Wednesday, April 15, 2009

The 95/5 Rule of Relationships


I know, you think I'm bad in math and got the Pareto Principle (80/20 rule) wrong, but this is the rule that really matters in life, the 95/5 rule.

It is human nature, nothing magical about it, just something we all do in life. We do it with our jobs, our family, our intimate relationships, we just can't seem to help ourselves. Finding fault is not a virtue, it is a deal killer. I see it kill deals every day.

"I hate sitting in so many meetings, I don't like writing status reports, I miss my old boss or my friends back at such and such company" and on and on. Right now we are doing less and less of this at work if we are lucky enough to still have a job, so there is a silver lining in all this economic devastation. We are finally focusing on what is right about our job or our company or our colleagues because we are so thankful to have them.

Relationships are an even juicier outlet for the 95/5 rule. In the beginning our future soul mate is everything we ever dreamed of and more. And the reason this happens is that we have no idea who they are, so they can be whatever we want them to be. We project all of our dreams and fantasies into the knowledge void we have about who this person really is. But then over time the void starts being populated with facts and experiences that are attributed to the real person and we start to pick them apart, finding all of the things about them that are wrong. But the problem with this approach is that we completely miss the 95% of the person and relationship that is absolutely right.

Now of course no one is going to be 100% our dream but in reality, I'm not that great at dreaming and usually the person I'm with turns out to be better than my wildest dream, which is the case with my partner Toni. For me to find relationship joy I need to be open to asking for what I want in life and adding at the end of my endless list of demands the statement, this or something better. Because the person we are in relationship may not match up exactly to our expectations we can become fixated on all of the ways they aren't our perfect match, totally missing how they may in fact be better than we imagined.

I find that this fixation on the 5% starts to consume us, to get on our last nerve as the focus magnifies the differences and makes them take on a life of their own. All of the endearing qualities that our soul mate had in the first months of the relationship now drive us crazy with frustration, but how could they have changed so much?

Well the truth is, they didn't. It is just that we know them better now and they aren't the person in our dreams, they are a real person in flesh and blood. And given the chance to interact with my dreams and a real person, the real person wins hands down (no pun intended).

So if your goal is a lasting and beautiful relationship that is better than anything you could have imagined, my advice to you is to mindfully turn your focus each and every time one of those 5% issues rears its ugly head, to one of the many things about the person you love, to the 95% that is right. And before you know it, that 5% will lose its grip on your attention and most likely you will grow out of your need to have everything in life delivered exactly to your specifications. Relationships that last tend to grow deeper into wonderful things that we can hardly imagine but changing our focus is the only way to get to this deeper place.

3 comments:

  1. wow, that is beautiful. I could not agree more. I usually focus on the good or right things (yes, I tend to be an optimistic pessimist), but will try even harder now to focus more on the things that really matter. Thanks for the enlightenment.

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  2. Today I thought I conjured up the 95/5 rule. I shared it with some friends and thought, "why not google it." Sure enough, you are saying the same thing here. It makes good sense. I hadn't thought to apply it to relationships.

    Thanks for confirming I'm not totally off base.

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