Simple Isn’t Easy

Simple and easy — These are two words that the English language allows people to confuse and that often become the source of misunderstandings of all sorts of sayings, advice, instructions and all manner of other communication.

What’s the difference?

Easy is a measure of difficulty. If something is easy to do, it doesn’t require a great deal of effort and most people will be able to complete the task. The level of ease may depend on other factors, tall people can reach things more easily than short people for example, but generally speaking if something is easy the majority of people will be able to do it without much stress or difficulty.

Simple is a measure of complexity. If something is simple there are few steps involved, or no real decisions or choices to make. A small train station with a single platform makes boarding the right train simple — there’s only one option. By contrast ensuring that you choose the right train at a busy train station is more complex. Simple things can be difficult, and this is where our story begins.

Yeah, but how does that affect me?

There are many things in our lives that are simple. Things that don’t require a great deal of complex thought or decision making, but are nonetheless very, very difficult. These are often things where we need to exercise some self-control or will power and they can become a source of stress when we confuse simple and easy.

Healthy eating, and health in general, can boil down to some very simple concepts for the majority of people. Burn more calories than you consume and you will, out of necessity end up with a healthier body. As simple as this is, it is not easy for the majority of people.

  • Cooking a meal, even a simple one, with lean proteins and vegetables is more difficult than microwaving a pizza or getting a hamburger from the drive-thru. The simple healthy choice has a higher level of difficulty.
  • Going to the gym, and all the ancillary activities like changing, getting there, getting home, is far more difficult than sitting on the couch to watch another three episodes of Game of Thrones. The simple healthy choice has a higher level of difficulty.
  • Health isn’t the only place this happens either. Organization is another great example. Taking the time required to put everything away right after you use it and follow a “clean as you go” type mentality is much more difficult than just leaving things for later. The simple organized choice has a higher level of difficulty.

I get it. So what?

So keep these two things in mind.

If you’ve identified a simple solution to a problem, consider the amount of difficulty involved. Just because something is simple doesn’t mean it’s easy (see above) and the amount of effort and will power required for you to establish the healthy habit is proportional to the difficulty, not the complexity.

Most importantly cut yourself (and others) some slack with these simple things. Keeping in mind that establishing good habits is a difficult process, if sometimes a simple one, and you need to make sure that you take that into account. If you slip up try again. Had a greasy burger? Great, order a salad next time. Left a giant mess in your sink? Fine, clean it up and try to do better next time. Skipped the gym? Go for a walk after Game of Thrones and get back on track tomorrow.

It’s not easy, but it is simple.