Does 80% of your happiness come from 20% of your life?

The last few years of my working life were spent trying to keep pace with the so called fast track on the outside, while inside I just wanted to write. The turning point came when a close encounter with death made me realize I had to write the book(s), and deliver on the dream my five year old self had, before it was too late. I didn’t want to ‘retire’ to write.
Yet, I did not want to compromise on my lifestyle—or at least the kind of life I was used to thanks to a  decent paying job, which meant I had to find a way to do both. Hold down a fairly full on day job and also find the time to write. A juggling act alright. 

But as I walked down the road to becoming an authorpreneur I realized every single writer, including some very famous ones, held down a day job to pay the bills. If they could do it, then why not I? In my quest to do both, I came up with a few guiding themes.
a.    The Red Thread: This one is really cool. I drew the red thread which went through my life, the theme that kept it all together. I actually physically drew it on a sheet paper and put it up—to remind myself that jobs would come and go, but what my life always circled back to was this innate ability to write, to communicate. By being able to physically see it every day I reminded myself that it was in me and I would never lose it. It was strangely reassuring.
b.    The 80% rule:  Most of the people on the island of Okinawa in Japan, live to be over 100. Researchers have traced their longevity to a Confucian practice called hara hachi bu that is “eat until you are 80% full.”  The result?  A longer healthier life. In this post Justin Jackson explains how he has carried over this 80% rule into his life. 

As he explains it at work he became conscious of the amount of energy he spent at the office. He would deliberately pace himself so that he spent only 80% of his mental energy throughout the day. He explains it as being mindful, to pick 2-3 big things to complete during the day and after that focus on little things which do not need energy. This means he is in for the long haul, without fear of a burn out. 
Works for me too. 

The additional benefit of the 80% rule I discovered was that it brought a sense of detachment to my day job. This paradoxically made me more efficient at what I did. You see unlike previously where I would get emotionally involved, by taking a step back from the day to day, I could put things in perspective. This meant I now take my ego out of the job, so it makes me an even better team player and calm in a crisis.
That 20%
Yet, by consciously holding that precious 20% back, during the working week, I have enough mind space left for the weekend to focus on my writing. (If you want to be pedantic, well 20% x 5 (days) = 100%. And if you add that onto the 100% of the weekend, and keeping back 20% each day of the weekend, I still have 160% on the weekend for myself and my writing. Cool right?
c.    This neatly brings me to the 5:2 diet rule which advises to eat less for two non-consecutive days of the week, but eat normally but healthily on the other five days as an easier way of losing weight.  Reading between the lines, it actually leads back to the 80% rule, which is to hold back a little and not give it a full 100%.

I interpret it  in my life, as doing the day job for five days of the week, and being an authorpreneur for the other two. Over a period of time by experimenting I have also learnt that when I am in the middle of completing a book—when the muse is with me and the writing is going well—I can always flip the balance, i.e. try to fit in more writing every day of the week or plan and take time off so that the 80% of my work week is actually focused on my writing.
So then, the bottom line seems to be 80% of my happiness coming from 20% of my time–the time in a normal week I spend writing. Which, ties in with that much stated 80-20 rule or, the law of the vital few, which states roughly 80% of the effects, come from 20% of the causes.
Seems about right. What do you think? Have you any similarly interesting themes you have in your life?

11 thoughts on “Does 80% of your happiness come from 20% of your life?

  1. Very aptly said. Life is more than just earning or doing some roller coaster job for 365 days. That 20% in a year does contribute to the 100% of ones old age.

  2. I like this. The idea of not depleting yourself mentally is good. And you're right most of it is unnecessary anyway. Why don't you post an excerpt on London Writers' Club FB page?

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