The 90/10 Principle: De-stress Your Life!

The following is an excerpt of the “90/10 Principle of Stephen Covey”.  This is an incredibly simple and amazing concept.  You can apply it in every level of your life whether personal, business or other.  Consider the various situations where this could work – traffic, losing a job, delayed flights, work deadlines.  Give it a try!

90/10 Principle of Stephen Covey

What is this principle?

10% of life is made up of what happens to you. 90% of life is decided by how you react.

What does this mean?

We really have no control over 10% of what happens to us. We cannot stop the car from breaking down. The plane will be late arriving, which throws our whole schedule off. A driver may cut us off in traffic. We have no control over this 10%.

The other 90% is different. You determine the other 90%.


By your reaction. You cannot control a red light., but you can control your reaction. Don’t let people fool you; YOU can control how you react.

Let’s take an example. A person is eating breakfast with his family. His daughter knocks over a cup of coffee onto his business shirt. He has no control over what just what happened. What happens next will be determined by how he reacts.

He harshly scolds his daughter for knocking the cup over. She breaks down in tears. After scolding her, he turns to hid spouse and criticize her for placing the cup too close to the edge of the table. A short verbal battle follows. He storms upstairs and changes his shirt.

Back downstairs, he  finds his daughter has been too busy crying to finish breakfast and get ready for school. She misses the bus. His spouse must leave immediately for work. He rushes to the car and drives his daughter to school. Because he is late, he drives 40 miles an hour in a 30 mph speed limit. After a 15-minute delay and throwing $60 traffic fine away, he arrives at school. His daughter runs into the building without saying goodbye. After arriving at the office 20 minutes late, he finds he forgot his briefcase. His day has started terrible.

As it continues, it seems to get worse and worse. He look forward to coming home, When he arrives home, he finds small wedge in his relationship with his spouse and daughter. Why? Because of how he reacted in the morning.

He had no control over what happened with the coffee. How he reacted in those 5 seconds is what caused his bad day. Here is what could have and should have happened.

Coffee splashes over you. His daughter is about to cry. He gently says,” It’s okay, you just need to be more careful next time”. Grabbing a towel he rushes upstairs. After grabbing a new shirt and his briefcase, he comes back down in time to look through the window and see his child getting on the bus. She turns and waves. He arrives 5 minutes early and cheerfully greet the staff. His boss comments on how good the day he his having. Notice the difference? Two different scenarios.

Both started the same. Both ended different.


Because of how he REACTED. You really do not have any control over 10% of what happens. The other 90% is determined by your reaction.

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