When you’re trying to improve your life, it’s easy for things to get overly complicated, really quickly.
In fact, it often seems like the minute you set a goal or deliberate focus for yourself, lots of questions start to pop up all at once.
Is that really possible?
What would that even look like?
What am I going to have to give up in order to make that happen?
How would I do that?
What are people going to think of me?
What if (insert hypothetical problem here) happens?
Look, I get it. Change is hard. And many times, it feels overwhelming.
I know when I had my lightning bolt moment about my need to lose weight, I was 110% committed to changing, and eventually I allowed myself to slow down, begin with the end in mind, draw backwards, and create a manageable plan to help me reach my goal.
But if I’m being honest, that didn’t happen immediately.
Instead, what happened immediately was a whole lot of self-doubt, overwhelm, unanswered questions, and confusion (do you know how many diet plans are out there?).
What happened immediately was complexity.
What complexity looks like
Complexity can look like different things for different people. For me, it looked like a huge jumble of thoughts—questions and concerns that hit me all at once, so hard and so suddenly that I could barely separate one thought from the next.
Now, this very easily could have led me to abandon my resolve altogether. When things seem so complex and so tangled up, it’s much easier to give up than it is to try to untie the knots.
Luckily, I have some tools that helped me stop this complexity in its tracks and get on a more productive path (we’ll talk more about that later). But every day, I see people bring an unnecessary level of complexity to their daily lives, overanalyzing everything from their sleep patterns, to text messages, to what to pack for their vacations.
If you’re wondering if you have too much complexity in your life, ask yourself the following questions:
- Do I often think about what other people are thinking of me?
- Do I need a lot of direction before I can start working on a task?
- Am I indecisive?
- Do I get stressed about my everyday tasks or schedule?
- Do I sometimes ignore my intuition?
If you answered yes to one or more of these questions, you may be allowing unnecessary complexity to your life.
Complexity can manifest itself as “analysis paralysis” (overthinking a problem to the extent that you are unable to solve it), stress, panic, anxiety, paranoia, skepticism, or pessimism, among any number of other difficult emotions. No matter how complexity shows up, it is—by definition—going to make your life more complicated.
Why complexity is harmful
Is it a bad thing to focus on details, examine different scenarios, and gather information before acting? Of course not. As long as you can do those things from a healthy, simple place, they’ll actually benefit you on your way to designing a life you love.
But introduce complexity into the equation, and you’re doing more harm than good.
It holds you back.
When you over complicate something, it’s much more difficult to take that first step forward. Overwhelmed by the seemingly endless options, information, opinions, and scenarios, you become fearful of making a wrong choice or doing something the wrong way. Overthinking does not beget progress; it begets fear. And fear is going to hold you back, every time. Only by dissolving your complexity can you discover your true potential.
It strains relationships.
One common place complexity shows up is in relationships. It often looks like overanalyzing what other people say or do, wondering if they’re telling the truth, trying to appease you, or just flat-out lying. It can be exhausting trying to read between the lines, interpret microexpressions, and dissect the meaning of every word another person says. If you let complexity into your relationship, it won’t only put strain on you, individually, but it will challenge the relationship as a whole.
It is stressful.
When you believe that life is complex, you’re setting yourself up for a stressful existence. People that embrace complexity tend to simultaneously live with regret (questioning and feeling guilt or shame for past actions) and caution (failing to take any additional action in fear of messing up). Can you imagine second-guessing your every move? Over-analyzing your every thought? Beating yourself up over everything you say? (Maybe you can; maybe you’re already living that way!) The stress of this kind of life is bound to take its toll on anyone who fails to release their complexity.
The fact of the matter is this: life is not as complex as most of us make it out to be. Even decisions that seem monumental and life-changing—they’re far simpler than we realize.
We’ll talk about discovering simplicity in an upcoming post, but for now, here are some tips for letting go of the complexity so that you can make room for simplicity to take its place.
Realize that dissolving complexity is necessary.
Complexity is a lie. It’s keeping you from the truth of simplicity—a truth that will lead you to a happier, more productive, less stressful life.
Stop looking for complexity.
If you look for complexity, you’ll find it. If you insist on making your life overly-complicated, it will be overly-complicated.
You have control over your thoughts, your beliefs, and your actions. You can discover your own purpose and meaning in life. As long as you choose simplicity, simplicity will serve you.
Find the simple answer.
I’ve found that 9 times out of 10, people already know the answer to their questions. For my weight loss, the answer was simple: eat less and exercise more. My plan had to be focused on that simple idea and never waiver.
Each of us knows plain, simple truths. You have information, you have intuition, you have the answers inside you. Trust yourself, and embrace the simple answer.
Sometimes, dissolving complexity simply means acting. Put a plan—any plan—into action. Stop over-thinking it, and start trying it. What’s the worst that could happen? You could fail? Failure is simply an opportunity to learn a lesson. Don’t let complexity keep you from trying. Find your simple answer, put it into action, and if it doesn’t work, try something else. You are in control.
In a buzzing, pinging, flashing, notification-frenzied world, it can be easy to think of complexity as a fact of life. But a complex life is not going to help you discover purpose and meaning. It’s not going to bring you joy or peace. It’s only going to invite negativity and fear.
Dissolve the complexity and move forward. You have simple truth inside you. It’s time to see what it can do.
Design.org’s assessment can help you dissolve complexity by helping you narrow your focus and start on a simple path toward positive change. Plus, our daily coaching messages provide you with simple yet powerful statements that will help you progress toward your goals. It’s free, so give it a try. The only thing you have to lose is complexity.