What makes simplicity so attractive?

Posted by in Productivity

What makes simplicity so attractive?

To me, simplicity is as much an antidote for the chaotic passage of everyday life as it is a recipe for achieving goals – and as far as I can tell, people seem increasingly attracted towards it. I think I know why.


To every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction


There’s little denying that our world grows increasingly busy for every day that passes. Many things contribute to this development, yet this status quo is mostly owed to a single thing: competition. Take a system – any system, add participants, and observe as competition erupts. Capitalism, which has kept much of the modern world running for some time now, is no different.


A few years as an employee or entrepreneur teaches a lesson well: to succeed, you need to work harder – or smarter. Both require the expenditure of physical and mental resources, and even if you manage to do a great many things just right, there is always someone snapping at your heels to assume your position in the hierarchy. Quite possibly, even, at your cost.


For people who want to stay ahead, there are only two options: remove the competition, or outcompete them. And, since humans generally tend to shy away from assassination, increasing one’s level of engagement becomes the de facto standard response. But what happens when everyone is caught in this vicious cycle?


What happens is that an increasing number of people reach what I call their complexity threshold, and start yearning for a simpler life. It might not be completely in accordance with Newton’s third law, but I doubt he’d hold much of a grudge for drawing a parallel.


Balance is key


Work yourself to exhaustion for one week (which, granted, might be a necessary evil), and physics dictate your resource expenditure must be compensated. Juggle too many projects or tasks simultaneously, and the outcome will be much the same. The complexity surpasses its maximum sustainable rate either through prolonged exposure or a phase of compression, and unless your brain course corrects in time, your body will halt propulsion (don’t try this at home).


So, should complexity be avoided due to its negative effects? Absolutely not. As humans, it is obvious that we thrive when we have complex challenges to solve. It’s not a new thing either – one merely have to consider Angkor Wat, the Pyramids or the Chinese Wall to name a few astonishingly complex accomplishments – some of which aren’t even fully understood to date.


What nature demands is balance, and if you fail to deliver – well, then you’re in for the ride of your lifetime.


Simplicity brings focus to what’s important


It’s alright to be egocentric. How do you think the personal and professional aspects of your life (and the relationships attached to these) will evolve if you feel miserable most of the time as a consequence of not prioritizing the important things which refuel you both physically and mentally?


The process of simplifying entails taking a long, hard, look at the plate of life and entering into a continuous process of exchanging the bits that aren’t to your liking. Given a sufficient amount of contemplation, what is important will naturally surface as priorities – and if acted upon in the proper way, pursuing them will make you wake up with a smile in the morning.


Simplicity brings about success


A common trait in most people I discuss this topic with is the realization that something isn’t quite right, and that changes must take place in order to bring about what is often coined a “better life”. However, few buckle down and invest the mental expenditure required to stare down the sandblower that is life and emerge with their features intact. And, even if they do, simple fear of change – or not succeeding – may still represent an obstacle.


Still, simplicity appears to rank highly even on the lists of those who haven’t had the time or opportunity to contemplate matters more thoroughly – most likely due to a simple correlation between the perceived amount of time required to execute something complex as opposed to something simple. Free up time, and suddenly there’s more of it to figure out what one wants, or how to get it if the former has already been nailed down.


Which is very true, even though it’s highly preferable to avoid skipping the contemplation part of the process. Simplifying matters brings about focus, which is essential to succeeding at anything. Just think about how, as a child, you could spend hours building a house of cards and forget that the rest of the world even existed.


The fewer things that are on your mind, the better you will be able to execute the ones that rattle around in there. And, the simpler you keep things, the easier they will be to execute.


The simple summary


[box]As more of us sign up for the rat race every single day, it’s inevitable that an increasing number of people reach their complexity threshold. In fiercely competitive situations, the only antidote to working harder is to work smarter – which is the embodiment of simplicity. If you’re feeling like a hamster on a wheel, hit the brakes. Chances are that a little contemplation, a little bit of creativity and some hard work will let you convert your cage into a fully-fledged amusement park in no time.[/box]