The Wisdom of Simplicity

At the beginning on July, I wrote about my commitment to being grounded in my spiritual practice as I reentered the corporate world. Although I’ve been burning the candle on both ends of late, I’ve managed to start every day with meditation and journaling, even if somewhat abbreviated than before when I had more free time. In addition to my daily spiritual routine, I use Sunday mornings to vision for the coming week, to seek higher guidance.

plantOn this past Sunday’s visioning session, what I got was essentially a continuation of the theme I wrote about last week, i.e., finding the simple in the complicated. More specifically, the guidance I received fell into these four related messages about living and leading with simplicity.

1. Be Wise, Not Smart

When I asked what I needed to release, part of what I received from my inner wisdom was:

Ego. Fear. Being the smart girl. It isn’t about being smart but wise. That’s leadership.

The other day, my boss complimented me on some modeling work I’ve been doing to inform our strategy that no one else before me had done. A similar reaction came from a business development colleague. The kudos made the smart girl within me proud and fed my ego desire to continue to show up as a picture of success—the defensive personality of which I try to be mindful.

The above message from my inner wisdom reminds me to keep ego in check. My focus needs to be on helping our company make wise decisions based on solid analysis, not for me to demonstrate how smart I am or what I can do. It’s human to want positive reinforcement and acknowledgment, so there’s nothing wrong with that. However, gathering pads on the back can’t ever be the primary motivation. More importantly, that’s most certainly not the way to model leadership.

2. Get Down to the Basics

Embrace your innate knowing. Don’t spin your wheels and make things more complicated. Get down to the basics. Simplicity tells the best story.

retreatWhen our inner wisdom speaks, it aims for simple and succinct clarity. It’s fear-based ego that worries about taking risks, messing up and thus tends to overcomplicate things unnecessarily. Don’t know about you, but I grew up believing that life is complicated, a myth I have to remind myself constantly not to perpetuate. It seems that we just can’t trust what’s simple and obvious, especially when big decisions are at stake. So, we spin our wheels—often with the help of sophisticated tools these days—to create scenarios, construct contingencies, and vet the pros and cons, lest we make the wrong decision.

My inner wisdom reminded me again to be mindful of my subconscious belief that big decisions must entail a ton of hard work and close scrutiny—lots of wheel-spinning. Instead, when I quiet my mind and listen to my inner knowing, the wise thing to do is to look for the simplest story without layers to obscure the path to right action.

3. Embrace Humility

[Humility] goes with innate knowing. It isn’t about, “Look what I know,” but rather, “This is the truth, the solution to the problem. I’m just the conduit for facilitating its unveiling.”

This reminder is related to #1. I’m truly grateful to my inner wisdom to remind me to keep ego in check. The purpose I’m meant to serve in doing this job is not to show how smart I am and what I know. Rather, if I remain laser-focused on my purpose to serve, then my role is truly nothing more than being the conduit for bringing forth the truth, the solutions to problems, and the wisdom for enlightening the path to right action. That’s the stuff of fearless leadership, and that’s what I signed up to learn and to model.

Big Sur4. Remember to Have Fun

[Fun] is the whole point of this human experience. You may experience challenges and struggles along the way. They’re meant to be for spiritual evolution, and never the be all and end all. Joy is the purpose. Love is the fuel. Don’t take it all so seriously. In the end, you can’t get life wrong. Remember this, and always do your best. It doesn’t need to be more complicated than this.

This isn’t the first time—nor will it be the last—my inner wisdom reminds me to have fun. As I’m processing the above message to share here, I’m having a light-bulb moment. Fun, simplicity/not over-complicating things and just remembering to do my best are all connected in one cohesive message. Its simplicity is deep and profound!

Fun is lost when I take things too seriously and over-complicate them. Fun is impossible when I expect myself to do what’s beyond my best from one day to the next. If I could manage to remember that nothing is worth doing unless it’s fun, perhaps I could keep in check the tendency to over-complicate things and tame the over-achieving smart girl in me. Perhaps…It’s so simple that it’s almost too easy to be true! :-)

Over to you: Can you relate to any of the four points about the wisdom of simplicity? What guidance or insights would you offer for living and/or leading with simplicity?


