Why Simplicity Is an Excellent Learning Strategy


Every day we learn – at times consciously and purposefully, at times without even realizing it. Learning is an on-going process which is good because otherwise we won’t be able to adapt to the outside world quickly.

For a learning strategy to be really effective and most importantly, enjoyable, it has to be understandable – a fact which we often forget chasing after complicated learning techniques, methods and practices.

This is not to say that simplistic attitudes towards everything must prevail. The purpose of this article is to show you that even complicated things could be explained in simple ways. In fact, it’d be the best outcome for everyone if it would be so.

Wisdom of not making things more difficult than they really are

The world around us is really complicated. It constantly changes, develops and moves while we try hard to keep up with its pace. And although it is counterintuitive, we often make things even more tangled despite every logic and common sense.

“Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated.” – Confucius

In learning, staying simple is especially important. Not only does it brings a sense of achievement and success, but motivates for further learning and fosters natural curiosity which is essential to self-development.

A genius in everything that comes to simplifying is undoubtedly Albert Einstein. “If you can’t explain it to a six-year-old, you don’t understand it well enough”, “Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler” – this is what the man who studied cosmology, general relativity, matter-energy equivalence and atomic theory thought. The most famous equation in the world, E = mc2, nails it – how fundamental it is, yet how simple at the same time.

“Everything is both simpler than we can imagine, and more complicated that we can conceive.” – J. W. von Goethe

Simplifying things is rewarding

Imagine you were assigned some writing task to complete. While writing you tried to impress people (e.g., teachers or managers) with fancy language and long, twisted sentences hoping this would make you look smarter. Have you ever done such a thing?

If yes, then you followed the common stereotype that complex language makes you intelligent. However, research proved exactly the opposite: people usually take complicated styling as a sign of lower intelligence, not higher.

What any writer or scientist can confirm is that to express one’s thoughts in a simple way is much harder. Sound, reasonable and simple judgments are highly likely to be understood – both for you when you learn or by those whom you teach. It also shortens the learning curve and shifts it upwards. It therefore makes sense to strive for greater clarity in everything you do.

“Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius – and a lot of courage – to move in the opposite direction.” – Ernst F. Schumacher

Simple = Safe

Simple things appear to be safer. Any new piece of information we are trying to learn is a challenge: it can confirm our opinions, deny them, or turn our mindsets upside down.

What is new is taken with a grain of salt. What is both new and complicated appears as not only suspicious but threatening too. This is not to say that everything new is dangerous to us and we have to be careful of it – if so, learning itself will be impossible. But for effective learning such barriers do nothing but harm. One thinks: the amount of new I want to learn is huge in the first place but to make matters worse there’re no more than 5 familiar words in it. How can I feel motivated for further learning?

Comprehensible learning materials reduces our inner reluctance to face something new and challenging. Seeing that things could be really understood encourages us to learn more and so a new reality can unfold before us.

“Knowledge is a process of piling up facts; wisdom lies in their simplification.” – Martin H. Fischer

A By-Product of Learning and Work

Simplicity and success go hand in hand. Coming up with advanced, yet simple ideas takes a lot of time and effort. Individuals and organizations who really appreciate clarity in everything they do know: success is to sought in what is already invented.

Simple and clear things lead to effective actions. They are the driving force behind any improvement. Complicated learning techniques stand for nothing unless every single person on the team (classroom, organization, whatever) knows precisely the end goal and the means to achieve it.

“Simplicity is the final achievement. After one has played a vast quantity of notes and more notes, it is simplicity that emerges as the crowning reward of art.” -Frédéric Chopin

Simplicity Means Harmony and Inner Peace

Education, learning, work – everything you encounter in your life and career has to help you grow and self-develop, open up new thinking patterns and unleash your creative genius.

Sometimes learning can be a bit stressful. There’s always either too much or too little information, it always links closely to older knowledge, so if you miss something you have to go back to really understand the issue. Although the results of learning are always explicit, in the long run you can sometimes feel frustrated because there seems to be no immediate progress.

Complicated material only makes matters worse. It’s just another problem you have to cope with right now. It can make you nervous, deprive of motivation and drain your energy.

Simple things mean neat, logic rows of information whenever you look at it. You can always go back to what you haven’t fully grasped, analyze, compare, challenge – in fact, you can do everything to approach that information critically and with maximum benefit to the learning process.

Learning Strategy – Final Thoughts

Staying simple brings harmony, elegance, logic and freedom to our education and work. In fact, we should make it a natural state of mind and an end goal to every lesson we take. It always has the best chances to win, help us become more effective learners and stay intellectually and culturally appealing to others.

“Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.” – Leonardo da Vinci

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