Life Isn’t What Happens To You But How You React To It That Matters

The 90/10 rule: The change begins with you.

In psychology there is the so-called “90/10 rule“, which says that our reaction to situations influences us much more than the situations itself. In fact, just 10% of our lives are determined by what happens to us: a mistake we make, a plane delay or traffic jam that makes us late for work. On the other hand, 90% depends directly on how we react to these situations that make up the 10%. It is proven that individuals in the same situation react in very different ways. Our first reaction to an unpleasant happening that has just taken place determines whether we can gain something positive from a more or less pleasant day.

It is important to keep this rule in mind, because we can become so aware that we control most of our lives: 90%. When we realize that there are only 10% that are out of our control, this also frees us from useless feelings in which we otherwise put a lot of energy.

Our reaction to an unfortunate circumstance can influence the rest of our day, week or even year positively or negatively. It depends on us.

If we are able to let our will power speak for us in the face of this circumstance, something very negative can only slow us down or even motivate us for a moment when we see the positive side of it. Would you like to know how we can succeed in this? Then read on.

An example for 10% and 90% rule

To illustrate how we can put this wonderful rule into practice, we will give an example that I think we can all identify with:

Imagine that you spent all Sunday working on a project that your boss assigned you. You have to hand it in soon and finally you write the last lines. Just as you’re about to save it, the screen goes black and your computer crashes. It then turns out that your wife has turned on the oven, even though she knows that this always causes the fuse to blow. You are beside yourself with anger, you get scared and you are convinced that the world has just ended. You turn to your wife and finally argue with her.

Because you are tense, you go into the kitchen and throw the cups standing on the worktop to the floor. Unfortunately, your favourite cup was also there, from which you drink your coffee every morning, but which now lies in shards. This makes you even more angry. You blame your son, who used the cup that afternoon and left it in the kitchen again. After a few minutes you sit down to restore your work, but you don’t succeed. Everything is gone. You go up to the ceiling, curse all the gods and finally go outside to get some fresh air. When you come back, you are angry with your son, your wife, you have broken your favourite cup and have no project to show for it: the epitome of a bad day.

What happened? As we can see, there is a trigger that makes up that 10%, which in this case is the turned-on stove. This is an event that did not depend on you, something uncontrollable that another person did without malicious intent, a human error. What depended on you, however, is everything that happened after. It’s that 90% that turned a normal day into a horrible one.

Instead of devoting his energy to rewriting the project or calling the boss to explain what happened so that he could set him a new deadline, he chose to react in an inefficient way. The whole family is now arguing over an uncontrollable one-off event. Is it really worth it?

When can I apply the 90/10 rule?

There are countless situations that trigger reactions that make everything worse. It is precisely at such moments that we can put this rule into practice and let our will work for us so that our feelings do not control us. The key is to accept frustration as part of the game of life.

If we are judged: Condemnation and criticism by others cannot be controlled because they have the right to think what they want. But you can control the value you place on these judgments. If we cannot control what they think about us, why should we waste our energy on it?

If we make a mistake: You cannot always avoid mistakes, but you can learn from them, even if you will continue to make mistakes, because that is human nature. You can only control your reaction to these mistakes if you accept yourself or do not rebuke yourself excessively if you are able to tolerate them.

When others do not act as you would like them to: the reactions of our fellow human beings are uncontrollable on our part. It is unrealistic to expect someone to act in a different way from the way they do, and this only makes us more frustrated and makes our relationship with that person suffer.

If something bad happens to you: Life always puts us in unhappy situations. Studies show that every person has about 20,000 misfortunes in their lifetime. This ranges from small misfortunes, like stepping in dog poop, to big misfortunes, like losing a loved one. So they just live life and it’s impossible to control. But it’s up to us alone to what extent we let these situations lead us astray.

So if you have to deal with a situation that you could not control, apply the 90/10 rule. You really have no control over 10% of what happens in your life. The other 90% are determined by your reaction.

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