A 19th century Italian economist named Vilfredo Pareto made an astonishing observation about life. His observation has been called, among other things, the Pareto Principle or the 80/20 Rule. Essentially, what he observed was that a small minority of our efforts or inputs create the biggest majority of our results, successes or outputs. So what does that mean? Consider this: 80% of our success comes from 20% of our effort. If you’re in business, 20% of your customers or sales will produce 80% of your revenue. It also means the converse, 80% of your time and effort produces only 20% of your income, success or achievement. Pretty staggering stuff when you consider the implications!
But, the 80/20 observation applies to almost all aspects of life. While I can only pique your curiosity in this short article, this is something worth spending more time considering. It means a few things are always more important than most things. Richard Koch, in his book, The 80/20 Principle, calls them the “vital few.” Think about it, there are always a vital few things we do at work, decisions we make about our life, our finances, the lives of our children, our faith, our friendships and on and on that are among the “vital few.” Yet the 80/20 observation tells us we actually spend the majority of our time and effort making decisions on all the stuff that contributes only 20% to making all areas in our lives better and more successful. Translation: most of our time is largely unproductive!
It also means we get 80% of what we enjoy from only 20% of what we do. Eighty percent of the deep meaning of friendships comes from 20% of our friends and the time we spend with them. But the observation applies to our recreation, sports, travel, and the people and things we do that bring pleasure and meaning to our lives.
The challenge to enjoy more of what you value most is to identify the “vital few” efforts, activities and friendships that bring 80% of what you want most. And then, do more of those things and less of the rest.