Lessons for Living       
Lesson Nine: "Simple Solutions for Life Problems."


"Simple is easily understood, not easily done."




What does it mean to say that some problems have simple solutions? It means that you most likely already know what to do or can easily find out. You don’t need a complex answer.

For example the solution to the problem of losing weight is simple. You only need to know two things and almost everyone knows them. Eat less and exercise more. What could be simpler?

Now, have you ever tried to do these two things? Have you tried this simple solution for losing weight? If so, you probably found it very difficult to do. You see, simple and easy are not the same. Simple is easily understood, not easily done. Life actually has a lot of simple solutions. Do you need to stop smoking? It is simple. Don’t light up again. Do you need more exercise? Also simple, always climb the stairs. Need to relax? Sit down and take a deep breath.

Solving life’s problems means that you need to change and the real difficulty of changing is not one of "not knowing" but rather of "not doing." To change, you have to act. You must do something different. Understanding alone is not sufficient. The doing is the hard part and that is where discipline comes in. As the athletic shoe commercial says, "Just do it."

What is required is intentional daily effort. You wake up one morning, focus on your goal, and begin the effort of change. Then, you do it all day long, everyday, until the goal is reached. This effort must be done mindfully. This means you must observe yourself in the process and when you wander away from the task (which you will) just bring yourself back and begin again. If you wander away and return enough you will eventually reach your goal.

This process works much like an airplane’s autopilot. The autopilot is programmed towards a destination. As the airplane flies it wanders off course to the right but soon self-corrects and comes back on course only to wander too far to the left. Again, it self-corrects. Through this process of continually returning to the goal the airplane eventually arrives at its destination even though it may have been off course 90% of the time. You too can reach your goal even if you are frequently off course. Just, monitor yourself and self-correct.

Solving life’s problems requires effort plus self-correction. It is important to note that this is self-correction and not self-criticism. Self-correction uses information to help you refocus and begin again. Self-criticism uses information to rob you of energy and stop the process of change.

So, the next time you stray from a goal and eat that doughnut or light up that cigarette, don’t fall into negative self-criticism. It will only distract and discourage you. Simply refocus on the goal and begin again.

Begin enough times and you will succeed.

When facing a problem in life always look to see if the solution is simple. See if you already know what to do. If you do, then, "Just do it."

2000 Daniel H. Johnston. All Rights Reserved.

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