In psychology there is a rule dubbed the “90/10 rule” which tells us that our reaction to the events that happen to us in life has a much greater weight than the events themselves. In fact, only 10% of our life is determined by what happens to us, for example having made a mistake, being stuck in traffic and arriving late for work, that the plane we took is late.
90% of what influences our life, on the other hand, concerns the way we react to situations that arise on a daily basis. It has been shown, in fact, that different people, in the exact same situation, react in extremely different ways. Based on their primary reaction to the situation in which they find themselves, their day may take a more or less pleasant and positive turn.
Having this rule in mind is important, because it makes us aware of how much control we have over most of our life: 90%. And it also frees us from unnecessary emotions, because it shows us that there will always be a 10% of our life over which we will have no control.
If we are able to address this issue with great willpower, something that may seem very negative can turn into a mere one-time occurrence. Indeed, we may even decide to observe it by looking at the positive side. Do you want to know how to do it? Keep reading this article!
An example of 90/10
To make it clear how we can put this wonderful rule into practice, we want to offer you an example in which we hope you can identify yourself. Imagine you’ve spent all day working on a project your boss assigned you. You have to deliver it soon, you are finally about to finish. Just when you are about to save everything, the power goes out and your computer suddenly shuts down.
The fault lies with your wife, who turned on too many appliances at once and blew up the light. You get very angry, you are anxious, you think it is the end of the world and you will be fired. You go to your wife and you end up arguing furiously with her.
Since you are nervous, run to the kitchen and, as you are about to get a glass of water, drop a cup that was on the counter. It’s your favorite one, the one you use every morning to drink coffee, and now it’s broken. Your anger increases and you give the fox to your son who used it in the afternoon and left it in the middle.
After a few minutes you go back to the computer and try in every way to recover your work, but you can’t. You have lost everything. Enraged, curse every saint you can and decide to go out and get some fresh air. Slam the door and keep mulling over everything that has happened to you. You are angry with your wife and child, your favorite cup has broken and you will not be able to deliver the work on time – it is definitely a bad day .
What happened? As you can see, there is a trigger event that accounts for 10% : the fact that the appliances turned on blew the power. It is something that does not depend on you, an uncontrollable reaction caused by an action performed by another person who had no bad intentions. A simple mistake.
Instead, what depended on you was everything that happened next. It’s 90% who turned a normal day into a horrible day. From a single problem many more have arisen.
Instead of concentrating all his energy on recovering or restarting the project, asking for help from his wife or telling the unexpected to the boss and asking for a little more time, the protagonist of our story had an unhelpful reaction. He ended up arguing with the whole family because of a punctual and uncontrollable event. It was worth it?
When can the 90/10 rule be put into practice?
There are many everyday situations that can represent potential triggering events for dysfunctional reactions. When they happen to us, it is good to remember this rule and do everything possible to avoid being carried away by emotion. In reality, the key is to accept frustration as an inevitable part of the game of life.
- If you are judged – You cannot control the judgments and criticisms of others, because they have the right to think what they want. You can, however, control the value you place on those judgments, the importance you place on them. If you have no power to control what others think of you, is it worth it to waste so much energy getting angry?
- If you make a mistake – You can’t control your mistakes. You can, however, learn from them. However, you will continue to commit, because it is human nature to make mistakes. But you will be able to keep your reaction at bay when you fail, to accept that it is not the end of the world, not to self-punish or demoralize yourself, to become able to tolerate them.
- If Others Don’t Do What You Want – Others’ reactions are impossible to control. Asking someone to be different at all costs is an impossible request, and the only thing we will get is an increase in frustration and a decrease in the quality of our relationship with others.
- If something unexpected or adversity happens to you – Life brings with it many adversities. According to studies, about 20,000 accidents will happen to each of us over the course of his life: from the lightest, such as stepping on a dog’s poop, to the most serious, such as the loss of a person home. It is something that we have to take into account in life and which is impossible to control. The only thing we are responsible for is the influence these adversities have on us.
The next time you find yourself in a situation that you know is uncontrollable, then, put the 90/10 rule into practice. You know that 90% depends only on you and that, if you are able to not get carried away by that 10%, everything that happens to you will be nothing more than a grain of sand and you will manage not to turn it into a mountain.