Provision #255: The 80-20 Rule

Laser Provision

We can relate to transitions in many ways. We can fear and fight them or we can receive them as extraordinary opportunities for accelerated growth. Using the 80-20 Rule as a guide, this Provision coaches us to see the positive side of transitions and to embrace them for all they’re worth.

LifeTrek Provision

Perhaps you’ve heard of the 80-20 Rule. Its formulation dates back to at least 1906, when Vilfredo Pareto, an Italian economist, observed that twenty percent of the Italian people owned eighty percent of their country’s accumulated wealth. Since that time, the 80-20 Rule has been applied to a wide variety of contexts and situations where a small number of causes produce a large percentage of the effect.

Management theory has identified the applicability of the 80-20 Rule in organizations, where twenty percent of the effort generates eighty percent of the results and twenty percent of the results consume eighty percent of the resources. This holds true both for organizations and for the individuals in organizations. The leadership challenge is to focus time, effort, and resources on the important few rather than the trivial many.

Biology has identified the applicability of the 80-20 Rule in organisms, where eighty percent of the growth occurs in twenty percent of the time. This holds true for both plants and animals. In about ten weeks’ time, during the spring, eighty percent of a plant’s annual growth takes place. Animals have growth spurts. One day, it seems, your child is suddenly taller than you and has outgrown all of his or her clothes. And there’s no telling exactly when that will happen.

This pattern provides an important perspective as we start our series on Navigating Life’s Transitions. A transition can be compared to spring time in plants and a growth spurt in animals. We may not have seen it coming, but under the surface life was gearing up for a dramatic change. That is, in fact, the way of life. When it appears that not much is happening, we are actually collecting and preparing ourselves for the next transition. Then, boom, it happens and the whirlwind takes off • only to settle down again until the next transition.

Does that sound familiar? Sometimes it happens as a collective rite of passage. After years in primary and secondary schools, at graduation an entire class is suddenly pushed out into the world together. Other times it’s a very personal evolution. After years of tolerating a bad relationship or work environment, we suddenly decide to make a change. Only it wasn’t all that sudden. It’s actually been in the works all along.

This can be true even when we are not the ones responsible for a transition. We may not allow ourselves to acknowledge the truth (that’s called blind spots and denial) but long before we lose our job, the company gets sold, our health deteriorates, or our spouse files for divorce there are often telltale signs that impact our way of being in the world. We prepare and brace ourselves for the change, on all levels, whether we know it or not.

When the transition finally happens we breathe a different kind of air. It’s as though we enter an aromatic garden, with powerful sights, sounds, smells, and textures. Small things generate huge results. A word here, an action there, and the whole world seems to shift. That’s because we’ve entered the stage where eighty percent of the results take place in twenty percent of the time. Everything is compressed and occurring at high speed.

These times of transition are at once scary and exhilarating. We don’t normally live in such moments. The ancient Greeks recognized this phenomenon by having two words for time. “Chronos” referred to the straightforward passage of ordinary time (hence the English word “chronological”). “Kairos” referred to the unique opportunity of extraordinary time. “Kairos” doesn’t come around very often, but when it does • the 80-20 Rule • watch out because incredible things happen.

Transitions are more about “kairos” than “chronos.” They are not linear, straightforward, and progressive. They are circular, curious, and explosive. One moment it seems we have everything together and figured out. The next moment everything’s coming apart and up in the air. Does that make them detrimental and undesirable? Only if we fail to see them as the opportunity they represent. Only if we fight against them, as though they shouldn’t be happening, rather than flow with them, as though they have hidden treasures to offer.

Transitions are opportunities for unparalleled and accelerated growth. We can grow more during a time of transition than during any other time in life. Whether it’s freely chosen or thrust upon us, transitions are opportunities that test our mettle an invite us to discover a new way of being in the world. On every level • physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, social, political, and cultural • transitions reveal the truth about ourselves and move us forward at light speed.

That’s why many people work with LifeTrek coaches as they go through transitions. There’s a lot to prepare for, sort out, and establish. New patterns can be effortlessly achieved in the context of new relationships, jobs, homes, or communities. But will they be the right patterns? It pays to think this through and test the waters through reflection and conversation. Remember the 80-20 Rule and don’t be surprised by the results.

To reply to this Provision, use our Feedback Form. To talk with us about coaching or consulting services for yourself or your organization, Email Us or use our Contact Form on the Web for a complimentary coaching session.

LifeTrek Readers’ Forum (selected feedback from the past week)

Editor’s Note: The LifeTrek Readers’ Forum contains selections from the comments and materials sent in each week by the readers of LifeTrek Provisions. They do not necessarily reflect the perspective of LifeTrek Coaching International. To submit your comment, use our Feedback Formor Email Bob.

Great topic: transition. In the past few years I have gone through profound transitions myself: giving up the security of a European country to build up a life in a South-American country in turmoil; from South America to Asia and back, which involved profound changes in my career, family life and thus in me. All those transitions have emotional, cultural and psychological elements. All have in common that they went to the core of my personality. At times I have felt the strong need to be in control whereas at other times I could go with the flow. Sometimes confusion was my biggest adversary. Because of all this I look with great interest in what I could learn from your Provisions. Good luck and may you be inspired to give insight to the wanderers among us.

Great perspective! I just read your piece from my PDA, in an airport, waiting for my delayed flight. Just enjoying my shift…

Hey there • I enjoyed this most recent “trek” tremendously. I found great gratitude in your having found a hot tub in London. Far to go for the comfort • but comfort all the same. Good for you! Lastly • did you notice the perfection of William Bridges name? I found it so appropriate as he enlightens us of transitions……”Bridges”.

Thanks for your reflections and that great “Bob-like” title, “Shift Happens.” I am attempting to “shift” out of the current and past business mode. Trying to disengage in some manner • will fill you in as happens.

Reading of your traveling nightmare made me chuckle, not at your misfortune, but at your observations. I’ve traveled extensively for and have had the “luck” of being “inconvenienced” many times whether it be for weather related conditions, plane maintenance issues, FAA crew sleep requirements, or security breaches. It never ceases to amaze me how bent out of shape most people get during these situations. Unlike your recent situation in Rome, I normally have had places to go or to be which I missed because of the delay. People on the other end, those expecting you, normally understand that the situation is out of your personal control and your intentions were good. Why not use this unexpected extra time positively in some way? I’ve had great insights of self reflection, discovered new restaurants or sites, and met, conversed with, and learned from some interesting and engaging people during these types of situations, not to mention more heartfelt and joyous reunions with loved ones upon my return.

Good luck on your transition. I really liked your story and perspective today. I was saying to a group of friends that how we enjoy our vacation depends on our perspective. When we tell people of our favorite camping trip we mention that we had a flat tire on the camper, our window blew out on the van, and we got food poisoning. But we had time built into our trip that allowed us to remedy these situations without interfering with the trip. Plus the people who helped us through these problems made the “shift” easier to handle. Perspective and a positive attitude make all the difference in the world.

May you be filled with goodness, peace, and joy.

Bob Tschannen-Moran, MCC, BCC

President, LifeTrek Coaching
CEO & Co-Founder, Center for School
Immediate Past President, International Association of
Author, Evocative Coaching: Transforming Schools One Conversation at a TimeOnline Retailers

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