The 80/20 Principle as it Relates to Your Happiness
Ok, so I just recently came across something that has useful and transformative applications to just about every single facet of anybody’s life. In fact, it’s such a simple, effective concept that it blows my mind that I hadn’t encountered it until this year, so I am dying to share it with you, too. In a nutshell, it’s an unassuming framework approach that can completely shift the way one makes decisions, runs a business or designs one’s existence. Literally, I believe it can change your life, making you happier, more intentional with your time, and more efficient.
So, let’s dive into it.
Initially discovered and developed by Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto in 1906, the Pareto 80/20 Principle (aka the 80/20 rule, the law of the vital few, or the principle of factor sparsity) was used to explain the wealth distribution among the Italian population. It stated that roughly 80% of the income in Italy was received by 20% of the population.
OK…that’s fine, but who really cares?
How does this apply to you?
Here’s where it gets interesting.
This principle has been used on macro and micro scales in a variety of fields with the purpose of increasing happiness, mindfulness, success, time efficacy, and overall ability to follow-through on the intentions one sets. Once one understands that the principle permeates just about everything, it can be used to measure your achievements and correct your course if you’re not feeling connected to what you’re doing.
Here are some examples that illustrate how the 80/20 principlemight relate to you (obviously, the ratios might be skewed slightly depending on the situation, but most can agree that there’s a pattern of a minority creating a majority):
- 20 percent of employees are responsible for 80 percent of a company’s output
- 20 percent of customers are responsible for 80 percent of the revenues /sales
- 20 percent of product defects cause 80 percent of problems
- 80 percent of complaints come from 20 percent of your customers
- 20 percent of portfolio investments are responsible for 80 percent of growth/losses
- 20 percent of the things you do result in 80 percent of happiness
- 20 percent of my spending contributes to 80 percent of my fulfilment
- 20 percent of your friends are responsible for 80 percent of your happiness
- 20 percent of the people in your life are responsible for 80 percent of your unhappiness
- 80 percent of value is a cause of the first 20 percent of your efforts
- 20 percent of the photos you take are responsible for 80 percent of your overall photo-taking satisfaction
- 20 percent of my wardrobe is worn 80 percent of the time
- 80 percent of my phone time is wasted on 20 percent of your apps
- 20 percent of US population uses 80 percent of healthcare
- 20 percent of the world suffers 80 percent of serious hardships (good to remember)
- 20 percent of food you eat 80 percent of the time
- 20 percent of your work make up for 80 percent of your output
- 80 percent of the work might be completed by 20 percent of the workers
- 20 percent of tech problems contribute to 80 of time spent trying to solve them
- 80 percent of customers only use 20 percent of tech products available to them
- 20 percent of my tasks bring 80 percent of my success
- 20 percent of students are responsible for 80 percent of contribution at carpet time
- 20 percent of students are responsible for 80 percent of the work within groups
- 20 percent of students take up 80 percent of your time
- 20 percent of parent population contribute to 80 percent of parent interactions
- 20 percent of school day is dedicated to 80 percent of minds-on, hands-on learning work (I’m sure this depends)
- 20 percent of our high-frequency words account for 80 percent of language used (oral and text)
So, how do I use the 80/20 Principle to improve my life?
Over the last year or so, I’ve used the principle to help me reach conclusions or advise others on their decisions.
For example, a close friend of mine was having a difficult time navigating a difficult interaction with her friend. They just couldn’t seem to agree on the value-based issue, which seemed to come up again and again whenever they would visit. It had been years and it became clear to me that the only reason my friend was maintaining the relationship was out of an arbitrary obligation.
Sometimes, 20 percent of our “friendships” cause us 80 percent of our grief and unhappiness. Maybe it’s more valuable to dedicate 80 percent of our time to the 20 percent of people who add the most value to our lives. Time is finite. We are under no obligation to surround ourselves with people who drain our energy, put us down, or reduce our overall happiness. As Jim Rohn once said, we are an average of the five people with whom we surround ourselves.
Sometimes, we have to fire our “friends” to become happier and live the lives we want.
Here are some useful questions to ask yourself:
Which 20 % of activities and people in my life are responsible for 80 % of my challenges or frustrations?
Which 20 % of activities, people, work, passions are resulting in 80 % of my fulfilment?
Which 20 % of my things bring me 80 % of my joy?
Which 20 % of food do I eat 80 % of the time?
After you answer those questions, it’s easy enough to search for patterns and analyze the following in order to intentionally live the life that brings you the most fulfilment and happiness:
What do I need to be doing more of?
What do I need to be doing less of?
With whom do I need to be spending more/less time?
What do I need to be eating less/more of?