Do you get tired of hearing too many confusing messages about how to fix your health, your weight, your stress – your life? There’s always a new trend coming down the pike and often the “latest news” on what’s good or not so good for us is conflicting.
Should I eat all the meat or no meat, already?! 🙂
In my nearly 20 years of helping people make positive lifestyle changes, I’ve seen one simple principle repeatedly cut across trends as a shining beacon of clarity: the 80% rule. Work around the concept of 80% in effort, efficiency and capacity and you’ll hit the mark, well, about 80% of the time!
Another way to think of it is to try to leave 20% in the tank – 20% empty space for the unexpected, the mistakes and failures, and for fresh new Flow from life itself.
A lot of the time we get tripped up by trying too hard to make things perfect, or not trying hard enough to make a change. The 80% rule gives you a solid baseline to work from.
Here’s what it can look like in practice.
Don’t go over 80% capacity:
- In your spaces: Try to leave 20% empty space in your closets, drawers, bookshelves, fridge, pantry and purse (or wallet). This is a secret key to organizing – leaving “breathing room” around the objects in your environment automatically makes it easier to find what you’re looking for, and to put things away. It also prevents that “congested” feeling that can wear you down when stuff is just jammed in everywhere.
- In your belly: Try eating your meals just to 80% of your capacity. That usually means to stop eating right after you feel your hunger go away (as opposed to stopping when you feel your belly pressing against the table edge 🙂 This deceptively simple practice is coined “hara hachi bun me” by the long-lived Okinawans and literally means, eat to 8 parts (out of 10) of your stomach’s capacity. Slightly undereating is a powerful longevity practice – it improves digestion, can help you lose weight on any healthy eating plan, and gives your overworked liver and pancreas a break – which can actually help prevent the onset of some of the ubiquitous “lifestyle diseases”.
- In your healthy eating plan: If you shoot to eat in the optimal way for you about 80% of the time, you’ll make progress improving your health, energy and weight. Trying to be perfect 100% of the time can lead to freaking out about the occasional slip (or celebration cocktail or processed snack on the highway or whatever) and throw you right off your game. I can’t tell you how many people will consider one off-plan move “breaking the seal” and use that as carte blanche to eat ALL the cookies until we “start again next Monday”. The 80% rule simply builds in exceptions so that occasional unplanned or unexpected behaviors won’t take you out.
- In your exercise heartrate: As a general rule of thumb, keeping your heart at around 80% of the max rate for your age and fitness level during vigorous exercise will net you high gains while protecting against over-exerting to the point of total exhaustion or, as I call it, blowing out.
- In your schedule: Leaving 20% white space on your workday and leisure time calendar is an automatic stress-reducer. With a little free time, it’s much easier to plan for sudden schedule changes without getting a hernia or your hair catching on fire.
- In your budget: Spending only about 80% of what you actually earn over a given month will help you build a healthy financial situation in the long-term. If you can save 20% of your income, you’ll be able to grow a savings account and/or investments to increase your net worth over time – and plan for retirement. You’ll also be better prepared to handle an unexpected financial hit, like the sudden loss of your job or a California wild fire taking out your home. You can also choose to use a portion of your 20% savings to support a charitable cause. Being in a position to offer financial help to help other people, animals or the planet bumps your life quality to a whole new level.
Packing everything to full capacity can lead to stagnation, impaction, even energetic “infection”. If everything has been fully mapped out, how does change and growth fit in?
It can be a helpful temporary strategy for meeting a short-term, high-intensity goal – like finishing a phD or training for a peak competition. And it’s actually a crucial strategy for managing things that can harm you, such as alcoholism or celiac disease. But it falls apart when you try to apply it as an approach to your whole life.
What if you let go of “all or nothing”, and instead went for “mostly”?
My guess is that you’ll see improvement and more gains and won’t actually lose anything at all.
Maybe pick one area you struggle with and give it a try.
If you want to learn more about how to put the 80% rule into practice to improve your health energy or weight, have a look at my lifestyle change program the MeBoot.