What One Thing?

Why do we tend to complicate things? Perhaps we have too many choices. Is there too much pressure to have the “best, biggest, smartest (kids), fastest, coolest,” etc? We seem programmed to bypass the simple idea in favor of one chosen after exhausting research. (And plenty of glancing at the Joneses to see what they have decided.)

The definition of simple includes “lacking sophistication.” Initially thinking this was a bad thing I checked on the word sophisticate (d). Interesting find. The first definition in Webster’s Encyclopedic is: “Sophisticate: v; to deprive of simplicity or sincerity by making artificial or affected.” Further along it says, “Sophisticated: adj; elaborated, made complex, too affected, artificial, lacking in naiveté or naturalness.” Really.

Planning a short trip to Sea World with the kids recently took on a life of its own. My first instinct was to call AAA, whom I know to be a reliable resource of safe, clean, and affordable to book the trip. But AAA is definitely not the sophisticated choice and seemed too simple. “I should do some comparison shopping on the internet” I reasoned. With myriad offerings to save money, get free stuff, and generally make myself nuts I spent one week not booking the trip and saved no more money than I would have with AAA. I went with the simple idea after all.

This idea that we (I) complicate things is a good one for me to keep an eye on. One goal of mine is to keep things simple and work smarter not harder. This said here is a simple but powerful idea that can be applied to anything you are doing at any time and anywhere.

The concept starts with a question, “What One Thing?” for short. You can put this question in front of anything you encounter and I guarantee it will bring you back to simple.

Look. Let’s say you want to lose weight. You get a book–no doubt one that I have reviewed-set some goals down on paper, join the gym, get new running shoes, and go to bed with the intention that “tomorrow it starts, the plan to get healthy, take off 20 pounds, and feel great.”

The next morning you oversleep and so the gym is out. You realize you forgot you’ve got meetings all day so won’t be able to get to the quick healthy food place for lunch and there’s no time to prepare anything. You are beginning to give up on your plan for one more day when suddenly the question, What One Thing, comes to mind. What one thing can I do right now, before I leave the house, the will keep me on track with my goal? Got fruit? Got yogurt or cottage cheese? Grab them and off you go with something that will satisfy your need to eat breakfast and it’s a healthy one. You only need to think about what’s happening in the moment. If you begin to look at all the things that will derail you in the next 12 hours you will go back to bed and give up. Ask the question again and again. For now, your one thing-fruit and something for breakfast– means you are still in healthy mode. As the day unfolds keep the question in mind. Will you get 30 minutes in between meetings that you could use to take a walk outside? If it’s hot outside can you do 10 flights of stairs in the air-conditioned office building?

What one thing can you do-in this moment-to keep you on track?

Sounds simple enough no? Let’s look at it on a large scale. Here is the question and the full answer I came up with. What One Thing can I do to make my life or the life of those around me-known and unknown-better, (healthier, easier, less stressful, etc.) in this moment?

A 70-something year old neighbor down the road has a broken pelvis but she’s a sharp independent lady who wants no coddling. She called the other day and asked me to move a chair and put water in her bird bath. I was home with a few free hours and was happy to help out.

After I left I asked myself if there was one thing she might like to have but wouldn’t ask for. Nothing came to mind just then. I found myself thinking of her yesterday and asked myself that question again. What one thing would she accept without feeling incapable? Her birdbath would surely be dry again and her flower beds as well. Off I went and began my watering. She peeped out of the window after a few minutes and smiled. We did not visit beyond that. There was no need. The answer I got to my question, WOT, blessed me and her simply.

This is not a revolutionary idea I realize. What makes it powerful though is using it throughout the day for your own life, and for the bigger life around you, like the planet. What One Thing can I do today to lessen my environmental footprint?

It works anywhere, even in business.

In Seth Godin’s blog recently he talked about telling your team just one thing at a meeting or selling one thing and selling it deep and well. One idea or one product allows us to focus and focus means power. What One Thing do you want to tell your team today to create sales or more effective marketing?

Simple? Exquisitely so in my book.

Sophistication has its place and complex systems like our bodies and minds are miraculous. All complex systems can be broken down to their simpler parts, the building blocks. Think of What One Thing like a stem cell-the body’s ultimate building blocks. Start there and you can go anywhere, build anything, and be more powerful than you can now imagine.

Every moment brings the simple power of one thing to your life. Practiced regularly it will change you in ways you have planned and ways you cannot yet know.

If the idea gets out and catches on who knows what kind of impact we can have on our bodies, lives, families, communities, countries, the globe? It gives me chills just to imagine it.

I know, it’s simple. Simple like a stem cell.