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Tuesday, September 16, 2008

The 90/10 principle

Have you heard of this principle which was shared by Stephen Covey? (a genius, I may say for turning a simple daily thing into a principle)

How many of us really know what is this 90/10 principle?
Stephen Covey mentioned that the 90/10 is all about the ways thing happen in our life and we go about taking control.
The 10% is about things we cannot control while the 90% is the way we react to the things which happened.

My parish priest talked about in his mass and he put it in another manner; where the first 10% could affect the 90% of your day.
Not entirely wrong and still applicable; let me tell you in the following example I am about to share.

(I am sure most of you may have read this before through forwarded emails, blogs, etc)

Picture this scene in a normal family on a weekday morning:
Dad is sitting at the dining table; all dressed up for work in his crisp ironed shirt and in his hands were his daily newspapers which just arrived this morning.
His son walks into the dining hall; ready to have his share of breakfast before going off to school and he stumbled, causing a cup of coffee to spill on dad's shirt.
Dad got up in shock and instinctively shouted at his son for being so careless.
Son mumbled, "Sorry dad"
Dad continued to grumble and scolded him and turned to Mum who was preparing the breakfast at the stove. He shouted for a new shirt and reprimanded her for putting the coffee cup near the edge of the table.
Mum got cross and yelled in return for dad to get his own shirt.
Son started crying and missed his bus.
Dad rushed upstairs to change his shirt and rushed to send his son to school; grumbling the whole way over the entire incident while the son was quiet throughout the journey to school.
Upon arrival, Dad said goodbye to son but son did not reply and ran into school without looking back.
Dad arrived late at his office and found that he left his briefcase at home. His boss reprimanded him and he had a hell of a day at work.
Dad looked forward to going home but upon arrival at home, found that Mum and son are still in a cold war with him and everyone refused to speak to him. The situation went on for 3-4 days.

Does this sound familiar to any of you?
I am sure each and everyone of us had somehow gone through this kind of episode not once; but several times in our life, in different scenarios/occasions.

The 10% was the coffee incident; it was something which was not in anyone's control.
Dad didn't see it coming; son didn't do it on purpose and Mum didn't delibrately place the cup on the edge.
But the 90% was something we can control; how we react to it!
A twist to Dad's reaction could've made things turn out differently:
(let's rewind)
Son accidentally hits the cup and coffee spilled on Dad's shirt.
Son says "I'm sorry Dad"
Dad brushed off the coffee from his shirt using a cloth and said, "It's okay, son", and rushed upstairs to change his shirt.
He will bring his briefcase down with him and son and wife will bid him goodbye before departing to work/school respectively.
Things will be normal at work and he will not be late.
When he comes home, there will be a nicely cooked dinner and wife and son waiting for him for dinner and they will have a nice and warm family conversation just like everyday.

See the difference?
Another way of seeing that 10:90 is this; that 10% in the morning or the way you react affects the 90% of your day.
Look at how Dad reacted to that coffee incident. Because he lost his temper in the morning, he went to work a grumpy man and it became worse when his boss also lost his temper at him for being late and forgetting his briefcase and there goes his entire day (90%)
If only Dad didn't lose his temper, things would've progressed nicely and he will keep track of his schedule and list-to-do (briefcase, car keys, etc) and 90% of the day, the normal and happy family man who enjoys his day of work while looking forward to home.

Look at how the whole thing turned out when the man just snapped.
Put on your thinking cap and tell yourself, is the coffee incident really that bad? Do I really need to lose my temper at the poor boy who clearly didn't mean it?

Do you see how we can all take charge and control our own life?
Most of the time, when unwanted things happen which mess up our plan, we never stop to think that I could've reacted differently. Do I really need to go that far as to lose my temper? Do they really mean it? It was just an accident; nobody wants that to happen.
And that's how we overcome that anger and cool ourselves down.
But sadly, most of the time, most of us will just lose that cool and SNAP!
The ending? You see for yourselves...

At the same time, when you are in control of your own feelings, this doesn't mean that you should just suppress it all the time.
No, no....as a matter of fact, suppressing one's anger is worse than letting it out.
However, the way you handle/manage your anger is the key point.

Let's say you're feeling crappy today (frustrated with work, had a fight with your spouse/partner, you lost your belonging, car broke down, whatever) and one of your joker friends came and was about to share with you on this piece of juicy gossip he just heard somewhere.
You're clearly not in the mood and you really feel annoyed at his presence at this moment, so how do you react?
a. You shout at him to get the hell out of your face
b. You tell him that you're in a for a bad day and could he save this for later

If you chose a, you need serious help and I suggest you get a self-help book for anger management because you clearly didn't get the message from the story I shared above.
If you chose b, congratulations because you have learnt how to express your anger the right way.

Yeah, you're in a crappy mood but is your friend in the same crappy mood?
No! He had just been nosey (as usual), and he found out some interesting and probably a rotten scandal about someone; an arch nemesis of you guys and he's so hyped up and excited to tell you all about it to have a good laugh.
So, he's in a great mood and can't wait to laugh it out with you.
Imagine if you were to lose your temper at him, he will get cross and you'll both never talk to each other for a week or so.
You're only in a crappy mood for today (10%), do you want to be unhappy for the rest of the week when your friend refuses to talk to you after the big blow? (90%)

So, to avoid that, and you don't have to suppress your anger, you can just tell him slowly, "Today's not my day, I am really crappy....and perhaps we can talk later because I may lose my cool if we were to talk now"
You still get to tell him you're really pissed at something and that you can't talk without losing your temper at this point. But by saying that, he knows he has to step out of your boundary and he will give you your alone time.
He will understand you and you get to crap to yourself, and later in the afternoon, who knows after a few rounds of sack punching, you feel ready to indulge in the juicy conversation with him?

The 90/10 principle is really a great way of managing our anger and I'd love to share this with everyone.
There are still lots out there who have not grasped this principle; coz being humans, we just tend to get our emotions get the better of us.
That's why we see lost friends, angered and dysfunctional families, divorced/separated couples, etc.

If we learnt one baby step at a time to express our emotion the right way, we can make this world a much better place to live in.
I am also learning but I can tell you, once you try it, you will see things differently and you will enjoy it; trust me - coz I love it:)