This is not an article about Marie Kondo, although I do support her methods and am thankful for the closure she provides when I get rid of a pair of socks. Then again, this could be about Marie if we go that direction, but that was not the intent. If you need to declutter, be my guest.
My intent is to take a few minutes to remind you of the beauty and goodness in simplicity. The word “simple” can be taken in different ways depending on its context. Describing a person or a place as simple is not seen as positive, but at our core, we do desire simplicity, and the “simple life.” Remember that song? It’s from the 50s, but to me, it’s forever implanted in my mind thanks to Father of the Bride – “I don’t believe in frettin’ and grievin’; why mess around with strife? … Just serve me tomatoes; and mashed potatoes; Give me the simple life.”
There is something in our culture that craves simplicity. That seems to be the appeal of the movie, isn’t it? This idea that we want to “simply” settle down in comfort, even though the reality of that house, portrayed in that film, is far beyond the reach of a lot of us. So, what does simplicity look like in our day-to-day?
Simplicity in Work
This quote from Albert Einstein has quickly become one of my favorites: “If you can’t explain it to a six-year-old, you don’t understand it yourself.” It took me approximately five years to realize the material I was exposed to at work was not above my head but rather it was people pretending to know things that they didn’t. My first post as a Contract Specialist supported a program involving nuclear science and physics. I assumed it was all above my head, but realized, over time, these concepts were explainable and understandable.
My growth in this area required me to engage more with the topics and the people involved. Luckily for me, I crossed paths with some people willing to explain or share their knowledge. So, whether it be work, or the task ahead of you, don’t automatically assume something is above your understanding. Be open and ready to learn new things.
One way to provide simplicity in your own work is to proofread. Reading something I’ve written, at least once over, has saved me more times than I can count. This principle applies to whatever we make or create. Take some extra time to review what you have done, there are improvements to be made.
Simplicity in Relationships
If you ask someone what their favorite relationship looks like, I guarantee it involves a level of simplicity. We want to connect with people that are clear in their communications. With those who are consistent and dependable, the ones you can be with and nothing is required of you.
Remember that relationships are a two-way street. On top of what we look for in others, we need to look for how we offer these qualities to others. Do we allow for a simple environment for our family and friends to inhabit? Do we provide clear communication, are we reliable, do we require too much from people? Your relationships will improve if you can move toward a direction of simplicity.
And lastly on the relational track, we can be simple with ourselves. Being that people-pleaser type, I realized the need to give myself a break. Instead of worrying about being the perfect contribution to people’s lives, I can happily and simply contribute what I am capable of without the concern of never doing enough.
Simplicity in Approach
With all of these things, it is about our approach. Often, what we perceive to be our obstacle to simplicity is just hard work. We are quick to assume we can’t figure things out or that challenges are beyond us, when really, we don’t want to take the time and effort to learn. This looks different for each person as we tackle a variety of challenges in our lives. Each task or relational victory is gained through hard work.
Whether learning a new language, playing the piano, writing an algebraic equation, or how to restore a broken relationship, we can tackle each by taking that next step closer to our goal. You probably have a million ideas on your to-do list. Start with one. We may not discover the answer to every mystery in life and some things may remain forever unknown.
But we’ll never get anywhere if we assume every path in front of us is overly complex and beyond us. Assume that your challenge is simple, and start with that next step.
James Abyad is a GovLoop Featured Contributor. He lives in Alexandria, VA, and loves people, food, music, geography, languages, and Tolkien. His full-time job is just another basic federal employee, specifically a contracting officer, while fully enjoying the Washington, D.C., region. After studying International Relations and Arabic at American University, he aspired to work in diplomacy or a related non-profit; yet, like most millennials, he is trying to pay his student loans off first. So, in the meantime, you can find him investing time in family, friends, community, church, spin, and eating. You can read his posts here.