Have you heard of the Pareto principle?
If not, you’ve been missing out.
It is a way of approaching life that can lead to great things.
In its simplest form, the Pareto principle is the idea that just 20% of your choices or activities affect 80% of your outcomes.
In the smallest sense, it could be that by focusing hard for just 20% of your day, you can achieve 80% of your to-do list.
On a larger scale, it could be that just 20% of the choices you make in life will be the source of 80% of your happiness (or, alternatively, 80% of your problems). It’s about those key decisions that have the biggest impact on your future.
Now, it’s important to say that everyone’s 80/20 will be different. When you’re applying the Pareto principle to your life, you need to think about what you want and what will make you content when you look back many years from now.
If you’re not sure where to start, and you want some inspiration on what your 80/20 principles could be, here are some of the key choices you might want to think carefully about.
1. Who you surround yourself with.
A lot of who we become and where we end up comes down to the people we choose to spend our time with.
These are the people who influence how you spend your day and develop how you see and react to the world. Unless you’re fiercely independent, it’s difficult not to be swept along with the mood of a group of friends, so you want to make sure the people you choose to be around are helping you get places, not holding you back.
Making friends with diverse types of people can help give you a more balanced outlook on life. Finding friends who have different opinions or bring out different sides of your personality can help you be more receptive to new ideas so you don’t put limits on yourself and what you can achieve.
Relationships change. As you get older, you may find that the people you needed around you earlier in your life aren’t the right people for you now. Make the choice to be vigilant about the people you keep close to you. Make an effort with those who bring out the best in you, and distance yourself from others who you can see leading you down the wrong path.
2. What you do with the energy of your youth.
Make the choice not to waste the energy in your youth by putting off everything until tomorrow.
You’ll never be this young and have this much time ahead of you ever again. Take advantage of the time and energy you have to put into your work and relationships now so you can enjoy the benefits as you get older.
Take adventurous trips, say yes to unexpected plans, and worry about getting more sleep tomorrow. Prioritize the things you love while you can rather than getting caught up wasting your time and energy on less meaningful or memorable things.
3. Which romantic relationships you enter (and stay in).
We can’t always know if a relationship is going to work out, and everyone goes into them hopeful that this will be the one that’s right for them.
Relationships can dominate your life, not just while you’re in one, but in the future too. Even a short, bad relationship can take a lifetime to move on from and have lasting repercussions on your happiness.
Be conscious of what you’re getting out of your relationships. Make sure you’re in one that makes you feel safe and loved. The best relationships are a positive addition to your life. Even if it’s a short fling, make sure it’s one you’re in control of and you feel comfortable and happy with the situation.
You might not have expected your relationship to take a bad turn, but if it does, don’t sit around or get trapped in an unhappy space because of it. Always put your own happiness first, and don’t be scared to leave if that’s the right thing for you. You’ll thank yourself for it in the long run.
4. How kind you are to others.
It doesn’t take much to be kind. If you always try to put kindness at the forefront of your mind, then you’ll learn to take a minute before reacting in anger, causing hurt, and making decisions you may later regret.
You don’t fight fire with fire. If you’re faced with someone being rude or confrontational, choosing to act with kindness and understanding—rather than with anger—can bring the calm that’s needed in the situation.
You won’t regret being kind in your daily life, especially when you realize small acts of kindness can have a big effect on a person’s day. You never know what people are going through, and choosing to show kindness can be the lifeline someone might need to help get them back to a more positive place.
Kindness doesn’t have to be shown in big gestures; it can be as simple as a “thank you” or a smile. It doesn’t always have to extend to others because being kind to yourself is just as important.
It seems like a small choice to make, but it can make a bigger difference than you ever imagined.
5. Whether you stick to your morals.
Not everyone is going to agree with you or believe the same things as you.
Your morals, upbringing, and overall life choices may not be understood, or even respected, by some people around you, but that doesn’t mean you should feel pressured to change.
Sometimes it might feel difficult to live by your own morals when others around you aren’t, but you should never feel as though you’re in the wrong for living life in the way you believe is right for you.
If you waver and are pressured into doing something you feel is wrong, even if it seems a small compromise at the time, the decision could be one you forever regret because you were swayed into doing something you weren’t comfortable with.
No one wants to live with regrets if they can avoid them. It’s okay to change your opinions and the way you choose to live your life as you get older. If you prioritize having courage in your convictions, at least you can look back and be able to stand by the decisions you made throughout your life.
6. How you spend your time.
Your free time is limited when you have day-to-day responsibilities. That’s why it’s even more important to be thoughtful about how you spend it and who you spend it with.
Some opportunities you’re never going to get back, like spending time with elderly relatives, or young children. They won’t stay as they are forever, and every day they’re changing right before your eyes. So prioritize spending time with them now; don’t put it off for another day.
Don’t waste your time on people who don’t deserve it and, more importantly, don’t appreciate it. Instead, you could be elsewhere with people who love you.
Choose to be more conscious of how you’re investing your time. You need to leave enough time for yourself, your relationships, and your overall happiness.
Work and responsibilities will always be a part of your life, but make sure you’re not getting so distracted by spending your time on those things that you waste chances to spend time on the people and the things that really matter.
7. Whether you are courageous enough to walk your own path in life.
It’s hard to have the confidence to stand out when you feel different from everyone else. It might feel safer and easier to blend in if you’re worried what people will think of you if you don’t.
It takes courage to live life your own way, especially when that way is different from those around you. But your life is what you make of it, and if you don’t want the same things as other people, that’s okay.
It can be something as simple as dressing differently because it makes you happy or deciding not to settle down when everyone else is because you want to travel or focus on your career.
If you’re making choices just because everyone else is, then you won’t find the contentment everyone else seems to be finding. If it’s not truly what you want to do, then you shouldn’t be doing it.
It’s not a negative reflection on you just because you’re at a different stage of life than the people around you or you approach life in a different way. You are totally unique and will get the most out of your life by staying true to that.
It might feel scary to live life according to your own rules, but making the choice to live life your way is going to be more fulfilling than wasting years trying to be something you’re not.
8. How you look after yourself and your health.
Your health is the best investment you can ever make. If you invest in it when you’re young, you’ll enjoy the benefits of a longer and happier life when you’re old.
Don’t wait until you start feeling as though you can’t do things before you make a change. Prioritizing your physical and mental health early in small ways can make a big difference later in life.
Making time for exercise and eating a balanced, healthy diet is the simplest way to start managing your physical health.
Don’t leave it until you get ill or injured to think about how you can help yourself. Getting into the habit of prioritizing your health every day will stop it from being a chore. It will simply become a normal part of life. Take your health seriously and set yourself up for a long and happy life by making it one of your top priorities.
If you’re thinking about trying to live life by the Pareto principle, don’t get too caught up in worrying what the consequences of your actions will mean.
You want to make good choices and you’re aware of the lasting effects they can have on your life. But not all the choices you make will be good, even 20% of the time.
It’s still okay to make bad choices because that’s how you learn from mistakes. You can end up in places you never could have imagined, living a happier life than you could have known.
You can’t tell exactly which direction your life will head in, but you can decide to try your best with the choices and time you’re given. Going into decisions with the Pareto principle in mind, and being aware of making the most of the time you have, is enough to make you more aware of the outcome you want to work toward.
In everyday life, the Pareto principle is about prioritizing the 20% that will lead you to your goal of happiness. Don’t get distracted and waste your time on things that won’t have a positive effect on your day and ultimately your life.
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