The Subtle Difference Between Easy and Simple

difference between easy and simple

Many people wish they had easy lives.

Honestly, who doesn’t want easy money, easy relationships, an easy job — a comfortable life without working hard… It sounds ideal.

But an easy life is as harmful as sugar to a diabetic.

How Easy Makes Life Difficult

Have you heard of people who invested in “tips” and get-rich-quick schemes because they wanted to make easy money? The story often ends with their hard-earned wealth getting wiped out.

Then there are people who want easy relationships. Their partners should invest double the effort to make the relationship work while they invest none. Such relationships always remain at the boiling point, brimming with tension and stress.

You also know people who’ve had the same job for so long that they can do it with their eyes closed. Good luck with getting them to step outside their comfort zone and keep up with times. They stick to the “it’s-always-done-like-this” illness like life-vests on a sinking ship when these rigid beliefs are the sinking ship.

When the world moves ahead — and it always does — they get left behind like broken toys.

In the short-term, an easy life feels blissful, like things are in cruise mode.

But life rarely functions in a linear manner for long.

When B doesn’t follow A, when life twists and turns in unexpected ways, we’re poorly equipped to handle what follows. We crack under tiny amounts of pressure, give up at the drop of a hat, and make poor decisions all the time.

An easy life adds to the omnipresent boredom that stems from not giving our mind what it really craves for: a challenge. According to research, all this retards our growth and makes us vulnerable to psychological diseases like Alzheimer’s and dementia

“Nothing in the world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort, pain, difficulty… I have never in my life envied a human being who led an easy life.” — Theodore Roosevelt

What You Should Wish For

Instead of an easy life, wish for a simple one.

We often interchange easy and simple with each other since both of them sound similar. The difference in meaning might be subtle in our minds. But in reality, the difference is huge!

Easy means something that’s achieved without effort. Simple means something that’s uncomplicated and easily understood. But it cannot be achieved without effort.

“Simple,” Einstein remarked, “is the highest form of intelligence.” Jessie Sampter called simplicity the peak of civilization. Simplicity means understanding something well enough to explain it to a five-year-old child and getting her to agree (no mean feat).

Investing in funds that compound your wealth over time and staying patient is simple, not easy.  So is sticking to a workout regime and diet.

Domesticating feelings is simple but not easy. Knowing that our happiness depends on our thoughts and actions and not on others is simple. But practicing it is tough.

Simplicity demands discipline, and that’s not easy.

Why You Should Simplify Life

In a world where everyone scoffs at simplicity and hails complexity, is the former worth pursuing?

In one word — Yes! Simplicity feels tough in the beginning, but it pays off rich dividends in the long run.

A simple life is where you can do what enjoy, pursue opportunities you find worthwhile, and spend time with people you love. It means trading chaos for peace and clutter for value. It means reducing the choices in your life and being happy with what you have.

To simplify something, you first must understand how it works, its representation of the surrounding, and the relation between various parts. This strengthens your understanding of outcomes and actions. In other words, you build stronger mental models and get better at applying them to enjoy better results.

Simplifying a task or situation demands focus for prolonged timespans, even when your mind rebels. Your experiences when you slow down, make errors and correct them, make you swifter and better without realizing it. The longer you stick to something, the more you build focus and grit — two traits that are the strongest determinants for success.

Simplifying demands doing things that achieve positive results over and over again. In the long run, this leads to a phenomenon called myelination. In his book The Talent Code, Daniel Coyle explains myelination as:

Every human movement, thought, or feeling is a precisely timed electrical signal traveling through a chain of neurons—a circuit of nerve fibers. Myelin is the insulation that wraps these nerve fibers and increases strength, speed, and accuracy. The more we fire a particular circuit, the more myelin optimizes the circuit, and the stronger, faster and more fluent our movements and thoughts become.

Thus, small efforts begin to produce lasting results without you thrashing around. This leads to mastery. Think about every “genius” artist you’ve heard of, who could pull masterpieces out of thin air. They all became masters because of myelination.

Simplification is a challenge that the mind loves. It makes you keep learning and evolving, and keeps your mind young. When you overcome a challenge, you feel happy because your mind secretes endorphins, the positivity chemical. The more endorphins you secrete, the more emotionally stable you become.

Summing Up

Mehmet Murat Ildan said, “With an easy life, you can never mature; with a tough life, you can never remain immature!” We can replace tough with simple and still retain the meaning.

This is not to say that you shouldn’t have some things easy in life. We all deserve time taking things easy sometimes. But you should avoid prolonged exposure to easiness like a plague.

The best part is that you don’t have to sit around waiting for someone to make things simple for you. (That’s too easy.)  But you can take action starting today to make your life simpler.

In the next post, we’ll understand why we run for easy and escape from simple. [Update: You can read it by clicking here.]


  1. Subhang May 14, 2019
    • Vishal May 14, 2019
  2. Dinesh Kumar November 26, 2019

Leave a Reply