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May the world be kind to you, and may your own thoughts be gentle upon yourself. - Jonathan Lockwood Huie

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Dmitri Bilgere: Changing Your Life 20% at a Time

Changing Your Life 20% at a Time
- Dmitri Bilgere

Lifestyle changes can be very hard to make, but I'm about to share with you a way you can make them a LOT more easily.

I'm talking about the changes you tell yourself you should make, like...

- "I really should go to the gym regularly," or

- "I really should be a vegetarian," or

- "I really should be more thrifty," or

You may even really want to make these lifestyle changes... but are daunted by how hard they are to do them "100%."

But here's some mighty good news about making lifestyle changes:

Much of the time, you can get 80% of the benefits of a lifestyle change with 20% of the effort.

Put another way... 20% of the work you'd do to create a lifestyle change usually gives you about 80% of the benefits of it.

And that's a huge thing to understand. (Don't worry if it doesn't make sense yet -- I'll explain it fully in this email.)

In almost any lifestyle change you want to make, there are things you can do that are both

- Easy to do, and

- Have the greatest effect.

These are the "low-hanging fruit" of lifestyle change. They are the things you can do that take 20% of your effort... But that give 80% of the results.

And here's the big "take-away" for this email:

These "low-hanging fruit" are the things you need to focus on, if you want to make lifestyle changes.

For instance....


While it's easy to get caught up in low-return money-saving behaviors (like disinfecting and re-using plastic kitchen bags), such behaviors are in that last 80% of effort that get the 20% of results.

To get the 80% results with only 20% effort, you need to focus on some larger questions, like "Where do I routinely spend big money that I don't need to?"

Here are some common answers to that question...

Most people have a surprising amount of money tied up in monthly expenses that are higher than they need to be.

That might be a Cable TV plan that is too excessive (or perhaps entirely unnecessary), a cell phone or internet plan that could be replaced by cheaper alternatives by the same (or other) providers, or some other big "monthly expense" that could be lowered or eliminated by a little research and a few phone calls.

And many of us have daily habits that, once you examine them, are not worth the money we are spending on them. It's easy to get into spending $4.00 on a coffee drink at Starbucks five days a week. If you cut that down to ONE day a week, you'd save $64.00 a month, or $768.00 a year... And still get an occasional latte.

These are the low-hanging fruit, the 20% of effort that make the 80% difference. They can add up to hundreds of dollars a month, and to many thousands each year...

All without going crazy and having to "be thrifty" to 100% perfection.


If you want to improve your diet, you may have been telling yourself you should be a vegetarian, or a vegan, or something like that.

But the thing is, 80% of the work of being a vegetarian or vegan is in that last 20% of "doing it perfectly."

But if you want to get 80% of the benefits, you can get them with about 20% of the effort.

In fact, this is happening more, in a group of people who call themselves "flexitarians" (A term that, bizarrely, was voted one of the most useful words by the American Dialect Society in 2003).

These folks do the 80%-value-with-20%-work moves around their diets. They may eat hamburgers on weekends, and have turkey at the family thanksgiving, but most of the time they stick to vegetarian diets.

They get (at least) 80% of the benefits, without having to do all the hardest work that brings the last 20% of perfection. They don't have to ALWAYS say no to burgers, or be left out of family gatherings that involve meat -- they are able to say "yes" when they want or need to.


You've probably made a plan for improving your body. And if you are like most people, fulfilling on that plan would involve a level of effort that few ordinary mortals are willing or able to make.

You could go to the gym an hour a day... But if you do that, you'll probably find it ends up taking a LOT more than an hour to get there, stretch, life weights, do cardio, shower, dress, and get back into your life.

For some people, that can take two hours or even more.

And that's why people often don't do it.

If you can get "going to the gym" into your daily lifestyle, that's great, and I totally support that.

But if that isn't working for you, then you might want to try a 20%-effort-gives-you-80% benefit solution.

For instance, I have a exercise bike in my basement, with a TV and DVD player in front of it. I have a set of DVDs of funny TV shows I only allow myself to watch on the exercise bike. And before I take a shower, I usually stretch and hit the bike for 20 or 30 minutes.

Is it as good as going that extra 80%, and getting all the way to the gym? Certainly not.

Does it give me a large percentage of the benefits of going to the gym, with much less work? Absolutely.

This is also the principle behind "Curves," a woman's gym that is set up for 30-minute, structured workouts. It's easy to get in, it's all laid out for you, and it's over quickly. It's perhaps not as beneficial as an aggressive gym program with a personal trainer, but it gives MOST of the benefits at a fraction of the effort.

What might be that 20% for you?


What's even more cool (to me, at least), is that these 20% changes could change the world.

As people who want to make a difference, we often want ourselves (and everyone else) to make lifestyle changes PERFECTLY... whether it's wanting people to not drive cars, to not eat meat, to not use paper towels, or whatever.

We want people to change, and we want them to change 100%.

But I've found that the "less-than-perfect," 20% changes are far easier for people to make, and I suspect they are probably what really have the best chance of changing the world.

You won't be surprised to hear that it's pretty unlikely that everyone will devote themselves 100% to changing the world in the way you want them to.

But if 20% of people made 20% changes to their lifestyles, it could have MAJOR impacts on pressing social and environmental issues.

And it would be a HECK of a lot easier for people to participate in.


Here's what you need to remember:

When you want to make a change, look first for the 20% change that makes 80% of the difference.

Then feel good about what you do, rather than bad for not making the change "100%." Reward yourself for being smart enough to take those 20% actions and to get those 80% results.

That may even be all you need to do.

Guest author Dmitri Bilgere has led personal development seminars all over the US, in Canada, England, and South Africa since 1988. He is also does individual "healing coaching" over the telephone. To get his email newsletters (and a free facilitation mini-course) go to http://dbweb.org/free

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