As humans, we so often over complicate things. It’s almost as if we see a simple solution and think “Nah, couldn’t be that easy” and then proceed to look for a more complex solution. Of course, it certainly isn’t helping by having common sayings in our culture such as –
“If it seems too good to be true, it probably is”
We are incredibly complex beings and maybe we believe that everything else also has to be complicated to be valid. The problem is, quite often that isn’t the case. Many of the problems we are faced with can actually have very simple solutions if we only look for them.
I for one am definitely no exception to over-complicating things. In my work as a film editor and visual effects artist, I would often over-complicate things simply to show off (although I never would’ve admitted that at the time). I would make things bigger and “better” and increase their complexity to demonstrate my visual effects and editing prowess, in my artistically manly chest-beating way. Of course, it was nonsense and a lot to do with my own ego at the time. Eventually, I learned that making a great film was not about how good the effects were or my ability to edit in a way that was better than anyone else. By making it about the technique and skill, I was missing the point. Making a film is about the story. My skill as an editor and visual effects artist was purely there to serve the best possible telling of the story.
Once I focused on this simple truth, my editing and visual effects skill no longer mattered as my only passion became about the story. If you look at my work over the years, you’ll see it becoming more and more invisible. Meaning that you don’t actually notice it because it all seems so fluid and part of the experience that it no longer stands out on its own. The most interesting observation I made in this process is that often it was the simplest approach that gave the best results.
As an experiment, a number of years ago, I took this principle into the real word to see if it still applied. Since then, I have noticed more and more that it is indeed the simplest things that bring me the most joy.
My first step was to become aware of when I was overcomplicating things. This came fairly easily after all the practise I’d had at recognising it in the film world. Simply by becoming aware of the mounting complexity of any situation or problem, I am able to stop, take a moment to breathe and pull back from my thoughts and attachments. To let go of the preconceived “this is how it needs to be done” fixations and just take the time to look at the situation or problem from different angles and perspectives. As many as I can perceive.
A technique I use to see a problem or situation from many angles is to give whatever I am focusing on a visual representation. This is essentially a mental proxy that represents the problem as a whole. I visualise it as if it was a full colour 3D holographic image in front of me. From here I physically reach out and turn it around to look at it from the other side. Then upside down to see it from that angle. I turn, look and examine it from every angle. Enlarging areas to get a clearer image and shrinking it down to see an overall perspective. Sometimes I bring in visual representations to other connecting problems and see how they are joined. Twisting and turning and examining them all.
By doing this and linking a physical action to it as if I am really reaching out with my hands to manipulate this hologram, I am programming my unconscious mind to look for different solutions. You see our unconscious mind doesn’t work literally, it uses symbolism and metaphor to understand and interpret the world. By actively creating, visualising and physically interacting with the raw symbols and metaphors, we are connecting directly to our unconscious mind. The answer may not come instantly, and in all honestly probably won’t when you first start practising it, but it will come.
The next step is to allow time for your unconscious mind to process what has just happened and work out the solution. Go and do something else. Something grounding. For me, it’s the dishes or cleaning the house or something like that. Most importantly, however, let go of any preconceived ideas of how it should be and become open to alternative and simple solutions flowing to you.
It may pop into your mind as if by immaculate conception or you may be prompted by something that triggers a new thought with a solution. Often for me, it’ll be while I’m falling down a social media rabbit hole, or walking down the street and see something that triggers the thoughts.
The most interesting thing of all is that quite often, new realisations of how to address a problem are often significantly simpler than before. And it’s surprising how often a solution that I had originally dismissed for its lack of complexity, turns out to be the best way. Maybe there’s a lesson there for me in trusting my own intuition more.
Like everything, the more practise at doing this, the more naturally it becomes to see the simplest way in the first place. I’ve noticed that my need for visualising a problem has decreased dramatically over the years as I am becoming aware of the simplest approach first up. By acting on this without second-guessing gives it power in my mind and has become the natural way of thinking.
So what are you over-complicating in your life?