Simplicity on the Other Side of Complexity

Simplicity on the Other Side of Complexity
{ via 3 Lives Left on Society6 }


This is a post from guest contributor Mike Burns of The Other Side of Complexity. Mike has just released a fantastic e-book, ‘Simpler: Declutter Your Life and Focus on What’s Important‘. Grab your copy here.


Let’s start this off with a confession…My life can be kind of complicated.

Don’t get me wrong…I love my life. I wouldn’t trade it.

I am grateful for the relationships and opportunities that I have. But with relationships and opportunities come potential complications.

  • I am married, and I have six children.
  • My kids have different hobbies, passions, and personalities.
  • I work a full-time job.
  • Outside of that, I blog every week about living well.
  • I write books and create video content.
  • I help coordinate a band with some family members.
  • I have relatives that live across the country.
  • My career has taken me to multiple states.
  • I have friends that live all over the place, and we try to stay in touch.

I could continue, but you get the picture…

I say these things to emphasize a point:

My life isn’t always simple.

But it is simpler than it used to be.

Over the past several years, I’ve been pursuing simplicity. I’ve been working to eliminate the unnecessary so I could focus on the things that are important to me. It’s made a huge difference in my peace of mind, my work, my family and my approach to life.

But things don’t always work out according to plan.

  • Stuff breaks.
  • Relationships get awkward.
  • Jobs are eliminated.
  • Emergency Room visits rack up unexpected bills.
  • Cars break down before you finish paying for them.
  • Paint fades.
  • Roofs leak.

Depressed, yet?

I know the items in this list sound negative, but they’re true.

Ignoring the facts doesn’t do us any good. Life isn’t always easy.

Some people allow this realization to hinder them from pursuing simplicity. They push back against the idea that you can eliminate clutter and focus on your priorities. They surrender to the chaos and assume that it will always be this way.

I understand where they’re coming from, but I feel bad for them. There is more to the story.

Simple is relative. It’s better realized when compared to the alternative.

Wherever you are, things can get simpl…er. In fact, if you really work at it, you can even get it down to where you drop the “r” and just call it plain “simple”. When compared to the whirlwind you see around you, your life can look like a peaceful walk on the beach.

Hopefully, you hear the honesty in my approach. I’m not going to make any promises about a trouble-free life where everything is serene and natural. Simplicity takes work. But it’s good work. And it’s worth it.

It’s not the “easy way out”. It comes with effort. But the value is great.

There is a famous quote that has been attributed to Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr. Perhaps you’ve heard it.

“For the simplicity on this side of complexity, I wouldn’t give you a fig. But for the simplicity on the other side of complexity, for that I would give you anything I have.”

As is the case with all fairly-old quotations, these words are used in a variety of ways to prove a variety of things. I’m not going to try to prove anything with them. They just inspire me. In fact, this quote is the source from which I chose the name of my blog.

Here’s what it triggers in my mind: An idea of simplicity that doesn’t acknowledge the fact that life is complicated is naïve. However, there is a different kind of simplicity that is found when we don’t surrender and keep working toward it.

That’s the kind of simplicity I am realizing. It’s a more realistic simplicity. Joshua Becker, of becoming minimalist calls it “rational minimalism”.

You may be thinking to yourself, “Nice quote, Mike, but what do I DO about it?”

Good question.

Here are four things to get you started:

1. Scrap the unrealistic ideal.

It doesn’t help anyone when we paint an unattainable picture of a life with no complication or drama. Whether we communicate it blatantly, or by implication, we do ourselves and the people around us a disservice. Life isn’t easy.

2. Embrace conflict.

It happens. We should get used to it. We don’t have to like it. We just have to accept it as a reality that will be with us for the rest of our lives.

3. Don’t be content to live your entire life as a slave to the whirlwind.

Accept that conflict is a reality, but REFUSE to let it stop you from going forward. You are not doomed to being the victim.

4. Work through the complexity and find focus.

As you encounter resistance and things get more complex, learn from them. Push through the mess and find the clearing on the other side. Many people never do. They drown in trivia. Don’t let that be the case in your life.

If you look around, you will find plenty of people who are overwhelmed with all sorts of things. In fact, at times, it feels like they are the majority.

But there are also others who have determined that life is too short to be cynical. They are learning that there is joy to be found in a life lived in spite of the negative things that try to hinder us.

That’s what I want for my life. How about you?

5 Responses to Simplicity on the Other Side of Complexity

  1. #3 was a concept that I started to get may arms around in the last 6 months. A dumbed down version in terms of relationships is, this is your problem not mine and I refuse to make it mine. Or conflicts such as losing your job or the stove breaking down is just a problem to be solved. If you can let go of the emotional side, all the rest follows suit.

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