Author Stephen Covey described a principle he called the 90/10 principle. Ten percent of life is made up of what happens to you. Ninety percent of life is decided by how you react.
We really have no control over 10 percent of what happens to us. We cannot stop the car from breaking down and the plane will be late arriving, which throws our whole schedule off.
A driver may cut us off in the traffic. We have no control over this 10 percent.
The other 90 percent is different. You determine the other 90 percent. How? By your reaction.
You cannot control a red light; however, you can control your reaction.
Do not let people fool you. You can control how you react.
Let me use an example: you are having breakfast with your family. Your daughter knocks over a cup of coffee onto your uniform shirt. You have no control over what has just happened. What happens next will be determined by how you react.
You curse. You harshly scold your daughter for knocking the cup over, and she breaks down in tears. After scolding her, you turn to your wife and you criticize her for placing the cup too close to the edge of the table. A short verbal battle follows.
You storm upstairs and change your shirt. Once back downstairs, you find your daughter has been too busy crying to finish her breakfast and get ready to go to school. She misses the bus. Your spouse must leave immediately for work. You rush to the car and drive your daughter to school. Because you’re late, you drive 40 miles per hour in a 30 mph speed limit zone. You get pulled over and, after a 15-minute delay and throwing $60 away on a traffic fine, you arrive at school. Your daughter runs into the building without saying goodbye.
After arriving at work 20 minutes late, you realize you forgot your backpack or briefcase. Your day has started terribly.
As it continues, it seems to get worse and worse. You look forward to going home. When you arrive home, you find a small wedge in your relationship with your wife and daughter, because of how you reacted earlier that morning.
Why did you have a bad day? A) Did the coffee cause it? B) Did your daughter cause it? C) Did the policeman cause it? or D) Did you cause it?
The answer is “D.”
You had no control over what happened with the coffee. How you reacted in those 5 seconds is what caused your bad day.
Here is what could have happened. Coffee splashes over you, your daughter is about to cry. You gently say: “It’s okay, honey, you just need to be more careful next time.”
Grabbing a towel you go upstairs and change your shirt. You grab your backpack or briefcase, and you come back down in time to look through the window and see your child getting on the bus. She turns and waves. You arrive 5 minutes early and cheerfully greet the staff.
Notice the difference? Two different scenarios. Both started the same. Both ended differently.
Why? Because of how you reacted. You really have no control over 10 percent of what happens in your life. The other 90 percent is determined by your reaction.
Here are some ways to apply the 90/10 principle.
If someone says something negative about you, do not be a sponge. Let the attack roll off like water on glass. You do not have to let the negative comments affect you. React properly and it will not ruin your day. A wrong reaction could result in losing a friend, being fired, being written up or getting stressed out.
How do you react if someone cuts you off in the traffic? Do you lose your temper? Pound on the steering wheel? (a friend of mine once had the steering wheel fall off) Do you curse? Does your blood pressure skyrocket? Who cares if you arrive 10 seconds later at work? Why let the cars ruin your drive? Remember the 90/10 principle and don’t worry about it.
You are told you lost your job, did not get promoted, etc. Why lose sleep and get irritated? It will work out. Use your worrying energy and time to find a new job, study harder for a test or whatever the case might be.
The plane is late. It is going to mangle your schedule for the day. Why take out your frustration on the flight attendant? She has no control over what is going on. Use your time to study, get to know the other passengers, why stress out? It will just make things worse.
Now you know the 90/10 principle. Apply it and you will be amazed at the results. You will lose nothing if you try it. The 90/10 principle is incredible. Very few know and apply this principle.
The result? You will see it yourself. Millions of people are suffering from undeserved stress, trials, problems and headaches. We all must understand and apply the 90/10 principle. It can change your life.
It only takes willpower to give ourselves permission to make the experience. Absolutely everything we do, give, say, or even think, is like a boomerang. It will come back to us.
If we want to receive, we need to learn to give first.
Remember, we cannot control everything that happens to us, but we can control how we react to it.