Ease your life with the 80:20 approach
The biggest pressures you can feel on your shoulders are likely to be those you have maintained there yourself: for example to be excellent in your job, to be a great father or a cool wife, to please other people, to live healthily, to stay calm no matter what your mother says, to get things done fast, to think positively, to be strong.
If you expect something from yourself that should apply all the time, you will feel bad any time you are not the way you wanted to be: when somebody does not like what you did, when you do not deliver the quality you wanted, when you get angry, when you have doubts about something you were looking forward to, when you are slower than you hoped. Sometimes it goes even further, and to avoid feeling bad, we give up our goals altogether and stop aiming at the healthy lifestyle, doing things well, being nice or positive... thus jumping from one extreme to the other.
I want to encourage you to persevere: do not give up living the way you want to live, or being the kind of person you want to be. Keep trying. Be ambitious. Just make your expectations of yourself realistic and kind: you cannot be strong, perfect, pleasing to others, you name it, 100% of the time while feeling relaxed and balanced. You can be a strong person, yet there will be moments when you feel down. You can be the person who does things well, but there will be tasks that you do less well. You can be living a healthy lifestyle and benefit from it, even if you sometimes go for something not within your usual diet rules.
The following tip offers a possible way to lower the destructiveness of the “100%” pressure, let off steam, and prevent your inner critic from screaming, putting you down and sabotaging you. (Not familiar with this ‘inner critic’ friend of yours? Check here). You will embrace yourself in your humanity.
Try to follow your ambition 80% (of the time / cases / amount) and allow yourself not to follow it for the other 20%.
Goal: Deliver as good quality as you can.
80:20 applied: You will try to do tasks as well as you can most of the time, but in 20% of the cases in which the quality might be less important, you allow yourself to submit the result without the usual perfectionism.
Goal: To be a nice person others approve of
80:20 applied: You will indeed try to be a nice person. But you will keep in mind that there will be cases when you simply cannot please others without harming yourself or sacrifying something that is very important to you, and you will occasionally give yourself permission to follow your needs even though it might disappoint someone or make them disapprove.
Goal: To be a strong person who can cope with anything
80:20 applied: You will try to cope with anything that life brings to you. And when you sometimes have thoughts or feelings that seem weak to you, you will decide whether they are an exception or whether they are starting to get the better of you. If they become dominant, you will find a way to refresh or improve your coping strategies: by using self-help tools or by asking for help. But as long as they form less than 20% of your thoughts and feelings, you will not let your occasional negative thoughts become an extra stumbling block.
Goal: To follow a healthier diet
80:20 applied: Choose 80% of what you eat and drink along the healthy rules you have decided to follow, and allow yourself to make 20% of your diet whatever appeals to you.
You can be really creative with applying the 80:20 approach, it does not need to be just for personal goals, but it can also help you focus when you know you have been directing your time and effort in too many different directions, or when you wonder how to distribute your resources.
Question: If I know what kind of job I would like to do, should I apply just for that kind of job or also check completely different ones?
80:20 applied: Define a job-search target that is neither too narrow nor too wide (get professional help if you struggle with that). Then, devote 80% of your job-hunting activities in the direction of your job target, and use the remaining 20% on checking whether there are also other interesting opportunities, if you wish to be focused yet remain open.
Question: I am on a budget. Should I better invest in high quality things or save money on lower quality?
80:20 applied: According to the Pareto principle, 80% of the time we use 20% of what we own. Identify which items you might get the best use out of. Within what you can afford, invest in those, save on the others.
And so on, and so forth – be creative and take it as far as you can.
That 20% permission will help you maintain the resources that you will need for the 80% - such as saving time or energy or money, and maintaining your balance.
It will help you to avoid giving up your ambitions and resolutions. It will make you more tolerant and forgiving towards yourself and thus towards everybody else.
Pick your goal or dilemma and try to apply the 80:20 approach for at least one month to check its effectiveness for you.
What could 80:20 approach help with in your case? Share your comment below.