The 80/20 Principle As it Relates to Your Happiness

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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):

Business:

  • 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

Personal Habits:

  • 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

Work:

  • 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

School:

  • 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:

  1. Which 20 % of activities and people in my life are responsible for 80 % of my challenges or frustrations?

  2. Which 20 % of activities, people, work, passions are resulting in 80 % of my fulfilment?

  3. Which 20 % of my things bring me 80 % of my joy?

  4. 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?

 

Sources:

Tim Ferriss Four Hour Work Week

Wikipedia

Mark Mansen

 

 

Tim Ferriss’ Fear-Setting Strategy: How to Make a Decision when Fear is Holding you Back

IMG_3984Have you ever found yourself faced with a decision that feels not only overwhelming, but crippling?

We all have defining moments in our lives that force us to reconsider the status quo. Sometimes, what stops us from making the right (but HARD) decisions is the fear that we’ll fall flat on our faces and, ultimately, that we won’t be able to recover from the failure. Fear stops us dead in our tracks. So, we retreat from the edge of uncertainty and choose comfort over courage.

The amygdala (reptilian brain) takes over like an overprotective big brother, signals that your livelihood is being threatened, and shuts everything down. You begin rationalizing your inaction. After all, better the devil you know than the devil you don’t, right?

What if you had a framework for examining your decision through a different lens? What if you could circle-back to the big brother and question his assumptions upon which he based the need to protect you? What if through examining the decision with precision, you could override the fear, altogether? What if you could choose the difficult path and live to tell the tale?

You’ve likely heard of goal-setting, but maybe you’re new to the concept of fear-setting. One of my favourite podcast hosts, Tim Ferriss, describes the process in his Ted Talk. Sometimes, when you’re faced with that jump of the cliff moment of a big decision, fear-setting can be the answer you need to bring clarity to a situation, allow you to make a decision without second-guessing it, and to ultimately, choose courage over comfort.

The framework recently helped me to make a big career decision that, initially, had me shaking in my boots. Once I examined my fears head-on, I was able to make the decision without doubting myself.

So, if you’re faced with a big, bad decision related to any aspect of your life, try it out sometime.

You’ll need three pages in a journal or on your computer:

Page One Define and name the Fear: What if I ____? 

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Create three columns

1. Define Fear: What is holding you back?

  • Make a list of the worst things imaginable associated with the choice (10-20 things)

2. Prevent: What are the preventative steps one could take to avoid the worst things imaginable?

  • List them all!

3. Repair: If the worst case happens, how do I come back from it?

At the bottom of the page, reflect on the following: Has anyone less intelligent/less driven figured this out? Chances are that they have, and so can you!

Page two: What might be the benefits of an attempt or partial success?

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This helps you to create a framework through which even partial success relates to a win. Often this comes down to an increase in:

  • Confidence
  • Money
  • Time
  • Connection with those you love
  • Creating boundaries
  • Growing your business
  • Growing your family
  • Opportunities
  • Meeting people
  • Practice for the big projects

Page three: What are the costs of inaction, emotionally, physically, and financially?

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Inaction can be a regret-maker. It’s likely that envisioning the costs associated with inaction will be the magic sauce that tips you over the edge, that enables you to stand behind that hard decision, that allows you to invite the fear.

Break down the costs using the following time-increments:

  • 6 months
  • 1 year
  • 3 years
  • 10 years

Next, ask yourself: What is the cost of the status quo? What might my life look like in:

  • 6 months
  • 1 year
  • 3 years
  • 10 years

I hope you found this framework useful. I always love to hear from my readers, so feel free to message or email me:)

Bottom line, easy choices usually result in a hard life. If you’re able to front-end load your life with hard choices, I believe it’ll lead you to an easier, more fulfilled life. 

