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Slow Down, Simplify, and Clear Your Mind and You’ll Get Better Results

“The real you, the inner you, is pure, very pure. It understands. It has patience. It will wait forever while your ego trots all over everywhere trying to figure life out.” ~Stuart Wilde

There’s a common myth I think we all fall prey to: If something is important, it has to be complicated.

Surely, if what we want is easy—be it a business venture or a happier life—then everyone would be going for it, wouldn’t they?

Well, yes, in a way. But I’ve found that while the road to success and happiness isn’t always smooth sailing, it’s usually us who overcomplicate matters.

When we learn to get out of our own way, we might actually get the results we want a whole lot faster.

Slowing Down to Speed Up

You see, I’ve been aware of this idea of creating space, slowing down, and simplifying for a long time, but it’s only  recently that I’ve fully grasped what it’s all about from a deeper level of understanding.

Growing up I was quite a creative soul, and as I moved into my teenage years I began to write songs. It was then that I was first introduced to this idea of simplicity of both form and message.

A teacher once told me that it wasn’t the notes you played that made the music special, it was the space between the notes. The beauty was in what you didn’t play.

At the time I kind of understood what he meant, but more on an intellectual level rather than insightfully.

I always felt I had to learn more; to put more notes and more ideas into the music I made. So I’d layer more guitars, buy new keyboards, put in whatever I could find to make it feel bigger, more accomplished.

What I now know, of course, is that all I was doing was muddying the waters. This perhaps was why my musical career never took off in the way I wanted. Similarly, a few years after, I turned to another passion of mine and started acting. Again, I did okay by and large. I got myself an agent, did some short films, a few plays, a tour.

But again, faced with fear, uncertainty, and doubt, I wobbled. I wrongly thought I needed more techniques—that, if I had more theory at my disposal, I’d never have to deal with the insecurity that came from exposing the real me.

I steadily found myself overcomplicating my craft. One more course, one more book on acting and I’d become the actor I could be.

I trained and I read and I watched master classes until my head swam with so many different ideas that I eventually forgot the only real important part: to be present and connected with the other actor in front of me.

Releasing Control Doesn’t Mean You Don’t Try

In both these cases I found myself overcomplicating everything so much that it stopped being fun. I was trying to control something that never was meant to be controlled.

The worst part of all this was that, intellectually speaking at least, I knew this. I knew that simplicity was the key to creating anything good in the world.

When something is stripped down, pure and totally authentic, it cannot help but be rich with energy, spirit, and truth.

I knew this, but I think back then I only knew it in my head, not in my heart. I wasn’t confident enough to trust in it. In a way, complicating things felt safer because it tricked me into thinking I was being productive, while taking the focus off my own insecurities and vulnerability

And I think this is where a lot of us can struggle.

We overcomplicate things because doing so takes the attention away from the root of who we are.

We’re scared of sitting quietly with ourselves, so we do everything we can to keep the lights on and the dance floor full.

We worry that if we let go of our habitual, insecure thinking, we might not like what we find in those quiet moments.

Yet these quiet moments are actually the times when we can allow real progress to be made.

When our minds are clear and we’re connected with who we are—before all the thinking and stories and beliefs we’ve piled on top of ourselves since birth—we are more resourceful and resilient than we might ever give ourselves credit for.

We don’t ever need to think ourselves into getting better results; we just need to trust that our innate wisdom is always there if we slow down and connect with it.

As Lao Tzu wrote: We turn clay to make a vessel; but it is in the space where there is nothing that the usefulness of the vessel depends.

I think this is apparent more and more in this modern world, where we all willingly plug ourselves into the matrix.

If we never slow down and get off the hamster wheel, we can avoid the emptiness we expect is waiting for us.

Yet, this is an unfounded fear.

Sure, it might seem that simplifying our lives and our experiences will leave us devoid of fun.

It might appear that surrendering to the present moment will take us further away from the life we want.

We might believe that unless we keep latched on to our thinking we can’t possibly get to where we’re going.

Yet, in reality, the space we allow to open up when we slow down and simplify actually fills up pretty quickly.

And, instead of that cold unforgiving abyss, what actually comes flooding in is love and resilience. And with it, a clarity of mind that promotes insight and high performance.

In allowing ourselves this space, we access infinitely better results than if we stayed stuck in our heads, overcomplicating our lives with stressful thinking.

