about the mess or thinking life is “neat” all the time. Taking a real view and acting upon real plans can make a big difference. Appreciate all you do, John, and for your comments! Jon

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