The 80-20 “rule”, sometimes known as the Pareto principle, offers a perspective on setting priorities. It says “roughly 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes”.
Here are some examples of this “rule” (but let me emphasize “roughly”):
- 80% of a company’s sales come from 20% of its products
- 80% of your Facebook engagement (likes, shares) comes from 20% of your posts
- 20% of the people you know cause most of your life’s satisfaction
- 80% of your personal results come from 20% of your efforts
It is a powerful time and resource management concept and that’s what I want to explore. How do you set priorities for your life? How do you fill your 168 hours per week? How do you spend your money? Start by considering your Purpose, Vision and Goals. Let this guide you toward the 20% of the tasks and people to focus on. Make the hard choices. Be deliberate. Consider the long view.
Look at your to-do list or meetings or budget and ask if there are ways to eliminate some items based on this thinking? Reflect on the key things that will truly make a difference. Be honest with yourself. Make the choice to say “no” to the things that aren’t essential/purposeful/strategic. Make the choice to say “yes” even if they feel difficult/stressful/new. Mark them as important on your to-do list. Review the Vision for your life and career and guide your way toward it with intentionality. Take action.
Richard Rohr has highly influenced me in this blog through his books and Daily Meditations. He says: “Be an adventurous seeker of Love and Mystery”.
I believe we should take care of ourselves and others “heart, mind, body and soul”. We don’t talk much about soul in our culture, so it requires an understanding. I have come to see soul as who I am in God…my inner self, stripped of ego and image. It is a core “essence” that has existed since I was born and tightly linked to my Purpose. Soul requires spiritual nourishment.
Spirituality is linked to faith beliefs but is even more. For me, the concepts below are some of the elements that makes soul exploration so important.
- Love as the driving force. Read Albert Einstein’s letter to his daughter.
- Oneness with God, people and nature; more Native American in thought.
- Wholeness with suffering and joy, the bad with the good and embracing all of me and others. Appreciating that life is many “shades”.
- Presence without the noise, fully attentive to the people around me. Enjoying the solitude and silence without the distractions.
- Service, practice and action rather than stories and beliefs. Role modeling Jesus. Becoming a better person.
- Mystery in that I’ll never know the answers to some of my big questions.
Those words in bold font are deep and powerful concepts. I find them calling me and so I pray and reflect. I learn and grow daily knowing that the journey does not end.
Why do you do anything? I think that is a question worth examining on a regular basis. Some examples:
- Why am I spending my evening watching TV?
- Why is my manager asking me to work on this particular project?
- Why am I a morning person?
- Why do I like to spend time with ___?
These can be interesting or difficult introspection questions. Exploring the answers is how you find motivation to do things, especially the important and necessary things. It’s at the heart of knowing yourself deeply. Once known, you get to put full energy into a commitment or make adjustments on how you spend your time. The continual but gradual process to align your “why” results in focus and energy. You can choose to “stay in the rut” or move out of it. It should be a conscious choice done with intention rather than reaction.
In an earlier blog, I asked “what makes today a great day”? The “why” question is at the heart of this. That “thing” that gives you a thrill must be uncovered and nurtured. Week-by-week make small adjustments to synchronize your time and life toward something bigger…your career rather than a job, your family rather than you, your Purpose and Vision rather than tasks.
We make choices every day based on our values, but are these values explicit? Know your “why”. Purposeful people find meaning in all of their life roles. They seek to satisfy the needs of the heart, mind, body and soul.
Our days are filled with busyness and stress…but then something happens and we feel it is a great day. Some examples: your one-year old baby says “dada” for the first time, your big project at work just got approved, you made a big sale or acquired a new customer, you had an amazing conversation with a family member. It’s that special “something” that happens in an instant and overrides the feeling of the entire day.
We deserve great days, great weeks and great years. While luck plays a part, I feel these days can be planned by knowing and doing more of what makes you special. The mental work is to know the essence of these things. This essence is purpose (who you are) and passion (what gets you excited). What makes you laugh? What gives you joy? What gives you a thrill? Why? Observe and reflect on that moment. Think about that essence. Be grateful. You will find more of it just by being aware.
Think beyond a “day at the beach” or getting a promotion to the experiences of everyday life. Great days occur because we are paying attention, mindful of a special circumstance and its connection to heart, mind, body or soul. Find the “pattern” of the great days. Notice the link to who you are. Celebrate the observation and insight as another part of knowing yourself deeply.
Today is a good day to have a great day!
This idea of “retire with purpose” has two important parts: defining retirement and discovering your purpose?
Retirement as defined in the dictionary is “the period of one’s life after leaving one’s job and ceasing to work”. That doesn’t quite do it for me. Retirement is a period of life where new time choices are possible, you may choose to work but are not burdened with the requirement to work. For me, it also implies that we have left our life-long job or career.
What are your time choices? We each have 168 hours per week and they will be filled. Why not do that purposefully, deliberately and with intention. The model above suggests that our time will be split across work, hobbies, volunteering or leisure. We can choose tasks or relationships to fill our time or both.
Purpose is (re)discovering who you are and Mission is what you choose to do. You answer questions such as “who am I”, “what do I want my legacy to be” or “how am I going to make the world a better place”. Purpose will feel meaningful and joyful. You feel called to something because that’s who you are. It’s something you can’t stop yourself from doing.
Research shows that people with purpose live longer. It is an important element of well-being. Retirement is a significant shift in time choices. You heart, mind, body and soul must be nurtured but only you know the right balance.
