Simplicty as a Value

How many of you value simplicity?  It is something we hear a lot about but rarely give it much attention.  Nevertheless, in the pursuit of happiness, don't you think simplicity would be a part of the equation?  It seems that in the 21st century, this is not the case.


Technology should make our lives easier and in many ways, it has.  Who can argue with the fact that it is much quicker and simpler to reheat something in the microwave as opposed to the oven?  Cell phones keep us in contact and allow us to conduct business during down times like when driving.  This increases productivity while enabling up to expand our reach.  Certainly, the Internet revolutionized the way life is lived.  Shopping is now done online as opposed to entering into a store.  Research requires only an Internet connection versus having to spend hours in the public library.  Book publishing and other fields were completely altered enabling new people access who normally would not.  Overall, these innovations have improved our lives.

There is also a downside to all this.  Because of these same technological innovations, we now see our lives ever more complex.  To start, we now live in a 24 hour world.  Shopping, just mentioned, now can take place any time of the day.  No longer are people relegated to only those hours which the store is open.  The phone technology means that we are constantly in communication to the point we cannot escape it.  Laptops and tablets enable people to bring work home with them negating the previous excuse "the files are at the office".  All told, we are becoming captive to the very devices meant to free us.

Economic Prosperity

There is no doubt we live in a society that promotes consumerism.  Advertisers are paid big money to deliver a message to people which gets them to take action.  And what is that action?  Obviously, to buy the product.  In the western cultures, we witnessed economic prosperity grow enormously over the last few decades.  Even though salaries might not have kept pace with inflation, the fact is many things are a lot cheaper than before.  The technological breakthrough enables more people to have more for less.  Consider televisions.  Today, you can buy a flatscreen for a few hundred dollars.  10 years ago a similar device cost in the thousands.  It is not uncommon to see homes in poor neighborhoods with televisions, xbox, and other electronic gadgets.  Consumerism was a homerun for the culture.

But again, we see little correlation between the economic prosperity and happiness.  We know this because every study reveals an increase in depression, drug and alcohol addiction, domestic abuse, and anger management.  Even though society, in general, has more "toys", this did not translate into a happier time.  A case could be made that we are the unhappiest people in the history of man.


Few people like complexity.  Think back to high school: who other than the nerdiest among us enjoyed those complex math problem in Algebra or Calculus class?  People innately prefer things to be simple.  We are constantly seeking the easiest resolution to problems.  It is something that we naturally value.  However, we seem to do more to complicate our lives.  Rarely does someone consciously decide to simply his or her life.

How do we maintain a complex life?  The list is too long to go into here but it is safe to say that almost everything we do complicates our lives.  It starts with the shopping we do.  We purchase items in a quest for instant gratification.  This creates financial strain since all our money is either spent, or worse, dedicated to monthly payments for boats, cars, and other toys.  At the same time, many items are brought home and never used.  Closets all over America are full of clothing and other things with the price tags still on them.  At the same time. we "house" possessions in storage facilities because we do not have enough room in our homes.

Another way we complicate our lives is by making things more important than experiences.  People continually need to be entertained.  They cannot enjoy the simplest of pleasures.  If joy is to be attained, it need to be expensive and include one of the toys.  Short of that, there is no happiness.  People overlook the simple pleasures that mean a lot.  The habit of always being on the go means people miss out on what is around them.  But we live in a world which operates at insane speed.  Individuals are expected to keep up.

I am certain that if you spent some time pondering how you make your live complex, you will realize that perhaps you need to simplify things.  Look at technology to decide where you are enslaved and how you can alter things to use it to your advantage.  At the same time, clear of your calendar and schedule time for simple pleasures.  Slow down is a good mantra to keep in your head.  Make simplicity a value and implement in all the areas you can.  Anyone who did this will tell you how it is a worthwhile proposition.

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