You may be familiar with the words from a prayer: “…by what we have done, and by what we have left undone.” Each time I say or hear those words, my mind embraces both sides of this equation, with more thought given to what “we have left undone.” There is something about these words that send a shiver of reality through me.

We have control over things we do and those things we do not do, yet the undone things seem to be more damaging. Maybe it is because we have not even tried to do them.

So, I started to poke around the done and undone thoughts more and, if you haven’t learned this about me yet, I love a 2 x 2 matrix! For me, it helps clarify things, putting two concepts on different axes and see what unfolds.

Done / Undone Life Activity Matrix

When I plotted the activity – Done or Undone, a comparison was needed, and suitability seemed to be the best fit. What I mean by suitability is this: If the action was taken or not, was it the “suitable” thing to do either way? The two dimensions then became:

  • Activity: Whether or not an activity was done
  • Suitability: Whether or not it was the right thing to do

This matrix produces an interesting mix of the impact of our approach.

  • Engage Trouble: In this quadrant, we are doing an activity that is just plain wrong. Simply stated, we should not be doing what we are doing. It is an inappropriate activity in some fashion – legal, moral, etc.
  • Dodge Trouble: When we are here, we are not doing an activity, and it is a good thing we are not. What we may be thinking about doing, or someone may be encouraging us to do, is best left undone. In other words, we are not getting pulled into taking an action that will cause us or someone else harm. It is a good thing that we left this activity undone.
  • Shirk Responsibility: In this quadrant, we are not doing something we should be doing. It is the right thing to do, yet something is holding us back from doing it. This is at least, if not more, dangerous than engaging trouble. Whether it is stubbornness or ignorance or something else, we are being petty or self-centered. This is the place where Pablo Picasso was right: “Only put off until tomorrow what you are willing to die having left undone.”
  • Embrace Responsibility: Whether or not you like the word “engage,” this is the place where you are living an engaged life. We do what needs to be done and, hopefully, more than just the basic needs of life. The embrace of doing the right things in life is something that comes from within, connects with our mind and, eventually, exposed through our actions. It is leading a spirited life!

The reality is the 2 x 2 matrix should not contain the same sized boxes. Instead, the Embrace Responsibility one should dominate the others.

The quadrants should really look like this:

Real Life Done / Undone Life Matrix

Funky looking matrix, I agree, but life isn’t perfect. We will be in each quadrant from time to time. We just need to ensure our Done-Right quadrant is always larger. It is about living large!

Another important point is that embracing responsibility does not equate to being boring. Quite the opposite. It should be about embracing life fully and spiritedly.

It is about personal leadership in our life.