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Keep It Simple

Thinking over, over thinking

As humans we tend to overthink everything, from considering what to have for dinner, to deliberating over the best way to phrase a sentence. Overthinking is OK to an extent, but too much can cause anguish, disrupt sleep and have other negative effects on your well-being.

I started thinking about overthinking (the irony) after my phone pinged with a daily Headspace Mindful Moment, which said:

“Meditation is surprisingly straightforward. It’s our perception and overthinking which complicates it”

I read it, agreed and thought that this notion extends beyond meditation. It can be applied to everything.

Let’s start with brands. The Siegel+Gale Global Brand Simplicity Index polls thousands of consumers on the brands and products they find simplest on a number of metrics, from website usability to the brand’s promotional materials. The 2017 results found that the brands which strive for simplicity are in fact more profitable. Over 60% of consumers were more likely to recommend a more ‘simple’ brand, and would actually pay more for a simpler experience.

Now, the main question: what brand was #1? It wasn’t Apple, nor any of the social media platforms. It was actually ALDI for its straightforward shopping experience, lack of complex promotional material and limited choice (too much choice can promote dissatisfaction), and ALDI has held this #1 spot for 4 years! Brands we might have expected to top this list like Facebook (ranked #82) are trying to do too many things, and serve too many purposes at the same time. This doesn’t bode well for us as we like simple!

Embracing simplicity in brands is one thing, but as humans how can we stop overthinking our emotions? How can we prevent our thoughts running wild and over-complicating what we do? Like a habit, we can learn to manage and control our emotions, fundamentally breaking them down to understand them more simply yet deeply. Techniques include showing an awareness of the emotion, trying to understand the why behind it, considering possible solutions, and finally choosing how you want to react.

Even when it comes to one of the most complex emotions, love, keeping it simple seems to be one of the best things we can do. In fact long term love can be predicted by just 3 habits

  1. Thinking positively about one’s partner
  2. Thinking about one’s partner when not with that person
  3. Having an affectionate relationship (hugging, kissing, holding hands)

Beyond emotions and onto life in general, the simplest of things may be the answer to living a healthy, long life. Good sleep, regular movement, a largely plant based diet (Michael Pollan has some great guidelines on food), social interactions and having frequent time to reflect may be all it takes. No health fads, extreme diets, excessive workouts, multivitamins, supplements etc. Strip it down and keep it simple. 

Simplicity seems to be key no matter what the thing is. The less you overthink, the more it can be considered in its most natural and organic form, be it a product, thought or emotion. As Marcus Aurelius put it:

“Do nothing but what is necessary.”

…or as Kelly Johnson said:

“Keep it simple, stupid”

Whichever way you see it or do it, keep it simple. 

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People look for retreats for themselves, in the country, by the coast, or in the hills . . . There is nowhere that a person can find a more peaceful and trouble-free retreat than in his own mind. . . . So constantly give yourself this retreat, and renew yourself.

- MARCUS AURELIUS

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