One of my favorite guidelines in this life is one that I probably am using the wrong way…But, hey, whatever works, right?
I wish this advice came to me in a dream, but the real story is that it’s something stolen from someone else’s life advice situation. My bad. I just happened to apply it to my own life, and now it guides me in the right direction whenever possible. It’s easy, intuitive, and most importantly, quantifiable. No more, “you’ll know when you know” or “whatever is meant to be will happen.”
I’m THROWING THESE SENTENCES OUT THE WINDOW.
Instead, let me introduce you to the 80/20 rule. She’s a beauty.
This rule takes the guesswork and mystery out of some aspects of life, and I’m sure everyone could use a little more of that.
Ironically, I think the 80/20 rule is most commonly applied in the world of finance. If you were to Google it, it comes up as the “Pareto Principle” the idea that, for many events, about 80% of effects come from 20% of the causes. You can read the full – and I mean, full – idea here.
If you’re confused or overwhelmed by this, you’re not alone. It helps for me to hear it like,
“80% of traffic on my blog comes from 20% of my ideas.”
“80% of customer complaints come from 20% of customers.”
Project managers, businesses, and employers use this principle all the time.
Now, what if I’m none of those things? What if I’m just a person trying to navigate the world a little easier?
The 80/20 rule – with just a lil tweakin’ – can apply to your life as well:
Let me give you some background…
The lightbulb went off in my head a couple of years ago. My friend was discussing a relationship she was in at the time of The Great 80/20 Revelation. She had been feeling unhappy and was looking for advice about which direction to go next. Her dad asked her, “Are you happy with (your significant other) 80% or more of the time, and feeling negative with them or towards them 20% or less of the time?”
Apparently, if the answer was no, then it was time to get out. BOOM. Mindblown.
So, there’s the rule tilted on its financial head. If you find yourself at a dead-end job, in a dead-end relationship, or in a toxic friendship – are you feeling negative effects from it more than 20% of the time? If so, it may just be time to reevaluate your situation 80/20-style.
Personally, this has been most helpful to me when it comes to relationships. I was in one relationship in particular, shortly after hearing of this new advice, where I found myself crying constantly. He was not ready for a relationship and I very much was. It was emotionally draining and mentally exhausting. The last thing I wanted to do was give up on a possible future, right? But, once I applied the 80/20 rule to the relationship and found that it failed miserably, it was easier for me to see – in numbers – that I was wasting too much of my time being unhappy and begging for a future that just wasn’t there.
What I like about the rule is that it leaves room for life to happen.
There are going to be days when your relationship just feels blah or you have a fight.
There are going to be days when your job seems too stressful to handle.
Instead of neglecting the ugly side of life, it takes into account these unavoidable factors and lets you crunch the numbers in REAL time and during your REAL life.
The 80/20 rule also provides something to work towards. If you find that you’re in a situation that is feelin’ a little more 50/50, then taking steps to correct that situation may be necessary.
Sometimes, the 80/20 rule just illuminates the idea that something in a specific area of your life needs to change. Instead of quitting that job, try asking supervisors for work that excites you more. Instead of ditching that relationship, try going to therapy or talking it out. And if the rule still doesn’t apply – then at least you tried to change those numbers as much as possible.
I’m not saying this rule is for everyone, but for me, it has certainly given life new clarity and purpose. Even though I no longer break my neck to achieve the perfect 100-level of happiness, at least I know I am deserving of an attempt. Until that fated day, the 80/20 rule will always be there as a guide.
Try applying it to different aspects in your life!
Always trying to move you forward,