The 90/10 principle at work
Words by Francis Kahihu
According to one famed author Stephen Covey, many people spend 90% of their time reacting to what happens to them. He gives an illustration of a father who just before leaving the house is spilled with tea by the daughter. He gets so angry and pushes the girl off the path as he rushes up the staircase to change the shirt. Before leaving the house, he hurls a few words at the wife who he indicates should not have placed the cup where she had since that led to the daughter hitting it onto his shirt.
By the time he is done with the change and the insults, he is already late yet has to drop the daughter in school on his way to work. In the angry mood, he overspeeds and is booked by the traffic police. He wastes more time sorting out the traffic mess and by the time he gets to the office, he is late and frustrated. He spends most of the time in the morning wondering why his day had to start the way it did.
By evening when he returns home, the gate is opened by the daughter and a cup of tea served by the wife. He wonders how to go about reconciling with the people he had been unfair to in the morning yet are his only company back home. The wife and daughter seem to have no ill feelings and come closer to him to engage in small family talk. He is embarrassed from within. He realizes that all the mess had been a result of his reactions. He had the option of ruining his day as he did or making light of what had happened and moved on with life. Covey says that the man could have told the daughter not to worry about the splashed tea and encouraged her to be a little careful the next time, hugged the wife and left the house in peace. With this, he would have escaped the traffic mess and got to the office a happy man.
Does this scenario sound familiar? The work place is one of the environments that have the potential of testing our resiliency to the fullest. There are many opportunities for us to react in anger and curse those around us. The challenge though is that, just like in the family set up, you are bound by various factors to the workplace hence have no choice but to report back to work the day after.
There are workmates and bosses who would push you to the brim and how you manage your life depend on how you react to what happens to you. The clients are no better. There are times when they hurl insults at workers and the worst is when the bosses decide to side with the clients instead of considering the opinion of the staff. Employers push the statement that ‘the client is always right’ rather so far. With all the pressure on your system, it is advisable to recognize that you have the capacity to determine how to live your life after these experiences.
You can decide to have these issues push you to the end of your endurance and force you to react in ways that will make you will regret later. Alternatively, you could decide to make light of what happens around you and live your life like a child. Have you ever realized that children go through condemnation in one minute and laugh with you the next moment? They live their life to the fullest leaving the past behind them. The challenge we have as adults is the desire to appear right and to be recognized as having being on the right. There however are some people who are so determined to sulk even with the best of apologies. They derive their joy in being recognized as having being the subjects of injustices. The sympathy that accrues gives them satisfaction. Developing the desire from within to control how we react to what happens to us could just be another ingredient to happy work life.