Complexity is a joy killer.

Adding layers of complexity to our lives kills our joy.

Simple living has been held up by many people during the ages as the best way to live…maybe they were on to something?

dubai kelly herrick blog

This week I’ve been away in Dubai. It was a great adventure but the moment I will remember most is gazing out from my 40th floor hotel room over the sprawling mass of the city. It was in that moment that I thought ‘we could all live so much more simply’. I looked at the vast number of skyscrapers, the brands splashed all over the billboards, the thousands of prestige cars, the sprawling malls jam-packed with luxury goods and thought what is all this for?

Obviously, I know what it’s for practically, but what is it all for? Who are we trying to please? What are we really trying to do for ourselves and the world? It led me to thinking about the lives of the people rushing about, and my own too. I’m not saying we should all live as Buddhist monks or hippies in a commune but what I do see is that for every added layer of stuff we get an added layer of stress. Stress kills joy.

kelly herrick in dubai blog

For every extra thing we feel we must have, for every extra debt we commit to in order to have what we are told we need to be happy, for every brand we need to buy to fit in and keep up, we experience the stress of both getting it and keeping it. We experience stress from just choosing what those things are. We experience stress of getting that choice right. We experience stress in the judgement of others. Boy oh boy, does complexity bring us stress!

It also taps in to those other big nasties like fear and shame too. Don’t know the latest social media trends? Haven’t eaten in that new restaurant yet? What do you mean you don’t drink coconut water? Your kids go to that school? All of those judgements can lead us to feel shame and guilt and fear. So then we overthink everything (just to try and get this complex life right in the eyes of everyone judging us) and make things even more complicated. Phew, it’s exhausting! What chance does poor joy have? None.

There are some really big trends right now which have come abut in reaction to this complexity of modern life; Minimalist living; buying experiences not stuff; career/life swaps. It’s no wonder people are getting rid of stuff, connecting with people through experience or changing their lives up. The best thing about those trends is that it gives us room to cultivate joy.

Joy can’t be manufactured, it has to spring up. It can’t be forced, it has to surprise us. But we can cultivate the right conditions for joy to bloom. The first thing I would urge you to do is take a long hard look at your life. Find out what your joy killers are and stop doing them!

The top ten joy killers:

  1. Being defined by what you have, where you go and who you are with

  2. Accepting the judgement of others as true

  3. Over committing (financially, personally, emotionally)

  4. Saying yes when you mean no and no when you mean yes

  5. Closing your mind & heart down

  6. Being overly responsible for others

  7. Losing your authenticity - living life by someone else’s values

  8. Having no purpose, meaning or direction

  9. Over thinking, over analysing, never starting

  10. Being ‘grown up’ and forgetting how to play

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Basically you have to start giving so much less of a shit about what they think and start giving more of a shit about what you think. If you want to ditch the party and read in bed, do it. If you want to shop in the budget store, do it. If you want to laugh, definitely do it!

You might also like my blog on developing personal freedom.


Kelly Herrick is a creator & collaborator who helps people access more freedom & joy. She is also the strategic lead in an international design agency, a painter and mum of two boys.

Please get in touch and let me know your thoughts. You can find me on Facebook or Instagram at @iamkellyherrick. Or through the website kellyherrick.com.