Why We Adhere to the 80/20 Rule

Vilfredo Federico Damaso Pareto was born in Italy in 1848. Later in his life he would make a discovery. In his garden he found that 20% of his plants produced 80% of his peas. He began to study other areas of society and found that this rule held true elsewhere. Eighty percent of the land was held by 20% of the people. Twenty percent of the factories produced 80% of the products. This became known as the Pareto principle, and it's true in many aspects of life today. Twenty percent of your work produces 80% of your results and vice versa. This has influenced many individuals and companies to change their work habits to derive the most from their work with the least amount of effort by focusing on what matters and eliminating extraneous efforts.

With our diet and exercise we take this principle and tweak it a bit, but we arrive at a similar result. We are trying to create habits and results that we can adhere to easily and with consistency. This eliminates the pressure to be perfect and ups the odds of success by, oh, I’d say, 80%? So where and how do WE employ the 80/20 rule?

When we’re looking at our diet, especially when we are starting a new regimen, we say to ourselves, try to be perfect 80% of the time, don’t worry the other 20% isn’t everything we want it to be. That would mean if you had 20 meals over the course of the week, 16 would be everything we prescribed for ourselves. That rocks! That will garner results - results that will last over the long haul because we didn’t beat ourselves up for not being perfect. Make sense?

Our workouts we treat much the same. Personally, I go into almost every workout saying to myself, I’m only going to do what I feel like I can. Inevitably (about 80% of the time) I do more and work harder than I expect. The other 20% of the time I just don’t have it. I do a nice stretch and leave the gym, or go back into my house since I workout in my backyard most of the time, but you get the point. We give ourselves leeway and by doing so we make it easier to keep going and succeed.

Shoot for the stars, strive to be your very best, and you will get there. Don’t try for perfection - it doesn’t exist! At least not more than 80% of the time. Or is it 20%??


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