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Apply This Scientific Principle for More Ease at Work - and in Life

Two of our natural human tendencies create drama and drain our energy on a daily basis: making things more difficult than they need to be and making assumptions. We could all use a little less drama and a little less difficulty. Remember, work smarter, not harder? There is a scientific principle that, when applied daily, creates more peace in our lives: Occam’s Razor.

Occam’s Razor is a scientific and philosophical rule, which states that entities should not be multiplied unnecessarily and the answer with the smallest number of assumptions is usually correct. In other words, the simplest explanation is usually the right one. I love this because internal reflection is occasionally considered “woo woo,” or soft by some of my clients. This is a scientific rule that we can apply daily to reduce drama and be more effective..


Here are two steps to apply Occam’s Razor and create more peace in your life:

  1. Easy is OK

Most high achievers have some hardwired beliefs about hard work. These might sound like, “if it was easy, everyone would do it.” Or, “anything worth having requires hard work.” My personal mantra in graduate school was, “I’m not the smartest, but I’ll work the hardest.” These beliefs are not bad or wrong. In fact, many people who believe they will work hard enough to succeed… do. However, not everything has to be hard and sometimes our brains create overarching rules that end up defining our lives. These rules violate Occam’s Razor because they often make things more complicated than they need to be. The answer? Simplify.

In her book, The Inner Edge: The 10 Practices of Personal Leadership, Dr. Joelle Jay talks about the notion of letting things be easy just by noticing what is working and doing more of it and — on the flip side — noticing what’s not working and doing less of it. If you’re ready to create more ease in your life, ask yourself these questions before you roll up your sleeves and get to work on the project in question:

  • Is this mine to own? Does owning this benefit me? If the first two answers are no, perhaps you should reconsider charging forward.

  • Where am I trying too hard? How can I ease my grip on this?

  • Is this requiring more work than it seems like it should? Why might that be? How can I let it be easy?


2. Check your assumptions.

As Occam’s Razor states, the more assumptions we make, the more unlikely the explanation is to be true. What does that mean for the narratives you have in your head? Making fewer assumptions is not a new concept. It’s the third agreement in Don Miguel Ruiz’s The Four Agreements. He writes, “Assumptions are nothing more than the lies we are telling ourselves. This creates big drama for nothing because we don’t really know if something is true or not.”

Almost everything we tell ourselves is an assumption. Byron Katie popularized the question, “is it true?” and suggested that not all the suffering that goes on inside our minds is reality. It's just a story we torture ourselves with. The next time you start making assumptions about why someone did or did not do something, challenge your assumption by asking, “is it true?” If it’s not, then it’s an assumption that’s causing you drama. When we notice and challenge our assumptions, we open up to a new narrative. Applied over time, a new narrative has transformative power.

Ready to apply Occam’s Razor to your life? Follow these steps and see if you uncover an insight:

  1. What are the top three struggles in your life right now?

  2. Is there an “easy” answer to any of these struggles? Easy answers tend to look like letting things unfold naturally or taking action you’ve been avoiding. Easy answers may be simple, but it doesn’t mean they’re not without challenge - often in the form of courage.

  3. Can you identify an assumption you’re making with each of your challenges? Challenges can take the form of if/then statements (if I leave, then…) or binary options (either this or that) but they can also be untested - and likely untrue - limiting beliefs.

  4. Now… here’s the real challenge… what are you willing to do differently?

I’d love to hear your results! Contact me to share! Or, if you want more resources to help create your new narrative, visit my blog/email me.



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