Do you feel like you are wasting time and energy spinning your wheels with little or no results? Do you wonder why some people just keep winning while others can’t get onto the boards? Would you like to maximize your social, financial, and spiritual returns while minimizing your effort?
If so, your answer may lie in understanding the 80-20 Rule. This principle states that, for most events, 80% of the effects proceed from 20% of the causes. The rule is also known as “The Law of the Vital Few,” and “The Pareto Principle,” named after Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto, who discovered that 80% of Italy’s income is in the hands of 20% of the population. He went on to confirm a similar statistic worldwide.
This principle most clearly reveals itself in many businesses, where 80% of the income derives from 20% of the clients. I have received corroborating testimonials from various professionals: A minister reported that 80% of the donations to his church came from 20% of the parishioners; a publisher told me that 80% of the company’s book sales derive from 20% of its books.
This fascinating phenomenon can be applied to life domains other than business. According to a Wikipedia entry, you might wear 20% of your favorite clothing 80% of the time, and spend 80% of your leisure time with 20% of your friends.
How can you apply this principle to upgrade your personal and business effectiveness? The answer is simple, according to Tim Ferriss in his 2007 bestseller, The 4-hour Workweek. Ferriss suggests you figure out which 20% of your activities are generating 80% of your results, and focus your attention and efforts on that crucial element rather than the larger portion yielding you only miniscule returns by comparison. Makes perfect sense, wouldn’t you agree?
Metaphysically, we can apply this principle on an intrapersonal level. I suggest that 80% of your success and your forward movement comes from 20% of your thoughts. If you are like me, you have all kinds of niggly counterproductive thoughts that ramble through your mind in the course of a day. This train of thought is circular, leading you back to where you began, with no productive results; plus, you feel worse after digging yourself into a mental and emotional rut, like the tire of a car spinning its wheels in mud. Likewise, most thoughts do not take us where we would prefer to go. The question to ask, then, is, “Which thoughts take me to places I truly value, and how can I capitalize on them?”
A Course in Miracles tells us that only the thoughts we think in alignment with universal truth have any power; all else is a “miscreation.” Also, that “only the creations of light are real.” We might note that 20% of our thoughts are creative, and the other 80% are miscreative.
As long ago as 250 B.C., the Greek mathematician Archimedes declared, “Give me a place to stand and a lever long enough, and I can move the world.” In other words, one good thought that extends itself into positive creation is more meaningful than a thousand thoughts that have no platform in reality. On a global level, history shows us that civilization has been advanced by a small number of forward thinkers. Eventually the masses followed, but the vanguard of human evolution has been the small tip of a spiritual and intellectual arrow.
One more suggestion from Tim Ferriss: Fire the 20% of your customers that take up 80% of your time. Once again extrapolated intra-personally, you might notice that 20% of your worrisome thoughts take up 80% of your energy. If you just considered your bothersome thoughts once or twice, they would not occupy much space in your mind or emotions. But you think the same irritating thoughts over and over again until they are blown into a proportion far greater than they deserve. So if you fire, or at least do not give attention to the 20% of your thoughts that annoy you, you may liberate 80% of your mind and energy to do the things you would really enjoy.
Take time to sit down and make a list of your business projects, home endeavors, and social interactions, and most important, your thought patterns. Note whether activities fall within the 20% that gets the most results, or the 80% that begets the least results. Then plunge wholeheartedly into the Vital 20%, and you will have your hand on the crucial lever with which you can move the world.
ALAN COHEN, author of inspirational books, including I Had it All the Time. This January Alan inaugurates All About U, a university without walls for people without limits. For more info, or Alan’s free inspirational quotes, or his daily Wisdom for Today via email, visit www.alancohen.com firstname.lastname@example.org 1-800-568-3079.