Simple But Not Easy

When you are receiving advice, whether in a personal or professional setting, you expect a complex solution to a complex problem.

The guy struggling to regain control of his weight.

The guy with a good job but constantly living paycheck to paycheck.

The guy who wants to be a writer but can’t commit to writing any one thing.

You have probably spent hours if not days building up the problem in your mind, and when someone offers a simple solution, you feel betrayed, like your problem deserves an elaborate rube goldberg device. In reality most good advice is frustratingly simple, and is complicated only by human resistance to it.

The simple way to lose weight is to eat less and move more.

The simple way to save more money is to spend less money on things you don’t need.

The simple way to be a writer is to write and post a lot.

When we hear other people’s problems, we have no emotional attachment (or at least, not the same level of emotional attachment) and can quickly identify the key issues and run through a list of possible solutions. This is a core reason why therapists are so valuable and why fields like management consulting (essentially, therapy for C-Suite Execs) pay so well.

People who seek out advice or self-improvement material often get “addicted” to it. They like to consume the uplifting material, but rarely match it with consistent effort. This explains why so many people who consume “self-improvement” materials have often read widely in this field, as if they are searching for a magic cure, or more likely, avoiding doing the work they know they need to do.

So the “solution” (if there is one) is to acknowledge things as being simple but not easy.

Once we acknowledge that the solutions to our problems are simple, we realize that we are more knowledgeable than we think. Simple solutions give us comfort that we had the right answer all along, and makes us less reliant on others to show us the light.

We can also acknowledge that once we have found the simple solution to our problem, its not “easy” to overcome it.

The knowledge that its not easy can motivate us to establish a “system” (in the Scott Adams sense) to better deal with it

Know that is it is difficult can also be comforting when we occasionally fail or fall short of our original goal; we never said it was going to be easy did we?

Over the years I’ve used the mantra of “simple but not easy” to continuously helped me identify areas of improvement and make real progress along the way.