The 80/20 Rule

Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. –James 1:2-4

The Pareto Principle, or the 80/20 rule, states that 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes. Although this rule was first applied in Italy when Pareto was looking at the dispersal of wealth, it has since become a rule of thumb for many businesses. It has been said that 20% of the workforce does 80% of the work, or 80% of sales come from 20% of clients. I think this law comes into play in our lives as well. Life is 20% what happens to you and 80% what you make of it.

There are many stories about people who come out of difficult situations — gang life, in and out of jail, drug addiction, broken families, abuse — yet still seem to rise to the top. And of course, there are many stories of those who have been given everything they would need to succeed, only to wind up in the depths of a broken life. How you choose to respond to what life hands you says a lot about you and has a huge impact on your life. You can choose to either spend your life blaming your circumstances for misfortune or heartache, or you can learn from those things and move on.

When James wrote his letter, he told people to, “consider it joy when they face trials.” This is so contrary to our natural response. Joy? How can you consider it joy when you are robbed, raped, lied to, fired, are having marriage difficulties or friendship problems? James is not saying to pretend to be happy about a painful situation, but simply to have a positive outlook and know you can learn from it and not let it drag you down. The only thing we have control over in this life is how we choose to respond. And how you choose to respond, especially under pressure, shows the depth of your character. Instead of complaining about your struggles or blaming your trials for the bad choices you make, look at them as opportunities to grow, not opportunities to assign blame for your misfortune.

If life is truly 20% what happens to you and 80% what you make of it, be thoughtful each time you react to something that has happened or each time you make a decision.

1. How do you react to others when life is going well? What about when it isn’t?

2. What can you do to work towards choosing the road of perseverance and hope instead of despair?

Joshua 24:15; Philippians 2:5; James 1:2; James 3:2

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Kelly McFadden

Kelly McFadden is a wife and mother and is part of the HomeWord daily devotional writing team. Kelly graduated from the University of Colorado at Boulder in 2000 with a degree in journalism. Following a season of playing professional volleyball and training with the US National team, Kelly returned to school and received her Masters in Christian Education from Azusa Pacific University.

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