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About Alice Chan, Ph.D.

Dr. Alice Chan is passionate about developing conscious leaders and organizations. Her path to serve her life purpose has included being an award-winning Cornell professor and a leader in the corporate world for nearly 15 years. She’s the author of the book, REACH Your Dreams: Five Steps to be a Conscious Creator in Your Life, and creator of the program, 30 Days to Living Your Best Life. All content on this blog and website is her own, not the opinions of her employer.

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BrunoLoGreco1 1 Like

Getting back to the basics is key and the only way to fulfillment. I think the overwhelming majority of us are influenced by social standards and keeping up with the Jone's, that it has propelled us so far from what you are telling us to do that applying some of these basics things can be a challenge. Such as playing and having fun. Such an easy thing to do yet difficult for adults to appreciate. 

Excellent post Alice..

DrAliceChan moderator

@BrunoLoGreco1 Many thanks, Bruno. It's so true that so many of us have been "brainwashed" to seek fulfillment in ways that would never lead us to it, as it can only come from within. And, yes, too, to the point about adults finding it challenging to have fun. Thank you for stopping by to join the conversation!

karenjolly 1 Like


 I have found on my spiritual journey that I often take myself WAY too seriously. I agree with you, keep it simple, keep checking in with yourself to keep balanced and then have FUN!  When we get in that happy state of looking for the fun in life - it keeps us in the flow of life and makes everything easier. 

 Growing up with a very strict background and being Capricorn, I can get pretty hard on myself. As you said so beautifully "Fun is impossible when I expect myself to do what’s beyond my best" - it isn't about doing it right, its about living! Thank you dear friend for reminding me today!! xo

DrAliceChan moderator

@karenjolly Thank you very much, Karen. I can relate to the strict background. There are many of us who were raised to have a good "work ethic," and similarly serious beliefs and values. Yet, when we're light and joyful, things are infinitely easier. Always good to have you join the conversation here, Karen.

AlliPolin 1 Like


A few years ago, when I was feeling stuck I took on a course of study and discovered that for me, what I really needed to recapture was a sense of PLAY.  Love that you've included FUN here - it makes all the difference between taking action and inspired action!  Without play, everything felt heavy and all that heaviness certainly obscured the simplicity of the path in front of me.  

Thank you for sharing your inner wisdom as it helps me question and tap into my own!

DrAliceChan moderator

@AlliPolin Great observation, Alli, about fun being the difference between action and inspired action. Between my personality and the way I was raised, fun simply doesn't come naturally. However, as I get older, I'm making more time for it, e.g., playing tennis no matter how busy I am. Thank you for sharing your experience of getting unstuck by having fun!

ThinDifference 1 Like

If I would add anything, then what is simply the best things to do would get clouded with unnecessary complexity! This is a great reminder, Alice, and so important to remember and do. With a job that keeps me busy at least 50-60 hours each plus family plus blogging, it is easy to get over-run... simplicity works in keeping our priorities right. Thanks! Jon

DrAliceChan moderator

@ThinDifference Thank you for adding your perspective, Jon. Yes, I can imagine when your schedule is so packed, it's easy for the mind to spin and over-complicate things. Many can relate to what you shared here. Always good to hear your take. Appreciate it.

Hiten Vyas
Hiten Vyas 1 Like

Hi Alice,

What a briiliant post, my friend. It really does seem like we are currently both on such similar journeys.

I too recently had some positive feedback from my employer. When this happened, my ego got the better of me for a short period. I used my spirtual practice to help me with this. I reminded myself that the good feelings associated with the praise wouldn't last and just as quickly, my mind could start suffering about something. This helped me to remain balanced. I've also been keeping my ego in check by taking one day at time rather than thinking about the future where worry and desire to succeed lives.

Thank you.

DrAliceChan moderator

@Hiten Vyas Great observation about how ego works, Hiten. It's so true that our mind can so easily get fixated on reasons to suffer! It's the negativity bias in our brain, which can be managed with consciousness practices, like meditation, as you pointed out. And, yes, it seems like we're continuing on parallel paths. Thank you, as always, for adding your voice to this conversation.

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