The 10/90 principle: Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react.

The 10/90 principle: Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react.

Have you ever heard to the 90/10 Principle (or 10/90)? It was popularized by Stephen Covey, the author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. It states that: 10% of life is made up of what happens to you, and 90% of life is decided by how you react (or how you respond to it). We truly have no control over 10% of what happens to us. (It’s not what happens to you, but how you react to it that matters).  I have been following this family for a couple years when this guy lost almost his entire family in Utah.  His name is Mason Sawyer and his wife, his son, his daughter, his brother, and his nephew were all tragically killed in a car accident during a dust storm.  His youngest son survived the crash miraculously.  It's been 2 years since the accident and he started a podcast called the "The 10ninety podcast"  (give it a listen, I've attached the link) and I've listened to every episode as it all is just so spot on with what he says.  The way he speaks you definitely wouldn't think he's a speaker or a podcast co-host, but he is.  That's what I love most about what he brings to the podcast.  So...I've been doing some research and I've also been digging into what the 10/90 principle means to me and my life and the deaths I've had.  

I want to chat about the perception everyone gives to grievers about this topic. We always have 2 choices….to give up or to move forward.  The moving forward is always the hardest no matter what situation you find yourself in.  No one asks for their child to die, no one asks for their spouse to die or their brother or anyone for that fact; but sometimes it happens and people die; every day people are dying.  This is my 10%; this is what has happened to me, my people have died.  I’ve heard over and over again how strong I am and the exact statement is “You are SO strong, I could never live without my child”.  HUH?? Is that supposed to be helpful?  Are you saying you loved your child more than me?  On the outside I’m moving and I’m taking care of me and my family, but on the inside every fiber of my being is dying because I’m not sure how I’m going to make another day without my child.  Then when it happens again and your spouse dies, you get the same comments; “You are so strong”, “I don’t know how you do it”, “I could never be as happy or strong as you” etc. etc (yes, there are way more). Again…what does that mean?  That is NOT helpful, not soothing, not remotely anything.  It goes back to “you” the non-griever not knowing what to say or do, so you open your mouth and spit out unhelpful words.  Sounds harsh I’m sure; but isn’t it harsher that I had the losses?   I’m also pretty sure most people that say it, say it with good intention; I have no doubt about that.  That’s why I’m trying to help and teach everyone the proper or the better things to say or do?  When I'm not sure how to respond to these, I react with my choices (this is the 90% of my life)…because I CHOOSE to live a full and happy life however that looks.   I CHOOSE to honor my child every step of the way.  I CHOOSE to be present and raise my other living child, because she deserves a life. I CHOOSE to be a good wife to my husband.  I'm using my 90% portion of my life by responding to the 10% of what has happened to me with determination, love, no regrets, faith, hope, & strength.    

I CHOOSE the 90% all the time.  I despise what has happened to me, but I can move forward, guide myself and my family and friends; 90% is how I react to it.  So, let's look at ways we can use the 90/10 principle in grief for the better.

One interpretation is that 90% of the time, we may be consumed by our grief and feel overwhelmed by sadness, anger, or other negative emotions. However, the remaining 10% of the time, we can focus on healing, finding joy in small moments, and moving forward. Another way to apply the 10/90 principle to grief is by acknowledging that grief is a natural and necessary process. It's important to allow ourselves to fully experience and process our emotions, giving ourselves permission to grieve for as long as we need to (because remember grief has no expiration date). However, it's also important to remember that life goes on and that we can find moments of happiness and peace amidst the pain. Ultimately, the 10/90 principle in grief reminds us that while grief may dominate our lives for a significant portion of time, there is still room for healing, growth, and finding joy in the midst of our pain. It encourages us to strike a balance between honoring our grief and allowing ourselves to move forward.

What do you choose? Do you choose to look at grief as 10% is what has happened to you and 90% how you choose to respond to it?  I'd rather be happier in life, live a fuller life 90% of the time than the opposite; 10% is such a small number that even though a lot of my family has died, I GET to LIVE 90% of my life honoring and remembering them.  If I would look at it as 90% is what happens to you and 10% is how I respond? That would be a terribly, terribly sad and lonely life.  That is the doom and gloom that we don't want around here.  

Please, do not misunderstand me when I say that this can happen overnight or just by reading this.  This mentality and response to death's & grief in your lives will take time; can take years!  I am 17 years out from my son dying and 14 1/2 years out from my spouse dying, so it's taken time.  I may have thought I was doing this early on, but I'm not really sure I was.  I can see it now and I can feel it now too; I am responding to the 90% of my life with love & good intention.  You have ALL had a hand in this with helping me be better, because together we are all better; right?! 


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1 comment

Very well said, Angie. I know I’ve probably said that before. When you put it that way it doesn’t sound very comforting.

Judy Hanson

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