The 80% Rule

by Robin Munson

The 80% Rule

Years ago, when I was taking a yoga teacher training, I remember something my mentor, Christy, said that has stayed with me ever since. We were talking about how hard it is to be consistent – whether we’re talking about yoga, or any other practice. For some of us, it might be writing music. For others, it might be going to the gym. Whatever it is, we start out with the best of intentions (New Year’s resolutions, anyone?). And then life happens.

We had planned to live on vegetables and whole grains from now on, but a friend presented us with a homemade chocolate cake. We were going to study all weekend, but the sun came out and lured us to the beach. We were going to meditate for twenty minutes every morning at sunrise, but on the third morning the dog needed to be walked. We were going to floss every night for the rest of our life – but one night we were so tired that we just forgot. We were going to write in a journal every day for the next year, but one day we came down with the flu and spent the next week in bed watching “I Love Lucy” reruns.

Sometimes we break our own resolutions, and we don’t even know why, we just do. But that’s not the problem. The problem is in how we react.

I don’t know about you, but for me, a lot of my life has been a constant inner dialog that goes something like this:

Inner Critic: “Look at that! You didn’t even write in your journal this morning! What kind of a ‘writer’ are you? You’re lazy. You’re stupid. You might as well give up!”

Me: “You’re right. I guess I’m not worthy. I might as well pack it in!”

Now, that’s a problem! That harsh judgment can cause many of us to sabotage ourselves.

But here is what Christy shared with us: “It’s what you do eighty percent of the time that counts.” Think about it. A 100% rule would set almost anyone up for failure: “I must meditate every morning at sunrise for exactly 20 minutes.” Whereas, an 80% rule allows us to be human: “I will do my best to meditate in the morning for about 20 minutes.” Ahh, I feel better already!

Now I can hear some of you saying to yourselves, “Yes, but what if I don’t make the 80%? What if I forget to meditate for a month at a time? What if I lose my journal and fail to replace it for a year? What if I get on a sugar binge and gain five pounds?” Forgive yourself and move on. Think about it this way: “Most of the time I manage to get to my 80% intention.” Or – “I always do my best, and most of the time, I succeed.” In school, an 80% is the equivalent of a “B”. That’s just fine!

When she raises her pointy little head, thank your inner critic for sharing with you. Then go about your business, honoring your human foibles with compassion and a little humor. I’m guessing you’ll feel a lot better for it. I know I do.

© Robin Munson

Leave a Comment