How Could the 90/10 Principle Empower You?

In this day and age we are bombarded with advertising of programmes or things that will make us fitter, healthier, richer, more productive, more successful in any number of places; on the sports field, at work and at home. I must say I am jaded when I read claims like that. You know as the saying goes, “If it sounds too good to be true then it probably is!”

I recently picked up a short article that said that it was “going to change my life”, now normally I would just think “yeah right” and move on. However, this time I didn’t because of who wrote it. It was written by Stephen Covey who wrote 7 Habits of Highly Effective People which I have read and found useful. So I read on, it was called the 90/10 Principle. Now this is like a lot of great things is simple in concept but a little more difficult to implement in your life.

So here goes, Stephen Covey suggests, and I quote, “10% of life is made up of what happens to you. The other 90% of life is decided by how you react to them. For the 10% we really have no control over what happens to us; cars break down, coffee is spilt, planes and buses are late, carparks are full and so on. The other 90% is different, you can control your reaction to what has happened. That to a large extent will govern what happens next.”

His basic premise is do not allow a small incident to set the tone for the rest of your day by how you react to say, the driver who cuts you off, things that are not ready when you want them, and the list goes on. If someone says something negative to you, you still have a choice about how you react. As a Life Coach I want to emphasise at this stage that the 90% is your choice and that is empowering! Now Stephen Covey uses the word react; I would like to replace that with the word respond.

The difference between the two is, reactions tend to be instant, on autopilot and emotionally charged. When we respond, the major alteration is time. If we can stop and take a couple of deep breaths, or even better a glass of water, this gives us time to engage our brain. We can decide how we want to respond to the situation or what has been said. Asking questions like what kind of outcome do I want? How important is this incident as far as the rest of my day goes? This puts you back in charge of the potential outcome. Because emotions can be difficult to control at times, it can be better to walk away from situations until you can respond.

If we look at the life of Jesus, He always responded, He did not react. So as followers of Christ something we need to do is learn to respond. One idea I have had is to use a prayer from 12 Step programmes. Now 12 step programmes were designed to give a framework for addicts who tend to live on their emotions to deal with life. Maybe you could try it too. Here is the 12 Step version of the Serenity Prayer:

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change

The courage to change the things I can

And the wisdom to know the difference

If you pray this in your head before you react, you will probably give yourself time to respond. This allows God the opportunity to be part of your process.

Paul Monahan

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