“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.