Simplicity? Success? Or Both?

A pool in a Zen garden surrounded by rocks and shrubbery. A stone lantern sits on a square, flat rock in the middle of the pool. The whole peaceful scene is an example of the simplicity on the other side of complexity

“Find something that you really care about—
and live a life that shows it.”
Kate Wolf

What Results Do Life Coaching Clients Most Want To Create?

I have been a Personal Life Coach and a Professional Coach for nearly 25 years.

During that time, I’ve worked with a stunning variety of clients with varying needs, desires, and issues.

Almost all seek help in accomplishing two big goals.

1) Create Successful Results:

Engaged, and thriving lives and careers. Fulfilling relationships. Happy families. Write books, make art, create films. Transition from a job to a more suitable one. Find a job, start a career. Create thriving small, medium-sized, and home-based businesses. Or improve an existing one. 

2) Do So In A Simple, Effective, Enjoyable, Low-Stress Way

However, when they first come to me, most clients struggle with how to achieve both simplicity and success, without unnecessary stress and strain.


Simplicity and success can seem to be competing goals or values. 

Clients tell me they oscillate back and forth between them, rather than consistently move forward toward one or the other. Or both

Many, for example, aspire to live a simple, minimalist life that gives them more time, energy and resources for doing that truly matters.

But, there’s a catch.

“I need to declutter,” many say, “before I can focus on what matters.”

But, when their clutter is gone, and focus shifts to “what matters”—their version of success—their situation improves. But, sadly, it rarely results in creating what they most want.

As they focus attention and energy on what matters, closets again fill up. Workspaces become messy and disordered. Dust bunnies breed under and behind the furniture.

Again, clutter distracts, pulling their focus away from their success efforts. So they put success on hold, and go back to clearing out clutter, or reorganizing their space.


This see-saw patterns hold true with organizations as well as individuals. 

Leaders and business owners express the same two desires: create a successful, and productive organization—and do so as simply and cost effectively as they can.

But, again, they tend to oscillate between those goals, rarely fully completing either. Frustration, lack of productivity, low morale and limited profit result.

This kind of oscillation and frustration arise because the individuals and organizations do not use an organizing framework that integrates competing values. 

Rather, they operate (usually unconsciously) in a problem-solving framework, in which their actions are driven by intensity, i.e. bad feelings about the problem, and getting rid of, or relief from that intensity.

“A mind saturated with fear of failure, or images of unwanted results, can no more accomplish, create, or produce anything of value, than a stone can violate the law of gravity by flying upwards.”

— Bob Proctor

When “Intensity” Drives The Action

While conventional problem solving helps mechanical and technical problems, it rarely leads to real and lasting results in human affairs.

When problem-solving focuses on getting rid of or relief from intensity, it’s stucture can lead to a frustrating, vicious circle, as described by my mentor, Robert Fritz, author of the excellent book, The Path of Least Resistance:

A Problem
leads to
leads to
Less Intensity
leads to
Less Action
leads to
The Problem Returning

This problem-driven, rocking horse structure oscillates back and forth between action and less action, so lasting results are not created.

Good for rocking, but not going where you want to go!
Image by Irina_kukuts from Pixabay

From Problem-Focused To ResultsFocused Action

The creating process is the most powerful organizing structure in which to create results that matter—in part because it can embrace and transcend problems, issues, obstacles and adversity as part of the process of creating desired results.

You can rise above intensity-driven oscillation by shifting to an integrated both/and structure, such as the creating-based Life Design Framework I help clients master and apply to creating what matters. 

With it, you can organize “simplicity” and “success” in a “hierarchy of value.”

Choose one result as your Primary Choice, and designate the other result as a Secondary Choice—important for its own sake, and supportive of your primary choice. 

If success is most important, devise a simplicity approach that supports success. If simplicity is key, create a form of success that supports it.

In this integrated framework, results creators find it easier to shift their primary focus from problems and intensity, to results that truly matter.

And bring rich and lasting results into being simply, effectively, enjoyably.

Two Kinds Of Simplicity

“I would not give a fig for the simplicity on this side of complexity. But I’d give my life for the simplicity on the other side of complexity.”

— Oliver Wendell Holmes

The simplicity on this side of complexity comes focusing on what you don’t like and don’t want, and merely trying to solve “problems” such as “clutter” or “disorganization.” 

The simplicity on the other side of complexity is achieved by focusing on what you truly dowant—and consistently taking action to bring it into being.

But, frustrated by back-and-forthing between simplicity or success, many try to simplify the either/or conundrum by ignoring one of the values.

For example, when we first met, a client told me that he’d taken the stand, “If I can’t balance my life and career, I’m only going to focus on one of them, and let the other take care of itself.”

But, as you no doubt see, that was not likely to work.

My client achieved a kind of simplicity on this side of complexity, but six months after he made the announcement above, he was trying to solve the “problem” created by focusing on his career, and ignoring his life.

He came to me frustrated and burned out from oscillating between two conflicting goals.

Using the hierarchical Life Design Framework, I helped him integrate his goals within a structure that greatly increased his chances of creating both.

Image by ilaria piras from Pixabay

The Simplicity On The Other Side Of Complexity

The Life Design structure is driven by vision, grounded in reality, and focused on action that leads to your most longed for resultsand the secondary results that support them.

For my client, problem solving became just another action step on his path to the simplicity on the other side of complexity.

He chose. “A simple, healthy and productive life” as his primary result. Then organized his career to support it. By the end of our coaching relationship, he was well on his way to creating both. [For more, read Ed’s Story: Creating Lasting Success.]

Most great results, in individual lives and society at large, are not merely solutions to problems. 

Rather, they are creations that someone loved enough to bring into being.

“By believing passionately in something that still does not exist, we create it. The nonexistent is whatever we have not sufficiently desired.”
~ Franz Kafka

Helpful Resources:

• How To Create Simplicity AND Success? I wrote this book about it.

• For More On How Structure Gives Rise to Behaviour, See Structure Rules.

• Personal Life Coaching Info Package—email with “S&S Blog” as subject.

Bruce Elkin

Life Design Coach. Personal Life Coach. 25 years experience. Clients on 6 continents. Author of 5 books and ebooks. Cares about the Earth and living in harmony with its natural systems.