The 80/20 Rule

Hello Friends,

The year of 2018 has started off in a powerful way, and I hope you feel it too! If you made the decision to start a new way of living, or if you set some other goal and called it a “resolution”, I offer you congratulations for making it throughthe  month of January and staying on track! (Because you did stay on track, right?)

In my last blog post for 2017, I gave some strong opinions on what I think about making resolutions. I’m not going to take any of that back, but what I am going to do is offer you some encouragement as you continue to pursue whatever goal you are seeking to achieve. I also want to share with you a simple idea that, if followed appropriately, will greatly increase your chances of effectively creating patterns of behavior that produce goal-achieving success. (80/20 rule)

Before we get to the rule, though, we need to discuss a couple simple principles that exist everywhere in the Universe. There are many ways to name these principles, and specific definitions can vary depending on context. For our purposes, let’s call one principle “Structure” and let’s call the other principle “Disorder”. I don’t want you to think these two principles are opposites, because they aren’t. They are their own independent processes, but they do interact. Both are essential for the Universe to function. Both are necessary for YOU to function, optimally.

Structure, in essence, refers to any instance in which a system is organized. There is a recognizable, repeatable, observable pattern. From the molecules in oxygen to the complex electrical circuitry stuffed between your ears, it is easy to find these patterns EVERYWHERE in the Natural World. The big deal about these patterns is that, without fail, they exist to serve a purpose. Cells organize to form organs, and then people. Ants organize to create a colony. Oxygen molecules organize to form an invisible gas that makes our very existence possible.

Disorder, for our purposes, will be defined as any instance in which a system has been disturbed. This is the important distinction that prevents these two principles from being opposites. Cancer is a good example. Most cancer is simply the wrong cells, reproducing in the wrong way, in the wrong location. It’s not necessarily chaos, it’s just that the system gets scrambled. Perhaps a less macabre example; a deck of cards with half the deck turned backward is still a deck of cards, but it has been “disturbed”. It’s not necessarily chaos, but it also won’t do exactly what you want it to.

In both cases, you can have active control over these principles. They are both processes, and once initiated,  are driven on by behavior and environment. It is important to note here that “disordered” behavior can indeed become a pattern, if it continually disrupts the effective function of the system in it’s “natural” state.

Now that we have an understanding of these two Universal forces, we can discuss the rule I mentioned earlier. I like to call this the “80/20” rule, even though it has no relation to the Pareto Principle, which is also called the “80/20 rule.

Here is my idea. I believe that to be successful in life, 80% of what you do and how you behave should have some kind of constraint or boundary. This structure allows us to develop the ability to be disciplined in Your actions. It also allows us to establish patterns that serve us in positive ways. This is important work for your brain to do because it creates a system of actions and rewards that provide observable, repeatable data, and your brain likes to have that information.

I believe there should also be 20% disorder in all aspects of your life. Disorder exposes the brain to novel experiences and new challenges. This allows your brain to practice adapting, over and over and over again. That is exactly what our brains are built to do: recognize a problem, attempt to find a creative solution until the problem no longer exists, observe another problem, begin working on a solution. This work allows your brain to develop creative responses to stimuli that is beyond your control. This process helps you develop the ability to interact with the world AS IT IS, not AS YOU WANT IT TO BE.

When we apply this rule to how we think about living an active, healthy lifestyle, we can better understand it’s practical application. For example, planning and preparing your meals on a weekly basis provides structure for 80% of your diet. This leaves you 20% of your diet to account for sweet treats or “cheat” meals.

Committing to an active lifestyle means you use your body for movement EVERY DAY. Planning to complete 5 workouts at the gym covers 80% of your exercise program, leaving 20% for you to fill in the gaps with activities like hiking, swimming, cycling, etc.

Making the conscious choice to avoid watching television or Netflix during the week takes care of 80% of how you use your time in front of a screen. This leaves 20% of your time on the weekend to enjoy the most recent episode of your favorite show, and helps ensure you use your “free” time during the week for something other than sitting in front of screen!

Is all of this making sense to you? Do you see how valuable it is to take charge of how you exist? Do you understand that no one but YOU is responsible for how you live your life? You can apply this 80/20 rule to any aspect of your life. I encourage you to put some rules in place, give yourself a standard to follow, and then work on developing your sense of personal discipline. I encourage you to let go of the 20% of this chaotic Universe you cannot control, and work hard to understand that we are built for adaptation, not perfection. No one will ever have a “perfect” pushup, or a perfect split jerk, or a perfect body, but with consistent, focused effort 80% of the time you can constantly work toward achieving the goals that are important to  YOU!

As always, thank you for reading my words, until next time… Peace.Tobias.