Here's the principle in a nutshell: as a general rule, 80 percent of the apples in an orchard come from 20 percent of the trees. 80 percent of revenue comes from 20 percent of customers. 80 percent of all books sold come from 20 percent of authors. This 80/20 ratio is reflected in virtually every aspect of our lives.
As it turns out, about 80 percent of our happiness comes from 20 percent of our activities. That being the case, Koch suggests we can become much happier much faster by:
1) identifying the 20 percent of our lives that produces 80 percent of our happiness, and
2) choosing to invest more attention, time, energy, and effort in that 20 percent.
One tool Koch uses to identify the 20 percent of life producing the 80 percent of happiness: making a list of happiness islands. (I love that phrase! Who wouldn't want to visit the Happiness Islands?) To map your personal happiness islands, you look back over your life, and you list the eight to ten happiest times you can remember. When were you the happiest?
This isn't always as easy to do as it sounds, mostly because Western society conditions us to feel a guilty about being happy. (There's also an urge to fill our lists with things we think will please other people who see them.) But, in the spirit of exploration, I set my own fears aside, and charted my happiness islands:
My Relationship with Clyde. From that sweet, gentle first date to last night's casual dinner at Roxx, life with Clyde is my greatest source of happiness. Every day with him brings me joy.
Spending Time with Family and Friends. From an evening out to a trip around the world, we enjoy the things we do even more when we share them with people we love.
Communing with Spirit. Scheduled, regular meditation. Time for reflection. Time for decompression. Exposure to art, music, nature, architecture, or people who help me feel a stronger connection to the Divine.
Succeeding with (and Finishing) Creative Work. The day my friends and family came together to honor the first signing of my first published book is one of the happiest days of my life. Also: there's no satisfaction quite like typing that last word of a loooong book!
Traveling. We delight in going new places, meeting new people, and immersing ourselves in a different way of life. There's a special happiness, too, around introducing our friends to places we've visited and loved.
Making Healthier Choices. When I'm making healthy choices, I feel better about myself ... and about life in general. I'm happy, even when I'm fat ... but I'm happier (and feel more confident) when I'm taking better care of me.
Applying New Technology. I like being the guy who knows about the latest apps, gadgets, and technology. I'm even happier when I'm creating and making useful things with that technology, or helping people connect with technology that will make their lives better.
Hearing or Telling Great Stories. I love stories: good books, great movies, well-designed presentations, yarns told around the dinner table in the company of good friends. Some of my best memories are around hearing, telling, and sharing stories in ways that delight and surprise an audience.
Leading Workshops and Classes. A scientific analysis of my genes shows I'm about 90% ham. I love presenting useful, practical ideas to people and helping them put those ideas to work in their own lives.
So: applying the 80/20 Principle, I can start the process of making life richer by looking for opportunities to:
- spend more time with Clyde, our families, and our friends
- get involved in a spiritual practice
- finish an important personal creative project (and probably one related to travel, personal technology, or storytelling)
- travel more (especially with good friends)
- make healthier choices
- lead workshops and teach classes.
The first step is awareness. Now, what actions will I take?
How about you? What are your personal happiness islands -- and what do they indicate you could do to make your life richer?