To Master Your Life, Reduce Its Complexity



Our world is full of challenges. We can avoid them while we’re young, but growing up requires accepting a larger burden of responsibility. Eventually, we’ll have to take charge of our career development, finances, well-being, and household management. Few of us grow up with the training to tackle difficulties on each of these fronts. Everyone has to learn constantly to survive.

We have unprecedented access to information through the internet and our devices. It can be a great aid in terms of learning anything. But this flood of information can also prove overwhelming. You need to be able to separate what’s useful from everything else. Guess what? Vetting the credibility of information sources is yet another new skill for most people to learn.

If you’ve ever felt that living in the modern world is impossibly complex and leads to our lives feeling busier than ever, you’re not alone. Yet sometimes we are guilty of making life more complicated than it should be. Here’s how you can start to eliminate that complexity from yours.

Seeking out the simple

A lot of us don’t like to confront simple, hard truths. Someone who struggles with debt might blame their low-paying jobs, the difficult economic situation, a high cost of living, and so on. Such external factors are largely out of our control. But there are other things you can do to offset these negatives. Practices such as paying monthly bills on time, or tracking and curtailing non-essential spending, can make a big difference.

In general, people have a tendency to favor complications. This is called complexity bias, and understanding how it works may give you useful insights on how to steer your life in the direction of simplicity. Shifting the blame in the direction of complexity takes the responsibility off one’s shoulders. But it ignores the many other aspects of a problem which they could control to get a grip on their situation.

Besides blinding you to the recognition of productive solutions, complexity bias can affect your life in many other ways. Ads and influencers on social media want to convince you that a specific product containing specific ingredients is necessary. Or that going through a certain routine using innovative new equipment will lead to personal improvement. If you don’t recognize what’s happening, you could become increasingly dependent on material goods. You might unwittingly be adopting an approach of throwing money at problems to make them go away.

Recognize your dependencies

This doesn’t mean that new products, routines, or equipment are worthless. The problem lies in the underlying principle. If you follow the path of increased complexity, whatever benefits you receive are intertwined with it to an extent. This creates dependence.

In the business world, leaders who are skilled in risk management will actively seek ways to reduce complexity. Studies have shown that increasing size and complexity increases an organization’s exposure to disaster. The dependencies created make operations entangled and slow to react to change. Employees can’t make good decisions because of the dominant bureaucracy. Eventually, a major disruption causes the business to crash.

The same principle operates in our personal lives. When a smartphone starts to demonstrate signs of performance drops, or visible wear and tear, many people would simply go out and buy the latest model. They become so dependent on technology that the decision to favor complexity is taken automatically.

Start to reclaim control of your life and make choices that favor simplicity. Take your device to a phone repair shop and have it serviced for a fraction of the cost while extending its useful lifespan. Free yourself from thinking that whatever is new and exciting is also appreciably better.

A change of philosophy

Decluttering one’s home became a trend because it resonated with many people who found themselves accumulating too many possessions. We don’t really need all of them to survive.

The same philosophy can be extended across your life. Be critical of your decisions through the lens of complexity. Do you really need to buy a product? Invest your limited time and energy in an activity? Make a new social commitment? All of these things could potentially be increasing the complexity of your life without actually enriching it. They might only lead to more challenges, require you to buy more products, learn new systems, and so on.

Recognize when you need to avoid complexity in life, and steer clear of the dependencies that leave you further entangled in its web. You’ll find that you’re less busy and have time for things that truly matter.