I’m not suggesting we all just tune out of life and bury our heads in the sand. I’m suggesting that when we ground ourselves in the realization that insecure thinking never gets us what we want, we can then move forward with a much stronger footing.

Overcomplicating matters never works well for us, whether writing music, acting, or figuring out what to do next in life.

When we drop out of our thinking and connect to ourselves and the present moment, the answer often shows itself to us. Why? Because we’ve given it the space to appear.

Without that space, all we have is the same old thoughts and ideas cluttering up our heads.

These ideas haven’t served us well in the past, so why do we think we’ll find the answers there now?

As Einstein wrote, the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

I used to believe that if I wanted to achieve something, or if I had a problem I had to solve, the only way I’d get there was to go up in my head and think my way to a solution.

But this too was just a symptom of overcomplicating matters—a fear of surrendering to what is.

As I’ve traveled further on my journey of self-awareness, I’ve come to understand the true inside-out nature of how life works. I recognize more and more how the old way of being never helped me, and that when we give ourselves space and clarity of thought, we allow new ideas to form.

Whether we’re stressed, anxious, or trying to work out how best to achieve what we want, the less we have on our mind, the better life gets.

So if we are learning to move away from thinking our way to solutions, what do we do instead?

We slow down. We take away.

The beauty of these concepts is that we don’t have to learn lots of new techniques to get the results we want. It’s not about adding things but simply stripping away all the stuff that inhibits us.

Trust that going up into your head and doing loads of that really, really good thinking only really takes you out of the present moment.

Usually in these moments you’ll be imagining a past that you think is warning you of something or a future event that scares you from moving forward. But the operative word here is “imagining.” These experiences aren’t real. Yes, it’s very easy to think your feelings about them are telling you something. They never are. You are only ever feeling your thinking in the present moment.

When you become fully aware of this, you quickly reconnect with yourself and fall back into reality, where insights can happen and you can take action.

To better help with this understanding and create a space for insight to happen, I find it helps to get away from distractions strategically throughout the day. Go for a walk in nature; book some quiet time with yourself for reflection; and actively disconnect from your emails and phone for an hour or so.

Little acts like this create exponential results when you allow yourself the space and clarity to fully connect with yourself and the world.

When we’re calmer and more relaxed, everything comes a lot more easily. By creating a peaceful, quiet space around us, we allow our innate wisdom and well-being to come to the surface.

This is who you are before the world put all the thoughts and worries and stories on you.

This is you, uncomplicated, unencumbered.

Pure, elegant, resourceful.

Think about it; did you ever really get any great ideas or solve any major problems when you were stressed, stuck in your head, and anxious? Don’t you usually get your best ideas when you’re calm, clear-headed, and relaxed? Perhaps in the shower or when out walking?

Life was never meant to be a struggle.

If I’d known this earlier, maybe I’d have been a more successful songwriter or better actor. Yet, I wouldn’t change anything about my journey, and with these new insights I have no desire to be anywhere else than where I am: here. In the moment. Connected.

The bottom line is simple: learn to trust that when your head is clear of thoughts this isn’t you not trying; this is exactly the right condition to allow new insights and ideas to appear.

With this new understanding, you free yourself up to fully connect with who you really are.

You are free to play music, act, or do whatever you see fit, from a place of simplified ease. You surrender any ego-driven desire and enjoy your present reality.

Letting yourself go and really trusting in that stillness will take courage, but when you do, I think you’ll find that life suddenly feels a whole lot richer, and less complicated in the best possible way.

About Matt Hattersley

Matt Hattersley helps people find the clarity of mind that enables them to create more of the life they want. Doing so they experience a strong personal transformation which, in turn, allows them to build stronger relationships, have more successful careers and live happier lives. Connect with him here and get a free copy of 3 Steps to Deeper Clarity & Better Performance.

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  • Jake

    Disagree with your last comment. Life has always been a struggle, life is hard. Poverty, wars, education, crime, racism, and sexism. Are real struggles which millions of people go through everyday.

  • Thanks for the comment Jake, and of course, life is hard. And I’m in no way dismissing the issues faced by countless people in countless situations. I’m not inferring it ISN’T hard only that at our core we all have the potential to make life better. When people feel threatened, insecure and victimised because they believe outside circumstances have power over how they feel they lash out, they build hate and all the things you mention appear. But if we approach life with a responsibility for ourselves, our feelings and our actions we can forge a better day to day experience for ourselves and others. Big love

  • Jake

    Well answered, thanks Matt. Big love

  • Anna Strong

    Very helpful to me, applicable to various aspects in life. Thank you for sharing. It was much needed. 🙂

  • Omar

    Hi Matt

    Thank you for writing this article.