 

 

 

 

 

How Paddle-boarding, Elk, and a Girls’ Weekend Getaway Brought me Closer to Gratitude

“If you’re going to make a change, you’re going to have to operate from a new belief that says life happens not to me but for me. If we trade our expectations for appreciation, the world changes instantly.” -Tony Robbins

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One Friday evening in March of last year, I set off for Port Renfrew to meet a small group of girlfriends for a much-needed, restorative weekend away. My husband had graciously agreed to hold down the fort for two nights. It would be my first weekend away from my baby boy, a bittersweet prospect. I had made the deliberate choice to drive the 2 ½ hour journey on my own, embracing the opportunity of delicious solitude with almost nervous anticipation. The typical wet west coast climate had been replaced by a bone-dry couple of weeks, but as dusk fell, I could smell the imminence of rain in the cool air. Before departing, I had secured our paddleboard onto the roof of the vehicle, programmed my GPS (to Handsome Dan’s Cottages in Port Renfrew) and selected an episode from my favourite podcast to accompany my drive (a two-part Tim Ferriss interview with Tony Robbins). I had just finished watching I am not your Guru on Netflix earlier that week and was interested to learn more about Robbin’s values and principles.

Screen Shot 2017-12-15 at 10.40.26 PMAs the suburbs, streetlights, and sidewalks gave way to lush west coast foliage, lumbering cedar trees, and blacktop that stretched endlessly before me, I felt the weight of my shoulders lessen and exhaled deeply. About 2 hours into the trip, as I was listening to the fascinating interview, Robbins invited the audience to do a short, guided gratitude exercise (which is linked here and here). He discussed the scientific benefits of gratitude on our bodies and the way that our heart (EKG) and brain (EEG) literally align when you experience a state of gratitude. I’m guessing he explained this perhaps to convince the skeptics that this is not just some feel-good exercise, but that it has lasting physiological benefits. I was intrigued.

I should mention, by this point in the journey, I was starting to feel a little edgy. It was dark, the road was unfamiliar, and the GPS, which hadn’t spoken to me in over an hour, seemed to be struggling with the lack of consistent service signals. A little voice inside kept wondering if I’d ever make it to my friends and the cozy cabin we’d rented.

Pushing the negative thoughts to the periphery of my mind, I allowed myself to be guided through the exercise. First, we were instructed to identify a stressful situation or conflict in our lives (umm…getting lost in the middle of nowhere with no service, immediately sprung to mind). Then, he encouraged us to think of one, two, then three separate moments or memories for which we are grateful. For each one, Robbins directed the listeners to recall the sensory experience in order to fully immerse ourselves in the memory. Research has shown that when we relive a beautiful experience, it truly transforms our mental state to a more positive, optimistic one.

Finally, he asked us to think of a coincidence in our lives, something that has happened for us which has resulted in a new job, a new connection, or a profound realization.

In that exact moment, two enormous shapes materialized on the road in front of me. Time slowed down, as my foot slammed on the brake pedal and I narrowly avoided hitting what turned out to be two majestic elk, making their way across the road. My heart pounding, the vehicle slightly askew, I took a moment to process what had just happened and lowered my window to gaze at the creatures who had paused to inspect me with their huge, gentle eyes.

Robbin’s voice cut into the silence, as if to punctuate the moment: “Was it a coincidence, or were you guided? What if you believed that life was happening for you, not to you?” A chill raced along the length of my spine.  Not a moment later, my GPS kicked in, confirming that I was merely minutes away from my destination. I don’t know if it was the sleep exhaustion, the adrenaline rush of such a close call, or the fateful coincidental timing of the whole experience, but as I sat there in my car, keenly aware of my smallness in this giant universe, I felt a tear roll down my cheek.

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About 15 minutes later, I finally entered the cabin, greeted by my friends’ smiling faces, fellow moms seeking to recharge, as well. And recharge, we did! During the course of the weekend, we had unexpected dance parties, we took sopping beach hikes in the torrential rain, we spent hours talking, we cried, we took photos, we ate, and we laughed until our bellies hurt.

