Day 76: Personal Happiness and The 80/20 Rule

A long time ago I learned about the 80/20 rule. Also called “Pareto Principle,” it is the idea that 20% of one’s efforts in any given endeavor are responsible for 80% of the results. This is often applied in the workplace and in productivity circles. The idea suggests that we look for that “sweet spot” that produces the most impactful results in our lives.

Inherent in this is the idea that there are a lot of things that don’t produce much benefit. To go back to “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People,” there are a lot of time wasters. Another way to say it is that we get what we tolerate: if we are discerning, we can make sure that what we are up to in life truly brings satisfaction.

This blog aims to focus on that 20%, if you will, of topics that I find greatly satisfying. I aim to ignore the rest 🙂 So far it seems to be working out, not only on this blog but in my life.

I had a vivid insight of how the 80/20 rule applies for me when the Pandemic first happened. Suddenly we were staying at home all the time. All my students were on Zoom. My wife and I only drove the car to get groceries. Much of the previous idea of “normalcy” had been stripped away. And yet, personally I felt no diminishment of happiness. In fact, in a way, I felt even happier, because I wasn’t feeling pressure to do or be certain things that I had previously felt pressure to do or be. I thought to myself, “I’m pretty happy now. This must be my 20%!”

The 80/20 rule applies equally to money. For a long time now, piano teaching has been my financial base. Despite performing extensively in the past, and in fact living on performing for several years before getting married, at one point I realized that teaching provided nearly 80% of my income. The numbers speak for themselves. As the woman who hired me for my first piano teaching gig said, piano teaching is my “bread and butter.” When the Pandemic hit and I suddenly had no gigs, I was minimally impacted financially. Obviously this was a big contributor to my continued satisfaction.

The topic of work also reminds me of Tony Robbins’ Six Human Needs. Two primary human needs are Certainty and Variety (or Uncertainty).* Piano teaching satisfies my need for certainty**. At the same time, performing, and musical theater gigs satisfy my need for variety. When the Pandemic first happened, I had been quite busy in the previous months with these things. Looking back on it, I see that I craved simplifying and going inward. Maybe I craved certainty. The Pandemic helped me accomplish this. No wonder I was so happy.

These days, I find that I crave variety. So I’m making adjustments.

Nonetheless, the simple fact is that I feel my life is in alignment with the 80/20 rule. It is nice knowing that, by and large, I live in my “sweet spot.”

*As described by Tony Robbins, the others are Significance, Love & Connection, Growth, and Contribution.

**Actually, teaching satisfies most or all the human needs: significance, growth, love & connection, and contribution. It even offers variety. However, it is nice to have other options in life, as well!

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