    I too have come into a place in my life where it has come together.

    It really is very simple yet so profound. Get out of your own way, relinquish control and surrender to the present moment. Practically speaking this means that we need to be aware of the content of our thoughts and learn to let go of any unnecessary thinking which for me happens almost always 🙂

  • Ryan Stegmann

    Man this article could not have been more well timed. Thank you for your insight and solidifying the thoughts I had a about my own gut feeling. For so long I’ve been pushing to create success within certain areas of my life and constantly had the feeling of being pulled back almost like my gut was saying “not now”. Pushing myself all the time but constantly feeling like I was holding myself back with no explanation why. This has cleared up so much for me.
    Thank you again.

  • There is so much truth to your article Matt. The things that we seek and the answers we want are usually right in front of us but we can’t see them because we’ve clouded our vision with complications. I find that when I step away from a problem and do something unrelated AND peaceful, the answer appears…as if by magic.

    All I have done, as you eluded to, is created space for the solution to appear.

    Great article and well done.

  • Thanks so much for this Anna. Great to hear its resonating with people. Best wishes MH

  • Thanks and lovely to hear Omar. Great insights and as you say, simple but profound. Love how you put this. MH

  • Right on Ryan. Thanks for this. And also your FB message. Sorry not replied yet as I’ve had a busy week but will catch up very soon. So glad its connected with you and its helped and look forward to staying in touch. Big love

  • It looks like magic Joel, but I’d say thats you. The power of you – when you’re uncluttered and connected to your innate wisdom and inspiration. I love this and I appreciate your comments. Bestest wishes. MH

  • Jean Cristyen

    Great article Matt. The space that you are talking about is the Silence. The hyperconnected world in which we live has forgotten what Silence is. Ramana Maharshi said that Silence is also conversation. The only moment that we can rediscover the Silence is when, like you said, you slow down and clear the mind. Mindfulness meditation can bring that.

  • Hi Jean, thanks for your comment. I love that you describe it this way and totally agree. Of course whether you call it Silence, Mind, Your Higher Self, God, Love or whatever – they are all just metaphors for something formless that can’t really be described. When you feel it though, you know. And yes meditation is wonderful of course – but I would say that’s still a DOING, its still a technique, whereas what I’m talking about here I think is more of a subtractive, surrender to life and our connection to something that is always there after we take away all that has defined us. M

  • I really enjoyed reading this post. I have recently become more aware of the capacity for creativity and focus that comes from slowing down. Unfortunately, this can be challenging because the messages we are exposed to encourage multi tasking, complexity and speed. Connecting to your inner self is something that has been key and my meditation practice has been the only way I’ve found to navigate these over-stimulating times.

  • Jean Cristyen

    Meditation is not a doing. According to Ramana Maharishi, meditation is our natural state.

  • Thanks Erin, and great to hear that you’re slowing down and seeing that you can still be productive and happy (in fact so much more so!) when you connect with yourself, and life and move away from the noise. Big love M

  • Vic

    Really Enjoy this post. Thanks for sharing with us.

  • Thanks so much vic. Be blessed MH

  • Sonia

    Wow! Thanks, Matt! This is very eye-opening. I’m in a middle of a rocky relationship with my boyfriend. Weeks ago, at the time an unpleasant event occurred between me and my boyfriend, I was sick so I got to have some timeout to rest. After reading your post, I found out that I only recovered physically. During that break, my mind was still full of thoughts up until now. I keep thinking to find the root cause of our problem, was it him or was it me? Then when I think it was because of me or at least I could only do best in my part, I try to find a quick fix or solutions or techniques, try to think of ways to improve myself to save this relationship, and then I got stuck and the situation does not change much. My thoughts and emotions circle around themselves. Clearly, I have not recovered from them, those crazy thoughts and wild emotions. My mind is still running around with hope to find answers soon. By reading this post, now I know I should try to sit back and clear my mind. Thanks a lot!

  • You sound like you’ve got a lot of thinking going on Sonia. I hope you get clarity soon. And I hope the article started the ball rolling for that a little. I know from my own experience in relationships how hard it can be to be in that situation.

    If you’d like a chat about it to get you some more clarity we can arrange a conversation. I’d be happy to help you through these issues. Contact me matthattersley@gmail.com. Best wishes Matt.