A wise friend of mine recently told me a story about one of the hardest times in their life. While going through a divorce and on the brink of losing everything, he was driving one day and began to feel the weight of it all. He pulled off the road and sat there crying. As he looking up through his windshield he saw the beautiful and majestic Mt. Hood and sensed a comforting presence.
These words came to his mind: “This mountain wasn’t created gently.”
We will see greater things happen, experience more beauty, discover better ways of living, and create more loving environments in and around our lives when we choose the simple and hard, over the complicated and easy.
Sometimes it can be difficult to decipher the difference between the two ideas, but when we pursue making choices that are simple & hard, a better experience is guaranteed.
We show up fully when we make simple & hard choices.
There are lots of distractions and opportunities around us that invite us to cut-corners, disengage, give minimal effort, or give-up. There is a commitment to being fully present to the process when we make simple & hard choices. Through this type of engagement, we naturally become more aware.
This in-turn encourages others to bring their full selves to a situation. Hidden, defensive attitudes generated further reclusiveness and division. It’s easier to not show up. It’s a lot less hard to protect yourself than remain vulnerable and open.
When we come to the table with open hands, we invite others into this posture and are able to join hands in connection and togetherness.
Simple & hard choices have more risk but you are more aware of your odds and chip count.
The best way I could describe this feeling is with a Texas-hold-em poker analogy.
You’re sitting at the poker table with a couple decent cards in front of you. You’ve already bet a good portion of your chips and now you’re looking at a flop that gives you a great hand. Another player across from you throws in a medium sized bet. You consider your great hand and are pretty sure you have them beat, but there are two more cards that will come up and those cards could make you lose.
You could go all-in, trying to leave it up to chance. You could even fold because there’s no guarantee of winning and you want to play it safe — these are the easy ways.
Or, you could call them, letting them think that you’re not very confident about your hand, and risk the “slow-play” — where you attempt to keep your opponent in as long as possible, so that you can take as many chips as possible— this is the simple & hard way.
It’s more simple to call. It’s also incredibly hard to play it all the way through. Each new card presents another challenge you’ll have to face. However, after the last card is played and you come out on top, your winnings will be much greater because you didn’t do the easy & complicated.
Easy & complicated decisions feel nice, but it’s short-lived.
Social media swiping.
Mass produced goods.
All of the decisions made in the formation of these types of institutions and more, follow the trend of taking the easy & complicated road. Granted, it took, for example, a lot of work for farmers to switch over their entire fields to grow corn… but there were tremendous amounts of complexities that ensued because of this, including but not limited to: spraying for pesticides and weeds, selling mass quantities of one type of good, fines for pollution, unstable global market prices that cause surpluses and shortages, acquiring and maintaining machinery, soil erosion, invasive species, toxicity of non-organic products, personal health issues from exposure to poisons…
It is a lot easier for farmers to grow one type of crop but it presents a whole host of issues and complexities because of it.
Simple & hard choices have intrinsic systems of protection.
When we slow down, we are able to see what’s coming. We are able to respond instead of react. We can think with reason and consideration of others, rather than just ourselves.
Hard choices generally take more time to make. They force us to look long-term and consider more of the implications of our actions. This provides us with more thoughtfulness and avoids worse outcomes.
When we engage circumstances with this approach, we discover efficiencies, we reduce wasted time, energy, and resources, and we anticipate the problems that could arise — creating preemptive safety measures.
We can feel safe more when we make simple & hard choices.
Simple & hard choices promote connection.
I’ll finish this article with an example from my marriage of nine years.
For a majority of our relationship, when we fought it was about this underlying belief I held onto. When conflicts happened, one of us hurt the other, or disagreements ensued, it usually came back to me believing: “My wife thinks I’m a jerk!”
Holding onto this rationale I was able to easily make sense of all of our difficult interactions.
For instance, if I needed something from her and asked, but she didn’t follow through for me, I’d chalk it up to her reasoning that I was a jerk and didn’t deserve it. If she was sad about something, I’d concluded it was because I did something wrong, confirming I was a jerk.
I wasn’t curious. I didn’t ask good questions. I didn’t pursue connection with her. I held onto my belief, letting it be my easy answer.
Needless to say, I came into conversations with metaphorical guns locked and loaded. I was ready to combat her issues and try again to convince her that, first of all: she believed I was a jerk, and secondly: I really wasn’t a jerk. I trapped myself in a complicated issue with little opportunities for escaping.
We spent a lot of unnecessary time fighting. Conflicts turned into complicated spirals of words, “gotchas”, witty retorts, and low-blows.
Since working through this old belief and reconciling my mindset, healing my heart towards myself and restoring my relationship with my wife, our fights look a whole lot different.
We fight for connection with each other. It’s simple, but not easy.
This is the question I continue to ask myself and offer you today, as a guide for making decisions: Is this choice I’m making simple & hard? Or is it easy & complicated?
“Simple can be harder than complex. You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple. But it’s worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move mountains.” – Steve Jobs