Passion is a funny thing; it’s important but my informal survey indicates that it is elusive. I’ll ask some questions to get at this:
- What gives you a thrill in life?
- What activities make you say, “I can’t stop myself from doing it”?
- What makes you cry or angry or laugh?
- What makes today a great day?
Are the answers obvious to you? I believe we owe it to ourselves to know or find our passions. Passion might be related to a special cause or it may simply be using our gifts of talent. At the level of “cause” it might be kids, education, politics, the environment, poverty, addictions or hundreds of other things.
I don’t think the entire day has to be perfect to make it great nor does it have to be stress-free. Here are some examples of using your talents:
- You close a deal on an important transaction that you worked hard at.
- You solved a big problem (for yourself or another).
- You share an important insight with a friend.
- You offer comfort to another.
- You finally get comfortable with making a big life decision.
- You make a difference in someone’s life.
Being “in the zone” or “in the flow” occur. We lose track of time and we are entirely focused. We feel the energy. We deserve these feelings. They are characteristics of Purpose. Pay attention. Once you find this “magic” in your life, you owe it to yourself to live it deeply.
We need to manage our career plans strategically and tactically…guided by our purpose. If you don’t your purpose yet, then start with “know yourself deeply”. Salary and potential earnings are important, but these must be balanced with capability, passion, meaning and enjoyment. All are possible with the courage to make personal change. Only you know the right balance.
The strategic part is planning for (or allowing) new roles, assignments, projects or tasks. It is choosing the big things such as career objective, career field, company and work location. It is the long-term accumulation of capabilities that add personal value, energy and joy, sometimes with unexpected results.
The strategic part is something you think about deliberately once or twice per year. You ask questions such as: Am I working for the right company? Do my company’s values match my own? Do I use my talents to add value and meaning to people’s lives? Am I working to my potential? Know the “why” behind each of your answers.
The tactical part is job shaping. This simply means that we make routine choices to optimize our tasks and responsibilities within our assigned job. You change tasks or relationships or simply make a context change. For example, a cashier at the grocery store could reframe his or her work from “checking out” to “putting a smile on everyone’s face”.
A written career plan is an essential part of a life plan. It is a skill best done with a career mentor.
We each have a uniqueness and specialness to our lives. I am convinced that we are born with some (all?) of it and that it is even God-given. Knowing it is part of the purpose journey because there is power and energy from seeing life-long patterns. Specialness includes ways of thinking, talents, nationality and more. The “world” (parents, school, work, society) causes us to lose it because it doesn’t want us to be too “different”. The world doesn’t seem to like people who live outside of a framework…and so we conform (or get bullied). Specialness must be (re)discovered.
When we are very young there are less boundaries on behavior. But then we go to school and immediately we “must be quiet in class” or study specific topics in certain ways. Socialization starts with our parents but becomes more obvious in a big school system or at work. We conform and lose a little bit of ourselves, sometimes reluctantly and sometime unknowingly. As we progress through life we assume other life roles. Our company culture, society’s expectations for men and women and our religion are all working on us. What is the cost to our soul?
I presume that socialization is unstoppable and even necessary. When we are young we are not equipped to challenge these forces. As adults we can rediscover our uniqueness. Do you know and embrace your specialness? Can you think of the earliest time in your life when it first became evident?
There is something energizing about being a “senior”, that time of life beyond 60 years old. The kids have grown up and you may be an “empty nester”. You have accumulated incredible life skills. Your maturity and experience cause you to see life differently…with wisdom, patience and even a bit more humor.
Seniors are a valuable commodity to family and community. This talent and capacity must be nurtured individually and systemically. Individually, we must define a “retirement” in our own way. We must know that we are each priceless and not let our past be our only identity. Each of our 168 hours per week is lived uniquely, balancing time and attention choices across work, leisure, family and service. Do it deliberately by being clear on Purpose, Vision and Goals. Systemically, we need organizations to create meaningful roles that encourage use of all our talents and continue to develop them. Organizations also need to implement flexible schedules.
Express your creativity…in projects of any type. Keep learning and live to your full potential. Have courage to try new things. Form deeper or new relationships with family and friends. See the world and people with a new perspective. Remember the “good times” but provide future-focused leadership in your passion.
Choosing purposeful activities has been shown to enhance the quality and longevity of life. Our minds and bodies both need to be exercised to stay vibrant. Everybody deserves their day/week/month “on the beach” but I hope you also choose contribution and impact.
Affirmation (noun): the action or process of affirming something or being affirmed; emotional support or encouragement.
Like smiling, giving another person a positive affirmation is a simple yet significant gift. It goes something like this… I see this special talent/strength/value in you. It shows up in what you do and makes you a unique and wonderful person. The way you use this “specialness” is making a difference.
We all need affirmation at some time. People who are hurting regularly need it. All too often, they do not have caring people in their lives who nurture them. Strong positive words offer support and encouragement and they have a lasting effect. It’s a way to show we care and build a relationship.
Be specific; rather than saying “you are amazing”, try “your talent for cooking combined your ability to select food ingredients helps you bring people together in harmony over a special meal”. Emphasize behaviors and skills. An affirmation is an important mentoring skill. It is especially important because it helps another to “know themselves deeply”.
We Zapp when we give “positivity; we Sapp when we take away energy. Choose to say positive things to others 10x more than you criticize. It’s much more effective (and fun) in influencing behavior.
Affirmations can be personal as well (but is not my focus today). It’s the things we say or think to ourselves over and over. The idea is simply to change our beliefs.