You may have heard of the 80/20 rule – and it is applied to business and life situations where 80% of problems are attributable to 20% of the causes, or 20% of effort leads to 80% of the profits. There are many variations on the theme.
When I was talking to my friend Karen last week, she spoke of one client whose negative energy was bringing her down. After regaling about the problems, I asked her what percentage of her income he was generating and the answer was small. We purposely misapplied the 80/20 rule and concluded that out of her total client base, 80% of her clients were wonderful, yet the other 20% brought her down. For some reason, negative people and situations, even when they account for a small percentage of our life, can dominate our day.
The 20% or less of our life that is obnoxious, monotonous, boring, or downright unpleasant should never steal our happiness with the remaining 80%! Maybe it is our negative press (80% of front-page news is negative) or our upbringing (the word “No” dominates childhood) – but we need to get over this preoccupation!
Consider how much brighter your life would be by focusing on the good 80% and forgetting the rest?
Imagine for a minute an open meadow of gorgeous wildflowers – what do you see? It is easy to see that the flowers are beautifully enhanced by the greenery and weeds. If the field had entirely weeds or entirely flowers, the beauty of the flowers would be diminished. It is the greenery that makes the flowers stand out.
Now, what if you only looked at the green and saw that it was a mismatch of greenery and weeds? With such a focus, you might even miss seeing the flowers all together. We do this when we miss the beauty in life in favor of the crap.
If you don’t believe me, start tracking what happens to you during your day – how many neutral events happen that you don’t really notice (these are like the greenery), how many truly negatives occur (these are like the noxious weeds), and how many joyous moments (the flowers) are in your day?
Rebalance your day
If the balance is off, and you see more weeds than flowers, what can you do to do about it? Think of ways to increase the moments of joy in your life? Did you miss counting some of the joyous moments once a negative came into play? Maybe you could frequenting positive eating places where you feel good, drive to work via the scenic route, or rearrange your day to enjoy more of the sunset. Anything that increases the positive moments is good.
At the same time, figure out if and how you can reduce the negative moments in your day. By changing the balance of positive to neutral and negative is enough to change your entire outlook.
Most of life ranges on the neutral to positive side and we need to recognize them. Just like my friend who fixated on the one negative that brought down her otherwise positive day, we need to focus on being grateful for the good.
Do not extend a negative by “bringing the negative person home to dinner” figuratively (sometimes we dedicate more time to reliving the event than it took in the first place)!
A wise man told me years ago – never waste even a single precious heartbeat on anyone who does not matter.
The story of two monks
I am reminded of the story of two monks from an order that banned contact with women. As they were walking by a pond one day, they came upon a woman crying on the shore. She was finely dressed in a long dress and was despondent that she could find no way to the other side where there was a family wedding. The first monk expressed sadness and said there was nothing he could do. The second monk picked up the woman and carried her across the pond holding her high enough so her dress stayed dry.
For the rest of the day, the first monk scolded the second about how he had broken his vows about touching a woman, and would owe repentance on their return. Once they reached home, the second monk finally had enough of the tirade and said to his friend, “sure I made a choice to touch the woman by carrying her across the pond for 10 minutes. I can live with that. But how can you live with the fact that you carried her around with us for the entire day?”
Even though the 80/20 rule refers to inputs versus outputs in process, (eighty percent of results come from 20% of the efforts) – the idea to focus on 80% of our day that is good, and disregard the other 20% is a valid concept.
If you can imagine every day being an 80/20 day – that is pretty damned good!
Have a happy, productive day!)