The Difference Between “Simple” and “Easy”

Losing weight is simple.  Just eat less calories than you burn.

Woman hiking in mountains

But it’s not easy.

It’s simple to quit smoking.  Just don’t buy any cigarettes.

But it’s not easy.

Financial freedom is simple.  Just spend less than you make.

But it’s not easy.

Because things are simple, we think they shouldn’t take any work.  Our default setting is to do the easy things.

The things in life that have the most value are often simple.  But because they’re also hard, we never get started.

Most of us have things we’d love to accomplish with our lives.  We want to do something significant that makes a difference.  But those things often aren’t easy.

  • They require commitment.
  • We have to make choices with uncertain outcomes.
  • We have to exercise discipline and stay focused on our vision.

That sounds hard.  When things are hard, we avoid them.

“Easy” lets us stay in our comfort zone.

Woman hiking in mountainsIt’s kind of like climbing a mountain.  When we’re at the bottom looking up, it’s safe.  There’s no risk; we can’t fall.  We can plan the best route, and study the best mountain climbing techniques.

But there’s only one way to the peak of the mountain:


It’s really simple.  One foot goes in front of the other until we reach the top.

We need to take the first step.  Then another, then another.

It’s simple.  But it seems like an overwhelming task.  The mountain is too big, and we’re paralyzed.  How can we make it easy to achieve big goals?

  • Goals give us direction and purpose.
  • Breaking those goals into manageable steps make them simple.
  • Taking single steps makes the process easy.

A year will go by whether you take action or not.  Where do you want to be in a year?  Either you’ll be at the peak looking down, or at the base looking up.

Maybe it’s time to take the first step. 


  • Roger Fankhauser

    Great post! I’ve used the same line many times. For example, “walk in the Spirit” is simple – walk by faith, take God at His Word, and do it. Easy? I wish 🙂

    • I wonder what it would be like if it were reversed — if most things were complicated, but easy (instead of simple, but hard) . . . ?

  • Jim Ruschman

    Mike, I really like the way you put ‘simple, but not easy’ in perspective. I’ve tried to explain this concept regarding starting and growing a successful business, but used too many words. I will now steal your phrase when someone asks me what it is like to start a business. Thanks for your insight. I really enjoy your blog posts.

    • I guess thievery can be a good thing in the right context . . . !

  • Great to be reminded as 2012 winds to a close and 2013 looms on the horizon. I’ve been saying this for years about relationships, whether with people or with God. They are really quite simple, just not easy. I’ll have to think about which steps to take as I begin 2013. Easier said than done. Which proves your point.

    • I’m hoping your 2013 will be both simpler and easier than your 2012 . . .