The 90/10 Principle - Adapted from Steven Covey
Steven Covey crafted The 90/10 Principle - With no disrespect at all to Mr. Covey, I have differentiated between react and respond. While react and respond are often used interchangeably and even as definitions of each other, I am using react as an automatic, impulsive, or conditioned adaptation thought, feeling, and behaviour that occur as a result of a provoking event...and more often than not is destructive in outcome. Response, however, is a less impulsive but more thoughtful/reasoned/constructive adaptation to the same events. A video/youtube presentation of the 90/10 principle in it's original wording is included at the end of this post. drwaynecoghlan.com
10% of life is made up of what happens to you. 90% of life is decided by how you react or respond. What this means is that we really have no control over 10% of what happens to us. Sure, even if we do the regular maintenance, we cannot completely stop the car from breaking down (flat tire). We can make all the best plans, but due to circumstances well beyond our personal control, there will be traffic jams, which throw our whole schedule off. There will be someone slow at the only cashier when we only wanted to pick up a single item. We have no control over this 10%. The other 90% is different. You determine the other 90%. How? By allowing yourself to react or choosing how you respond.
Don't let whiners and blamers fool you; YOU CAN CONTROL YOUR REACTION AND CHOOSE HOW YOU RESPOND.
Let's use an example. You are eating breakfast with your family. Your daughter knocks over a cup of coffee onto your business shirt. You have no control over what just what happened. What happens next will be determined by how you react. You curse. You harshly scold your daughter for knocking the cup over. She breaks down in tears. After scolding her, you turn to your spouse and criticize her for placing the cup too close to the edge of the table. A short verbal battle follows. You storm upstairs and change your shirt. Back downstairs, you find your daughter has been too busy crying to finish breakfast and get ready for school. She misses the bus.
Your spouse must leave immediately for work, and it’s not a warm goodbye. You rush to the car and drive your daughter to school. You are still angry and she is feeling hurt. Because you are late, you drive 60 kph an hour in a 40 kph speed limit. After a 15-minute delay, and throwing $160 away in a traffic fine, you arrive at school. Your daughter runs into the building without saying goodbye. After arriving at the office 20 minutes late, you find you forgot your briefcase. Your day has started terrible. As it continues, it seems to get worse and worse. You look forward to coming home. When you arrive home, you find small wedge in your relationship with your spouse and daughter.
Why did you have a bad day?
A) Did the coffee cause it? Wow, that’s a really strong cup of coffee to ruin your day!
B) Did your daughter cause it? So… you let your 8 year old control your life!?
C) Did the policeman cause it? Really? Why did the cop single you out?
D) Did you cause it?
The answer is D. You had no control over what happened with the coffee. No matter how upset you become, you cannot un-spill the coffee back into the cup. How you reacted in those 5 seconds is what caused your bad day.
Here is what could have and should have happened. Coffee splashes over you. (Perhaps your instinctual reaction is to become upset.. yet…you now have learned to recognize the cues that tell you your inner animal brain is trying to take over your mind). Your daughter is about to cry. (You pause to take a deep calming breath). You gently say, "It's ok, honey, you just need to be more careful next time". Grabbing a towel you rush upstairs. After changing into a new shirt and collecting your briefcase, you come back down in time to look through the window and see your child getting on the bus. She turns, smiles, and waves. Before your wife leaves for work she gives you kiss and says she loves you. You make it to work and arrive 5 minutes early and cheerfully greet the staff. Your boss comments on how good a day you are having. The boss has a special assignment that could lead to a promotion…who might s/he select? You get home at the end of the work day and your wife and daughter are happy to see you.
Notice the difference? Two different scenarios. Both started the same. Both ended different. Why? Because of how you RESPONDED. You really do not have any control over 10% of what happens, and once it has happened, you can’t make it un-happen. You can only move forward, not back. The other 90% was determined by your reaction, or your response.
Here are some ways to apply the 90/10 principle.
If someone says something negative about you, don't be a sponge and soak it up. Let the attack roll off like water on glass. You don't have to let the negative comment affect you! Respond properly and it will not ruin your day. A wrong reaction could result in losing a friend, alienating a loved one, being fired, getting stressed out, etc.
How do you react if someone cuts you off in traffic? Do you lose your temper? Pound on the steering wheel? Do you curse? Does your blood pressure skyrocket? Do you try and bump them? I saw one driver race to pass the car that cut him off and nearly cause an accident.... and then had to come to an abrupt stop the next lights. WHO CARES if you arrive ten seconds later at work? Why let the other car ruin your drive? Remember the 90/10 principle, and do not worry about it.
You are told you lost your job. Sure it’s a concern, but the more you make yourself upset, the more you lose sleep and get irritated, the worse the impact on you and your family? Use your worrying energy and time into finding another job. It will work out.
The plane is late; it is going to mangle your schedule for the day. But why take out your frustration on the flight attendant? She has no control over what is going on. Use your time to catch up in your reading, get to know the other passenger. Why get stressed out? It will just make things worse.
The 90/10 principle is incredible, yet very few know and apply this principle. Millions of people are suffering from undeserved stress, trials, problems and heartache. There never seem to be a success in life. Bad days follow bad days. Terrible things seem to be constantly happening. There is constant stress, lack of joy, and broken relationships. Worry consumes time. Anger breaks friendships and life seems dreary and is not enjoyed to the fullest. Friends are lost. Life is a bore and often seems cruel. Does this describe you? If so, there can be a change.
By knowing the 90/10 principle and applying it, you will gain influence over your future, and you will be amazed at the results.
You can be different! Understand and apply the 90/10 principle. It will change your life.
Describe a situation where your reaction made things worse. What would you do differently now?
Describe how you would use a time out to manage your anger in the example given?
Caution: What you might lose by trying is being miserable and making those around you miserable.
What will your world be like without being miserable and fighting with others?