Sunday came, and I had one more thing to do. After packing and cleaning up, my friends set off for home. I crammed my body into the wetsuit, loaded the truck, and headed out in search for the perfect spot to go paddle-boarding…by myself. One of my friends had pulled me aside that morning, asking if I wanted company. Kindly, I had declined. For many reasons, heading out solo to go paddle-boarding was something I never would have considered doing when my daughter was an infant. I would have found reasons to avoid going (the discomfort of wriggling into an uncomfortable wetsuit, feeling guilty for taking time to myself, feeling incapable of pulling the heavy board off of the truck). In my life, I have tended to opt for certainty over adventure. But, here I was, as a mom of two, seeking the unknown adventure that stood before me. Going it alone was part of the idyllic uncertainty.

Initially, I had pulled into a spot near the ocean-side of the bay, but pounding surf, powerful wind gusts, and side-ways rain made me swiftly reconsider my choice. After a few minutes of searching, I finally settled on a calm lagoon location on the opposite side of the bay, with no evidence of current or waves. I parked the truck, acutely aware of my seclusion. With no one around for miles and no service signal whatsoever, I was truly on my own. It was thrilling!

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I retrieved the step-ladder from the trunk and hauled the bulky board off of the roof awkwardly, making sure not to damage it. I felt a little jolt of pride, quickly retrieved the paddle, set it beside the board, and returned the step-ladder. Carefully, I tucked my purse and phone under the back seat and locked the door.

As I stood at the edge of a bank overlooking the lagoon, my eyes were drawn to the fluid movements of a heron, the colour of steel blue, in the distance, observing as he skimmed the water before rising into the sky and disappearing against its white backdrop. The silence was almost deafening juxtaposed against the comfortable commotion to which I had grown accustomed at home. A thin, wispy fog hung just above and veiled the glassy expanse of water, from which darkened logs and deteriorated bulkheads rose like alligators. Droplets of falling rain broke the water’s surface, creating ever-expanding hypnotic concentric circles.

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I turned back to the truck and placed my keys above the tire in the wheel well of the car; I didn’t want to run the risk of soaking my fob and rendering it useless. Almost immediately, I removed them. Too obvious! I certainly didn’t want to get stuck in the middle of nowhere without a vehicle, either.

Then, in a moment of infinite wisdom, I rested them just inside the front fender. I know… I KNOW!! In slow motion, I watched motionless as the keys tipped from their stationary resting place and slipped down under the engine compartment. Hoping that they had miraculously fallen to the ground, I dashed under the truck only to discover that they were tucked between the engine and its protective metal casing…completely out of sight and reach.

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Under normal circumstances, I would have completely panicked. I would have cried. I would have started the downward spiral of hopeless thinking: no keys, no phone, NO SOLUTION! Then, my mind would have given way to all of the worst-case scenarios possible. That being said, I’d be lying if I didn’t have momentary visions of desperate hitch-hiking, serial killers, and being chased by bears.

But, the truth is, I had come to this very place to prove my independence, strength, and to challenge my fears. I had asked and the universe had delivered. Perhaps, this could be a lesson, for which I might be grateful one day. I remembered Robbins asserting,

“You can’t be fearful and grateful simultaneously. Gratitude is the antidote to fear.”

The instant I stopped resisting my current reality, the fear and panic dissipated. Time passed sluggishly, as I calmly lay down under the truck, tried every possible method to blindly reach the keys. I completely filthied my wetsuit, hands, and hair in the process. Finally, after twenty minutes of fruitless searching, I decided to change my approach.

I peered inside the engine compartment, through a tiny slit near the wheel well. A glint of gleaming metal caught my eye. The KEYS! Carefully, I squeezed my hand past the sharp metal encasement to reach them. After several suspenseful, painful, and frustrating minutes, I managed to finally grasp the keys between two fingers and retrieve them.Screen Shot 2017-12-15 at 11.25.38 PM

My heart pounding, pure elation and gratitude emanated from my soul. Covered from head to toe in mud and engine oil and my hand scratched-up and slightly bloodied from the sharp metal edges, I couldn’t help the enormous smile that spread over my face and my exclamations of joy that soon followed. I quickly recovered my phone from the truck and took a quick picture, proof of my incredible experience. Then, tucking the keys into one of the wetsuit pockets, I headed out onto the water, my heart genuinely full of gratitude and appreciation.

