Norton: Don’t overcomplicate the easy things in life; just take the first step (column)
While facilitating a workshop for a corporate client, I asked the class a simple question: “What is the hardest thing about getting on an elevator?” As I looked out at the classroom and the confused eyes staring back at me in silence, I once again asked the same question, “What is the hardest thing about getting on an elevator?”
Finally, after a few silent and intended to be awkward moments, one of the women in the class said, “Well, there is nothing hard about getting on an elevator, you just push the button and when the door opens, and other people get off. You just step on and push the button of the floor you want to go to. It’s really easy.”
It is, isn’t it? It’s one of those things in life that we just take for granted and do because it is so very basic. That is, of course, until we think of all the other things that could possibly make it more difficult.
When the class was pushed for a deeper answer, they came up with 21 things that could make stepping onto an elevator difficult or challenging. Everything from a fast opening and closing door where you have to force it to stay open while you enter to a slightly raised lip that could be a trip hazard to moving a bulky piece of furniture and also an elevator that had not been updated with brail for someone who had lost their sight.
They had so many more creative ideas and thoughts that could make it really difficult to get on an elevator, but in the end, they got the point: We can make anything in life harder than it has to be when, in fact, most times all we have to do is get on the elevator.
Instead, we think to ourselves that there must be a trap, there must be another shoe that is going to drop, this can’t possibly be as easy as it seems. It would be like buying a 100-piece jigsaw puzzle and emptying the contents onto a table and thinking, “Wait, this is too easy, why aren’t there more pieces in the box? Shouldn’t there be 500 or 1,000 pieces?” No, the box clearly said that there were 100 pieces, didn’t it?
But since we live in such a complex world with complex feelings and complex relationships and complex businesses and complex technologies, there must be more complexity to a 100-piece jigsaw puzzle, too.
Yes, there are puzzles in life, outright conundrums and riddles, if you will. And many times, we will look for the hardest possible way to solve each one instead of looking for the solution that is obvious and right under our noses. We overcomplicate the whole process and end up with a fear of getting on the elevator, any elevator.
I mean, all we have to do is push the button, wait for the door to open, let the other people exit and then step on. We do not need forced or contrived contingency plans for most of what we face in life; we just need to take the first step and then the next and then the next.
Zig Ziglar says it this way, “People who never take step one, can never possibly take step two.” And it is so true. We get so wrapped up and twisted up thinking that everything in life is a Rubik’s Cube. Many of us just have a knack for turning the seemingly simple and obvious into an almost unsolvable mystery. And we drag others along with us, so that they, too, can enjoy or endure the agony. It’s like everything in life must come with illustrative assembly instructions from Ikea.
Now don’t get me wrong, I do acknowledge that we have difficult and challenging situations in life, that is a certainty. And when we do, we need to draw upon all of the people who can help us and all of the problem-solving skills we can muster. But when we can avoid turning the easiest things in life into the hardest things in life, it will bring a level of simplicity and a greater sense of accomplishment in all that we do or endeavor to do. And it really is that simple.
So how about you? Have you managed to avoid overcomplicating the simple things in life? If so, then I would really love to hear your story of stepping onto an elevator at gotonorton @gmail.com. And when we can stop making things harder than they have to be, it really will be a better-than-good week.
Michael Norton is a strategic consultant, business and personal coach and motivational speaker. He writes a weekly motivational column for the Vail Daily.