Bradley Newman
Alexander Technique

How to Make a Complex Life Simpler

It is easy in today’s society to think of life as being complicated. If we could live in an earlier time perhaps life would be simpler, without the stress and strain that goes with the modern world. Perhaps.

“Many years ago Confucius said, ‘Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated’. He must have been thinking about post-war airport consultants.” – 1949, Aero Digest

I’m pretty sure Confucius had no such thing in mind because I’m pretty sure Confucius didn’t say it. The first time this quote appears in print seems to be in 1949 in Aero Digest magazine (“the professional periodical covering the aircraft industry and the profession of flying” from 1921 to 1956, for those who are interested). So while the quote may not date back to the time of Confucius, the sentiment has certainly been around for quite a while.

“People attempt to account for the difficulties of civilized life by saying, ‘Life is so complex!’”

This was written nearly a hundred years ago, in 1923 by FM Alexander. And he believed that this view is problematic for those who hold it. He continued: “This means that, though they are conscious of the presence of an undue stress and strain, they are prepared for the most part to accept the position, and consequently live on with the conviction that a growing complexity is the natural result of civilized life.” So life is complex and that leads to stress, hence it’s inevitable that you’ll be stressed much of the time. And once you’ve accepted that position, you’ve accepted that stress is a normal and necessary part of modern living. You’ve accepted stress and strain as a normal part of your life, and you’ve accepted the many health implications, mental and physical, that come with that view.

Half empty or half full?

Alexander taught people to change the way they reacted to the world around them. By changing your habitual reaction when you open the front door, miss the bus, sit at the piano or open your emails, you can spend more of your time in the physical and mental state you wish, rather than the habitual physical and mental state you have come to see and feel as normal. Similarly, you may have many things to do in a day, but that doesn’t mean you need to be tense and stressed to achieve them. But if that has been your habit for a long enough period of time, it might be difficult to realise it is not inevitable and necessary, or that being stressed is not the only way to get things done.

This is what Alexander taught people, and it is still taught by the many Alexander Technique teachers throughout the world.

So if you see life as complex and complicated, and hence full of stress and strain, then it would appear that going back in time a hundred years will not solve your problem. But learning to change your reactions could, and learning the Alexander Technique is certainly one way to achieve this. I wonder what Confucius would think of all of this. And I wonder what the people from Aero Digest would have him think.

Bradley Newman teaches the Alexander Technique in Sydney. For more information see or email Bradley on .