Want to bring gratitude part of your daily practice? Here are 7 ways you can bring gratitude into your life, in meaningful, authentic ways:

  1. Actively cultivate moments of gratitude : Use your 5 senses to take a mental picture or video of the moment. Put your phone down. Be present. It’ll make the memory unforgettable and forever locked in your mind, something you can bring forth whenever you want.
  2. Limit your gratitude practice to listing three things: PhD researcher Adam Grant explains in his book, Option B,  that a regular gratitude practice, involving listing three things for which you are grateful daily, can help you nurture your resilience after loss or during adversity. But, when you try to list more than three, it can become overwhelming and counteract any benefits.
  3. Be specific and authentic: Don’t just say the same 3 things you think you should be saying…that doesn’t enter the realm of authenticity, your brain will check out, and you won’t be connecting. Instead, keep it fresh and exciting by looking for opportunities –One person, one memory, something right in front of you-keeps you grounded no matter how bad or overwhelming your life might feel.
  4. Give yourself a timeline: If you’re a skeptic, you don’t feel like you have time, or you plain just don’t want to…make a declaration to try it for 7 days and see if your outlook changes.
  5. Do twist on Gratitude: If you’ve done gratitude work before and you want to do something different, think about reflecting on your contributions that day. Dr. Adam Grant asserts that gratitude is passive, but contribution is about action. What three things have you done today to contribute to your home, work, school, or community to make it better?
  6. Zoom in: Marie Forleo talks about focusing on one person or moment for which you are grateful. She encourages her listeners to zero- in with a macro lens on 3-5 qualities you appreciate about them or how that situation improved your life.
  7. Write your gratitude down! When we write things down, our brain processes it more completely on a subconscious level. When it comes to goals, for example, we are 42% more likely to achieve them when we’ve written them down. I think we’re kept accountable, and it also serves as proof that good stuff really is happening in our lives.

Comment below to share your gratitude practice!

Handfuls of Hope

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“Why would God make me this way?” he threw his hands up exasperated, standing in the middle of the grocery aisle as she stood beside him.

My 84-year-old friend, Kate, a devout Christian, had spotted Sam immediately upon entering the grocery store that day, hunched over as he squinted at the ingredients on a box of cereal.

A resident in her senior’s complex, he had been struggling with presenting his true identity to the world. Born a female, Sam had recently decided to bravely transition in the last act of his life, through hormone therapy, to the man with whom he had always identified.

Adversity was no stranger to Sam. He struggled daily with depression and anxiety. He could be seen frequently breaking down publically, shouting angrily at passers-by from the steps of his apartment. Other residents in Kate’s complex tended to avoid Sam, unable to grapple with the uncertainty and erratic nature of their interactions.

He was often solitary.

He walked alone.

Shopped alone.

Spent every holiday alone.

Kate was always good to him. She made sure to honour and call him by his chosen name. She always acknowledged him in passing.

This day was a little different.

“Oh, I just can’t today,” she thought initially when she saw him standing there. She was exhausted after a long week of medical appointments and the last thing she wanted to do was navigate unpredictable waters with her neighbour. She began to turn on her heel for the opposite direction, to avoid Sam before he could see her.

But, in that moment, something stopped her.

She knew he needed her today.

So, she angled her cart toward Sam, and made her way over to him, greeting him sincerely with a big smile and a friendly “hello.”

He looked up, surprised, then, upon recognizing Kate, his face broke into a wide grin.

As it turns out, it had been a particularly difficult day for Sam. He had been contemplating his identity, struggling with whom he thought he had to be for the world to accept him, questioning his worthiness and existence.

They stood together, for a long time. She listened. He talked. She validated him as he revealed his fears. He felt safe and heard. Sometimes, that is all we seek.

There were tears and even a hug.

Before he turned to go, Sam stopped her suddenly, grasping her hand, “You know, Kate, I was feeling miserable earlier, but after talking to you, I feel…hopeful.”

My 84-year old friend, leaned in a little closer, placing her freckled hand on his shoulder and whispered gently, “God doesn’t make mistakes.”