The 90/10 Principle

Regular readers will know I am a bit of a fan of Stephen Covey. His book, the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People was a bestseller and, I believe, it says pretty much everything you need to know about how to achieve success. (See my article of the 7 habits) . Well, today, I came across this video on the 90/10 Principle that I enjoyed watching and thought you might too.

It really is just a different presentation and articulation of Habit #1 – Be Proactive, but he gives a very nice example of the difference between, what he calls a ‘proactive’ person and a ‘reactive’ person. Reactive people don’t think too much about how they behave in response to the events in their lives; proactive people exercise their will in order to make choices that are in alignment with their goals.

The example he uses is the sequence of events that might happen should your daughter knock a cup of coffee over your business shirt. First we get the reactive person’s choice and the ensuing sequence of events. Then we get the proactive person’s response and a completely difference set of consequences. It’s simple, but profound stuff

Why did he call it the 90/10 Principle. Well, I guess this is the most interesting part for me because I am familiar with his writing and indeed, the concept and have also been working on myself for some time now. The reason is quite simple: 10% of what happens to us, he says, we cannot control. The other 90% of life is a product of the choices we are making in response to that 10%.

When I teach this principle in my workshops, I always tend to use the original language of the 7 Habits, so we would be speaking about being proactive, of course. But many people don’t quite manage to take on board what is meant, in Covey’s language, by the phrase. They tend to think that being proactive is all about anticipating events and fixing things before they get broken.

The way Covey describes Habit #1, it means more than that and this little video does a great job of getting the essence of what it means to be proactive. So, I hope you will watch it and enjoy it too, but I also hope you will take on board the message. Don’t stress yourself about that 10% that you can’t control; and think carefully about how you react to it because those choices are responsible for creating 90% of your experience of life.

Watch the Video

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