Sometimes, life gets messy — as shown by the picture of the living area in my home this morning.
When I first walked through this area on my way to get a cup of coffee and some breakfast, I felt a bit stressed.
My family was still asleep, and I had a full day of work planned in my home office. The mess felt a bit overwhelming and out of control.
If you look carefully by the rocking chair near the middle of the picture, you will see an insulated coffee cup. That cup represents the time I spent reading, reflecting, and planning before starting my day.
As I wrote a list of things for which I am grateful, I looked around the mess in my home, and I saw evidence of:
- One daughter’s recent high school graduation and the celebration that followed
- Another daughter’s four day HOBY leadership seminar experience
- Two daughters who love listening to and playing music
- My dad’s hastily celebrated birthday while my parents visited our home for graduation ceremonies
- A community service project that my wife helped to organize
- A wife who worked hard to keep up with laundry during the last three action-packed weeks
- The opportunity that my wife and I had to work at the HOBY leadership seminar
- People who came home at the end of long days of serving and working with others too tired to put away the mess
- Business projects and opportunities that I have worked on while my wife kept everything else moving forward
As I re-framed my view of the mess in terms of the lives, relationships, and experiences that it represented, it transformed from stressful to soothing.
The lesson in this for leaders is to, at least for a short time, embrace messiness because of what the mess represents.
Your mess might by physical, like the one in my home this morning, or more intangible, like a long to-do list or a hectic project schedule. In either case, learn to embrace the temporary disarray, disorganization, and messiness because of the growth and progress it represents.
You can’t live with the mess forever — eventually you’ll have to clean it up. In the meantime though, find a way to frame it positively so that you can find the energy and enthusiasm to lead positively.
Now, I think I’ll go take another look at the mess and the memories it represents before my wife and kids get it cleaned-up.