Complexity Bias

Simplicity. We talk about it all the time. “I wish life was simpler. Why does this have to be so complex?” Generally, we are speaking in terms of other people and how they are either irritating or negatively affecting our lives, but what if I told you that you are actually predisposed to making things more complicated than they need to be? 

Humans tend to overthink and overanalyze just about everything. The reason being? Well, in part, we have an annoying emotional brain that likes to give us crippling anxiety. We are also biased that the solutions to our seemingly complex problems have to be equally complex or how on earth would our problem actually be solved.

Let me give you a few examples:

1. Starting a relationship.

Problem: You analyze everything someone you like does and says, even the emojis they use in texts. What do they all mean?! Do they like you back? “Well, they used the heart emoji that must mean something?! Right?!”

Simple solution: Say, “Hi, I like you. Do you like me?” 

2. A global pandemic. 

Problem: Some people are saying, “COVID is all made up. There is no virus. This is just an elaborate plot by the governments of the world to get a vaccine developed so they could inject us all with microchips.”

Simple solution: A virus made the jump from animals to humans. It happened to be highly contagious and deadly (FYI: it was just a matter of WHEN this would happen vs. IF.) The world then came together in a monumental effort and used a technology that was in the process of being developed for the last 20 years to create a series of vaccines to ultimately end the pandemic.

3. You want to lose weight.

Problem: Thinkin that the only way that could possibly happen is if you eliminate all carbohydrates, start having a side of coffee with six sticks of butter, and then attempt to do Tai Chi and meditate while you deal with oily diarrhea from all the butter you are consuming.

Simple solution: Start by reducing your carbohydrate intake with dinner, adding a few more veggies in, and maybe going for a walk after dinner 5 days a week. 

You’re probably saying, “Go catch a chicken, Dr. Dan. Oily diarrhea is an indication of the fat being eviscerated from my abdomen. I need results, not veggies.”

What is Complexity Bias?

Trust me, I know. It sounds crazy, but it’s true! The above issues are examples of what we call complexity bias. Humans believe that if a solution isn’t complex or is too simple, it will not solve the problem. The reality, though, is that the more complex a solution is, the more likely it is to fail! Now there is a line where our logical brain does kick in. If something is way too complex, we can identify it and realize that it likely won’t work. So we opt for a slightly less complicated solution, but not a simple solution because that would be ridiculous. Think about that break-and-enter criminal Goldilocks and the three bears. Our need for complexity needs to be ‘just right.’ 

Now the reason we want complexity is because our brain really enjoys stimulation. Let’s be real – 99% of our lives are boring and mundane. So whenever possible, our brain likes to inject some excitement into it. Kind of like a dog that likes to eat whatever it can find on the ground in some effed-up game of Russian Roulette to see if this random bunny turd will potentially kill me today. Our brain creates that excitement via complexity. 

Now don’t get me wrong, the world is complex, and yes, we often need complex solutions. BUT creating awareness around one’s blindspots can allow us to seek out the simplest solution possible. 

Want to lose weight? Ok, instead of overhauling your entire diet, let’s start with one, maybe two, small changes. Thinking COVID is a global conspiracy? Perhaps, you need to find some new friends with opposing views. Want to know if that boy likes you? You could just ask.

Implementing Simple Solutions

I know that is easier said than done, and by no means am I one to talk as I am still overanalyzing the eye contact and gestures the really cute girl at the gym makes at me. However, I could easily solve my problem by asking her on a date. After she promptly rejects me, I can finally start going to the much less convenient and dirtier gym, so I never have to see her again. See? Simple solution.

Some solutions are obviously easier to implement than others. Some warrant a whole discussion around our self-worth, rejection, etc. Don’t worry, we will get to that. I can run my own experiment and type up my blog from my new gym!

Fundamentally, life is boring. Making lifestyle changes and losing weight is boring. There is nothing riveting about increasing your veggie intake. However, focusing on doing the boring basics consistently is ultimately what leads to success. Some of the greatest ideas and breakthroughs in history have been born out of simplicity – often with people looking back and saying, “SH*T that was so simple.” i.e., the invention of the wheel or the plow: two inventions that gave birth to modern civilization.

So when it comes to solving your problems and changing your lifestyle, aim for simplicity. Find the simplest solution and do it consistently – from there, success will come. Or, you might have a new gym to workout at!


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