Complexity: A Matter Of Choice?

Is the complexity in our lives a matter of choice? The short answer is yes. The complexity in our lives is directly related to the choices we make. Here are some examples to illustrate this point.

Rate of change

I doubt that anyone would disagree that the rate of change, especially technological advances, can be overwhelming. That’s been true of every age. I recall a novel set in the 1860s in which the characters lamented how quickly things were changing with the advent of the stage coach and the telegraph.

The real question is who is setting the pace. Are you allowing technology to set the pace or are you choosing only those advances that enable you to deliver greater value or accelerate the delivery of your value?

Boundaries

Who is setting the boundaries in your life? Are you allowing others requests/demands to set your priorities or are you setting the boundaries that enable you to live the life you desire?

Misjudging time

Assume that it is 4 p.m. and you’ve committed to your family to quit at 5 p.m. You’ve just completed a task. The next item on your to do list is one that you know you won’t be able to complete within the hour you have left. You scan the list for a task that you can complete within an hour and begin work on that task. How often do you find yourself still working on that task the next day? I have yet to have anyone who hasn’t fallen into this trap.

Einstein is right: time is relative. The tasks we don’t enjoy seem to drag on forever. Time seems to fly by for those we do enjoy. Now that you’re aware of this tendency to misjudge time, the question is “Am I going to continue the delusion or remain committed to the plan I created as a conscious choice based on objective analysis?”

Savior complex

Do you continue to expend time and energy trying to help people when you care more than they do? This is a natural tendency of caring people. The choice is simple: do you want to spend your time helping people who want help or those who don’t?

Nurturing emotions

Another natural tendency we have is to nurture emotions. That can be as true for elation as it is for doubts, fear and anxiety. We can spend so much time savoring a success that we fail to see what’s happening that might diminish our joy. We certainly spend way too much time nurturing our doubts, fears and anxiety which delays, if not destroys, our willingness to pursue what we desire.

Emotions are messages. They signal that it is time to make a change. You can choose to recognize them as such, set them aside and make a conscious choice of what to do next or you can continue to nurture them and preclude the joy you wish to experience.

Pressing harder

In the face of problems, when fatigued, not feeling well, not wanting to disappoint others, we tend to press harder for the desired result. Yet we all know that when we back away in these situations, we accelerate the achievement of the desired goal. Which are you going to choose: to continue to press harder or to back away and achieve your goal more quickly?

Self-limiting attitude

How often do we forgo something we desire because we don’t feel like we have the talent, background or experience to be successful? How much time do we spend regretting the fact that we didn’t pursue something that we wanted?

In reality, our power lies in our ability to learn and adapt, not in background, experience or talent. Passion and your ability to learn and adapt assures success in any endeavor you pursue. Are you going to choose to trust your ability to learn and adapt? Or are you going to choose to continue depriving yourself of what you desire?

Failing to delegate

Who among us hasn’t performed a task because for one of the following reasons?

  • No one does it as well as I do.
  • I like things done a certain way.
  • It takes longer to explain that to just do it.

We delay, if not prevent, the achievement of our goals because we fail to delegate tasks that would enable us to accelerate the attainment of what we desire. Now that you are aware of these tendencies, what will you choose to do moving forward?

Avoiding confrontation

The vast majority of us don’t enjoy confrontation, so we avoid it. The problem with inaction is that the problem doesn’t go away. Indeed, inaction actually encourages the very behaviors we find distressing. The solution is not to avoid confrontation, but replace it with the significantly less threatening approach: questions.

Instead of disagreeing ask:

  • What would happen if…?
  • How would that work in [this situation]?
  • Is it true that….?
  • If instead of [a,b,c] we tried [a,c,b], what would happen?

You have a choice of whether to confront or pose questions? The former adds complexity to your life, the latter doesn’t.

So what does this mean for you and your kids?

For you

As I said earlier, the complexity in our lives is directly related to the choices we make. Far too many of our choices are made subconsciously or in an emotional state. These choices add complexity to our lives.

Conversely, when we set emotions aside in favor of conscious, objective analysis, we not only make better decisions, our lives become much simpler.

Think of complexity as a spectrum. Subconscious, emotionally-charged decisions land us squarely on the high end of the complexity spectrum. Well-reasoned decisions, those made without emotion and after objective analysis, position us on the low end of the complexity spectrum.

The difference between complexity and simplicity is a pause. When we’re in an emotional state, a simple pause does two things:

  1. Our emotions wane.
  2. The number of available options open to us increases dramatically.

Get in the habit of pausing when emotional and you’ll find that your life becomes much simpler.

For more tips on avoiding complexity, check out my book Simplifying Life (opens in a new link).

For our kids

Teach the kids in your life the power of the pause and their lives will be much, much simpler and, consequently, more joyful.

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I love hearing your thoughts and experiences, please share them in a comment.

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