The 80% Rule


Music Composerby Robin Munson

Years ago, when I was taking the 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 in your practice – whether we’re talking about meditation, or asana (the physical poses of yoga), or for some of us, composing music. 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 every 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 demanded 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 a cue a 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 repeatedly 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!”

Inner Artist: “You’re right. I guess I’m not worthy of the name. I might as well pack it in!”

Now, that’s a problem! The self-loathing that can result from such a harsh taskmaster 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 20 minutes.” An 80% rule allows us to be human: “I will set an intention to meditate most mornings 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?” “What if I get distracted with email for a week and don’t write a single cue?” The trick is not to beat yourself up over it. Let the 80% rule apply in the broader sense: “Eighty percent of the time I manage to get to my 80% intention.” Or “Looking at my life as a whole, I have good intentions at least 80% of the time.” 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.

8 Replies to “The 80% Rule”

    1. Hi Cyberk 91,
      Thanks for your kind words. Yeah, I’ve never even tried hot yoga. I’m sure it’s a great workout, but my reasons for practicing yoga are more about achieving serenity and not about being an athlete. I suppose in the interest of fairness I should try it, but — nah — don’t want to!

  1. Great words of wisdom Robin!

    Pehaps our “inner crtics” are so demanding because we don’t have to look too far, especailly on forums, to find “outer critics” (anonymous of course). Just look at the debates that arise when someone mentions RF libraries!

    1. Hi Michael,
      Well, it doesn’t help, does it – all that “outer critic” stuff! All the more reason why we have to look inward for validation. And that is a life-long learning experience, I find.

  2. Robin, this so reminds me of my great grandmother! She died in the late 1900s – but she had been an American pioneer, leaving the East Coast to become a settler in a land grant rush, and ended up homesteading in Missouri. She lived to the ripe old age of 96 (in 1970, that was SOMETHING)! She would take a shot of scotch with my dad (in her wheelchair), she was a Rook champion well into her 80s, and had quite a sense of humor! When someone would ask her how she lived so long, she’d say “Moderation in ALL things – including moderation.” Meaning live a good life, but kick it out once in awhile. 🙂 That’s pretty much an 80% rule, ‘eh? Best to you and Art!

    1. Hi Janet,

      Your great-grandmother sounds like an amazing woman! Very strong, brave and wise! Thank you for sharing that with us. 96?! How wonderful. . . Bodes well for you, and what an inspiration!

      Warmest wishes to you, too.

  3. Brilliant insight Robin and solution.
    What is it about creatives that mean we have to beat ourselves up over every aspect of our lives.Constant torment.
    I wonder how many bricklayers lay awake at night wishing they had laid a particular brick straighter?


    1. Hi Michael,

      Isn’t it the truth?! But it’s never too late to learn. I’m getting more like a bricklayer every day! 🙂 Thank you for your kind remarks.

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