Keep It Simple... Stupid (KISS)

Keep It Simple Stupid! (KISS)

Keep It Simple Stupid! (KISS)


You often hear people lamenting the ‘good old days’ when life was simpler. I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone wish for a more complicated life. And that even includes my generation.


Just before Christmas I completed a single day training course in First Aid for Mental Health. We all know how this has become a hot topic in more recent years, further highlighted and exacerbated by the Coronavirus Pandemic. The one recurring discussion topic was how modern life has directly played a part in creating, what sometimes feels like, a problem of epidemic proportions.


Our roots are in hunter-gathering, and when existing in this way one’s daily needs are simple, but essential. You need to maintain shelter, safety from predation, a supply of water, and food. If you can create and use fire then that’s a bonus and will allow you to cook, dry things and live in cooler climates. Every day is its own and you start afresh each morning. As a species we’ve diversified and invented ways to live in a dazzling array of environments, and we’ve developed communities, machines, and communications, meaning that many of us no longer need to actively participate in any of these vital activities. This has released valuable time and energy to be expended on furthering science and innovation. The majority of us now live safer and more comfortable lives than we did thousands of years ago, but this has come at a price, complexity and stress.


Take a simple task like buying a pair of shoes. We used to go to a shop, pick some options, try them on, pay, and go home with them easy? But there is a ‘better’ way, internet shopping, done from the comfort of your home, or even whilst out and about. However, this relies on you having a mobile device or computer, a broadband connection or phone signal, maybe a special app. Which in turn relies on having a mobile phone provider and account and the money to pay for these, as well as the broadband connection if you’re at home. You’ll need passwords to get into your phone or computer and probably a password or access setup to pay. Then you might need to get somewhere to collect the package, not to mention the reverse process when you decide they don’t fit or look totally different to the pictures. So, there are a lot of other things that need to be in place, and paid for, to allow you to do this ‘simple’ task, and any one of these can go wrong, causing annoyance and stress. It’s fine if you are tech savvy, and when it all works, but for anyone who struggles with any of the above, for whatever reason, they can quickly become marginalised and stressed.


That’s just one example of one process, but you can multiply this up many times each day. Add-in the struggle to juggle working with childcare, lengthy commutes, family who may be disparate or complex in structure, debt, work pressures etc and what should be an easier life can rapidly start to feel like a daily struggle for survival, again.


Another issue that lies in our ancestral roots is supposedly built into our genes, and some of us apparently have the remnants of Neanderthal DNA. Because of our safe and sedentary modern lives, we no longer have that outlet of completing a kill or fighting off predators or enemies. So that physical, adrenalin outlet is often not fulfilled and instead spills out into our modern lives, manifesting itself in road rage or being bottled-up, creating stress.


I think most of us can underestimate the pressures we put ourselves under and the need to keep in touch with our human roots when we get caught up in ‘progress’ and convenience. Is internet banking and online shopping really more convenient for us, or for those who provide these services? Supposedly we ‘demand’ these things as consumers. What’s more convenient than choosing an item in a shop, paying for it and taking it home there and then, knowing its quality, size and suitability? You’ll possibly meet other people, have a coffee and hence support other businesses and gain some free therapy.


Many marketing analysts are suggesting that the personal service of interacting with a human is gaining traction over the ‘convenience’ of using a ‘bot’. The personal touch has value that can be marketed as a bonus. Isn’t it easier often to simply ask someone, rather than type lengthy email responses that may not be taking you where you need to go? This interpersonal contact is also always going to be vital when it comes to parts of our lives such as healthcare. An AI algorithm may be able to diagnose accurately and quickly, but it can’t hold your hand or be there to listen and support you. So maybe roles such as nursing, social care and counselling might finally be properly recognised and rewarded more so than medical consultancy?


So, my New Year’s resolution is to try to make my life simpler, and here’s some thoughts on how to do this:

  • Pick up the phone and just ask, rather than resort to emails
  • Get into nature, or at least outdoors, every day
  • Exercise, stretch yourself and find your limitations, this will help keep the Neanderthal at bay
  • Don’t just say ‘yes’, if you don’t have time, be honest
  • Don’t let other people’s failures become your problems
  • Create things to look forward to each week and throughout the year
  • Celebrate your successes and don’t dwell on the failures, and don’t be afraid to fail, it’s all part of the learning process
  • Don’t get caught up in pointless social media posts, nobody is ‘living their best life’!
  • Put your flipping mobile down! Think about when you could have mobile-free times.


And finally, don’t worry if you’re not achieving your resolution goals in January and February. These are ‘hibernation months’ and it’s okay to simply survive. Decide on a sensible, achievable timeframe and do a little every day or week.

Dale's experience spans a wide range of project sectors, sizes and stages and has particular interests in environmental design and earth-sheltered construction. His favourite projects reuse and breathe new life into under-loved existing buildings.