We say we want simplicity. However, modern life invites complexity. There are so many moving parts and time-bound commitments. There is so much demand for our attention, our energy, our money. There is too much information to consume and too many choices to make. A microcosm of this issue was pointed out to me by a dear friend who is from another country: we have too many toilet paper choices!
It’s important to remember that our minds are wired to solve complex problems. This is one of the primary reasons we humans ended up running the place. The shadow is that complexity can be quite addicting. The pleasure hit of accomplishment or achievement is so strong that our mind will make up problems to solve. Isn’t that what worry is? Or overthinking? Complexity makes our ego feel good but it makes our soul sad.
Another shadow of complexity is that it is a business model. Much of the consulting industry runs on the promise of solving complex problems and that’s what executives are willing to pay for. All of which creates a kind of monetized co-dependency where most problems are either perpetuated or re-purposed as new problems to solve. There is a similar dynamic with the media industry.
As we enter into 2021, I invite you to invite simplicity into your life. Here are a few ways to do that:
Watch for box-checking behaviors. In order to focus on problem-solving, our minds relegate mundane or rote tasks to repeated unconscious behaviors, which is what most habits are. When we bring awareness to these tasks, they take on the form of active meditation and can become sacrosanct rituals. Ritual is inviting simplicity in. There are plenty of opportunities for this! Brushing your teeth, making the bed, making coffee or tea, taking a shower, getting dressed, washing the dishes, preparing a meal and so many more.
Choose a daily practice that takes a little time. A mind addicted to complexity is also addicted to convenience. Everything becomes about speed-to-completion, life/productivity hacks and immediate gratification. Simplicity requires time commitment. Which causes the mind bellow, “I don’t have time for that!” It sounds like a paradox because it is. As an old mentor once told me, “You must slow down to speed up.” To do this, it’s important to have at least one simple thing that is time-bound. Meditating and/or journaling for a fixed amount of time are two of the simplest ways to invite simplicity.
Take back your imagination. A mind addicted to complexity hijacks the imagination and makes it a faulty but persistent forecaster of the future. It is trying to peek around the corner to better prepare for future problems. Again, this is a strength for survival but a thief of presence and a detriment to meaning and happiness. Taking back your imagination invites simplicity. It invites you to access your inner child that is curious and full of wonder. This allows you to see possibilities instead of only problems.
From a spiritual perspective, one of the top ways I’ve found to invite simplicity is to operate from the heart; to be heart-minded instead of head-minded whenever possible. When you are consistently in your heart, you can discern what is actually a problem. You can apply wisdom to things that are actually complex. Rather than start with complexity and hope for simplicity, operating from the heart creates the inverse: simplicity becomes the priority and any complex issues are approached with a calm nervous system and a sense of grounded confidence.
What are some ways you treat your body that reflect your mindset about complexity?
A note from me:
As I announced last week, I’ve launched a subscription offering called The Third Way. For the month of January, I will be sharing my weekly essays with both paid and free subscribers. Starting Feb 1, only paid subscribers will have access to that content. Subscribers receive exclusive essays, tools, conversation recordings, access to weekly office hours and a monthly newsletter as well as a monthly mastermind call. To become a paid subscriber, go here (thank you in advance!)