Who among us hasn’t wondered why life has to be so complicated? The reality is that it isn’t complicated; we make it so.
I’m certain that’s not what you want to hear, but allow me cite examples of how we complicate our lives so that you can see whether you’ve engaged in any of these complicating behaviors. Then we’ll discuss ways to avoid adding complications to your life in the future.
It’s a natural human tendency to nurture our emotions, particularly doubts and fears. This nurturing behavior perpetuates the anguish we experience. It also diminishes our decision-making capabilities. For while we are in an emotional state a significant portion of our mental capacity is engaged in our emotional drama and, hence, is not available for the objective analysis needed for decision making.
Even positive emotions of joy and happiness, when nurtured, can lead to complications. During our euphoria, we can lose sight of our goals and, consequently, stop doing what’s necessary to achieve what we desire. We are also less aware of, and less prepared for, challenges we’ll face in the future. The surprise we experience when new challenges appear lead to doubts about our abilities and fears that we won’t achieve what we desire. Emotions that we tend to nurture.
How can we avoid this complication? When you experience an emotional reaction, remind yourself that emotions are beneficial until they’re nurtured. Then set the emotion aside in favor of objective analysis of the situation. By “objective,” I mean that you’re not judging the situation as good or bad; it’s simply something with which you will deal effectively once you’ve set emotion aside.
That brings us to another way in which we complicate life: judgment.
When we judge others, or situations, as being good or bad, right or wrong, we complicate our lives. The reason is that judgment creates bias and bias limits the number of potential solutions we are able to see.
I’ve seen this often in the corporate environment when managers deal with underperforming employees. They’ll assume that the person needs more training so training is the solution they employ when, in reality, the person may be:
- Bored with the work they’re doing.
- Dealing with competing demands from different sources.
- Dealing with health or family issues.
- Have discovered that the company’s values and theirs don’t align.
All of these possible reasons for the employee’s poor performance are overlooked because the manager made a judgment about the reason for the poor performance. This result occurs as readily in judgments made about people and situations of a more personal nature.
Another problem with judgment is that when we judge, we take a position that we later feel compelled to defend. As part of that defense, we are trying to protect our ego…the way we appear to others. Defending a position precludes the possibility of seeing common interests that can lead to results that benefit all involved.
You can avoid this complication by recognizing that judgment is an emotional reaction. As with any emotion, we can’t prevent judgment. Emotions are automatic responses. We can, however, recognize that it’s an emotional reaction that can quickly be set aside in favor of an unbiased search for a mutually-beneficial solution.
We all get frustrated at times. That’s not the problem; the problem is in how we deal with the frustration. A natural human tendency is to press harder to work our way past the frustration when, in reality, we discover ways past our frustration more quickly when we step away from the situation and allow the frustration to abate.
I can’t begin to count the number of times that, upon walking away from a frustrating situation, the solution appeared almost instantly. Again, it’s the absence of emotion that frees our minds, conscious and subconscious, to enable us to find solutions quickly.
Here’s what normally happens when we get frustrated. We press harder, our frustration mounts and intensifies with each failed attempt until we exhaust ourselves emotionally. It’s only at the point of exhaustion that we release the frustration. That’s when solutions appear. So why not short-cut the cycle by walking away as soon as you feel yourself getting frustrated? It’s an easy way to avoid complicating your life.
So far we’ve been discussing situational frustration, but what about dealing with frustrating people? More often than not the reason why we find others frustrating is that they possess a different perspective, possibly a different set of values, than we do.
When dealing with people with differing values and perspectives, our natural tendency is to show them the error of their ways…how faulty their reasoning is. This approach usually ends up with them becoming defensive which intensifies our attempts to persuade them to our point of view, triggering an endless spiral of escalating defensiveness by both parties.
I’m not suggesting that you withhold your point of view. I am suggesting that when you realize that you’re dealing with someone who is firmly entrenched in their position that you respect their right to their beliefs. If you’re unwilling to do that, then you are opening the door to others to impose their beliefs on you.
Attempting to persuade others with differing values and perspectives leads to frustration and a biased mindset on your part. You’ll think “the person is an idiot.” Both your frustration and your bias complicate your life needlessly.
If you want to avoid this complication, stop trying to change the minds of people with strong beliefs. It’s a fool’s errands that not only results in frustration for both parties, but precludes the possibility of either party considering the other person’s position.
These are just three examples of how we complicate our lives. There are many more. If you’d like a broader overview of how we complicate our lives and how to avoid doing so, I refer you to my book: Simplifying Life (opens in a new link).
Whenever you find yourself wondering “Why does life have to be so complicated?,” ask yourself, “What am I doing that makes this more complicated than it needs to be?”
The simple act of asking yourself this question opens your mind to a whole array of possible ways in which you can make life simpler. Act upon the answers you get and you’ll find that life is indeed simpler than you imagined.
For our kids
When you see kids viewing something as being complicated, ask them:
- Is it really that complicated? Or are you making it more complicated than necessary?
- What could you do differently to make this less complicated?
Then let them know that your experience has been that you have discovered that you are the source of complications in your life…as is true for everyone. The people who enjoy a simple life are those who recognize this fact and look first to what they’re doing to add complication to the situation they’re facing.
With this simple lesson you can set your kids on a path to a simpler, more enjoyable life.
Let others know that you love them by sharing this blog post. They’ll appreciate that you care.
I love hearing your thoughts and experiences, I look forward to seeing your wisdom in a comment.
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