We seldom really rely on chance in our everyday life — for the most part, we decide ourselves how our day will be. That’s what writer Stephen Covey calls "the 90/10 principle", and he shows how it works using an obvious example.
The thing is, we can’t control only 10% of events in our lives. We can’t prevent a device from breaking or a flight from being delayed. However, we can control our own reaction to such things.
The other 90% of events are the result of our reactions — to put it simply, what we do when we’re stressed out.
You’re having a family breakfast. Your daughter has accidentally spilled your coffee on your shirt. You jump up and shout at her, then shout at your wife for putting the cup too close to the edge of the table. You rush to the bedroom to change, but when you come back, you see your crying daughter has neither finished her breakfast nor packed up ready for school.
As a result, she misses her school bus. Your wife hurries to work, and you take your daughter to school in your car. You’re running late, so you’re driving recklessly. You’re still late, and to top it off you find you’ve forgotten important papers at home. The beginning of your day was awful, and it’s continuing in the same way. You can’t wait for it to end. Coming home, you greet your wife and daughter. They’re both moody, and there’s tension between you.
A) Because your daughter spilled your coffee
B) Because your daughter missed her bus and you had to take her to school
C) Because there was a traffic jam and you got in late to work
D) Because you showed the wrong reaction to the situation
The correct answer is D. You spoiled the whole day for yourself and your family with your reaction. You couldn’t have done anything about the coffee, but you could have controlled your emotions.
The coffee is spilled on your trousers, and your daughter is about to burst into tears. You say softly, "It’s okay, just be more careful next time." You go to the bedroom, change, collect everything you need for work. Then you get back to the dining room and see your daughter waving at you from her school bus. Saying goodbye to your wife, you go to work, arriving 5 minutes early and energetically greeting all of your colleagues.
Two different scenarios that started off in a similar way. It’s all about your reactions to events in your life. Of course, you can go on blaming others for your troubles and complain about everything going wrong, but has it ever helped?
If someone overtakes you on a highway, let them. Don’t rush forward — what difference will it make if you get to work a few seconds late? Remember the 90/10 rule and don’t worry.
Your plane is delayed, and your day’s schedule is ruined. Don’t snap at the airport staff, it’s not their fault. Make good use of the time instead — read a book or get to know other passengers.
You won’t regret trying to use the 90/10 principle in your life. Quite the opposite — you’ll be amazed by the results.