Simplicity in a world that seems anything but
Growing up, I was passionate about many things but mainly focused on sports. I had aspirations to become a professional athlete, specifically in soccer or golf. After a serious soccer injury, I honed in on golf, earned a D-1 college scholarship, and was on a path to potentially competing on the professional tour. Most weeks during this time of my life, I was practicing and playing golf six or seven days each week, 4-8 hours every day. It was all-consuming. My path detoured for myriad reasons - namely struggles with my mental health and athletic performance - ultimately pursuing other interests after two years in college. Shifting away from my singular focus on sports and starting new endeavors, I set myself up for failure in too many dimensions of life by trying to tackle everything at once.
As I began my professional career in various fields, attended graduate school, engaged in different extracurriculars, and just generally developed into a more well-rounded adult, I often found myself overwhelmed. It was easy to feel lost in the deluge of information and recommendations about what activities I should pursue, and how I should be doing them properly to live a happy, healthy, meaningful life.
Gone were the days of having a singular focus on sports. Life felt more and more complicated as I was growing older. I would read a nutrition article describing the scientifically-proven best diet for sustaining focus and energy. Then a friend would tell me about how their new style of meditation was uplifting their mood and relationships. Coming away from a conversation with a mentor, I would try to make a mental note that I should pursue novel creative endeavors into old age for optimal health.
And I tried to integrate it all - everyone’s advice, personal insights and key learnings - into exhaustive to-do lists, reminders, goals, and intentions. I wanted to master every area of my life. It seemed like self-actualization was an impossible journey without the potential for significant progress and success. And surely, my dedication to building a holistically well-rounded, flourishing life in all respects has not been entirely detrimental.
However, what I’ve realized over time is the power of simplicity for making true and lasting change. Trying to improve oneself by addressing one thing at a time, like doing ten minutes of exercise each day, will almost always prove to be more successful (and enjoyable) when compared to the strategy of simultaneously trying to change numerous areas like starting a new diet, learning a new instrument, and beginning a daily gratitude practice. Similarly, going into a tough conversation and emphasizing one or two points is almost always a vastly superior strategy, compared to dumping ten or twenty issues into the discussion.
In essence, I have come to value and appreciate the power of simplicity in day-to-day life. For example, two weeks ago I started working on improving just one aspect of my physical self - Posture. I must admit, it’s tempting to throw other areas of improvement into the mix, like increasing my endurance while running, building a ton of new muscle, and improving my jump-shot in basketball. But I have made a commitment to solely work on my posture. I have developed a focused set of stretches and exercises to improve my postural health. Since committing to my singular focus on posture, I have already noticed great results rippling out to how I am feeling while walking, standing, running, and sleeping. I would be so much more stressed and apt to fail if I were to add other things into my consciousness.
It should be noted that it is not always easy, choosing which thing to focus on - it can take some trial and error, as well as creativity - but the important thing is to pick one, or max two things and devote energy into these, rather than spraying energy everywhere. Put another way, rather than trying to do everything well, do one thing very well.
Now for storytime… Despite your comedic preferences, Jerry Seinfeld is undoubtedly one of the most prolific comedians ever. But he wasn’t always prolific. Early in his career, as Seinfeld was developing his craft, he devised a simple yet powerful tactic to master his deepest passion, comedy. What did he do? His notorious strategy was committing to write one joke every day. Seinfeld has described this strategy as creating a “chain.” He said his only job was to “not break the chain.” Seinfeld gained a personal sense of accomplishment and momentum from this focus, and his strategy facilitated a massive amount of new content, actually generating exponentially more material over time than just one joke a day.
This concept of simplicity pairs beautifully with engaging in effective communication in relationships. Especially in meaningful and important conversations, it can be tempting to dump all of one’s thoughts, analyses, feelings, and counterpoints - all while not sensing the other person’s receptiveness and critical cues. Alternately, if one conscientiously considers the weight of one’s words, proposes one or two key concepts to discuss, and truly listens to the other perspective in the situation, it is almost guaranteed that the communication will be elevated to new heights. The conversation will be one that feels truly effective, progressive, and successful.
This is the exciting part about the work we do at Flourish. Through powerful coaching, we help clients make simple, effective changes in their personal and interpersonal lives. We exist to catalyze true flourishing. If you haven’t already, I invite you to try it for yourself~
One parting quote to ponder:
“Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.” - Leonardo da Vinci