Do You Follow the 80/20 Rule?

The year was 1986, and I was just beginning my studies in shiatsu. My teacher shared something he’d learned from his teacher that I’ve never forgotten — you don’t want to give 100% to your clients. You give 80% to them and keep 20% for yourself. That way you can give and give and not get depleted.

It was a big lesson in learning to work effectively with energy, not just theirs but my own. I’ve followed this rule ever since, and it has served me well. Especially when I feel I’ve fallen short of a goal.

Most inspirational speakers exhort us to “give it your all!” to “go big or go home!” Or maybe even “give 110% to truly give your best” to “always go above and beyond what you think you are capable of!” in order to truly succeed.


I think for many of us, this is a recipe for disaster. We find ourselves feeling less than or simply giving up because we can’t possibly live up to that standard, and the subtle (or not so subtle) pressure that’s always floating just beneath the surface of that level of striving.

I hear this from clients and students all the time, this sense that if they’re not all in, then they fall out. And beat themselves up about it.

Maybe they’re trying to establish a meditation practice.

Or get more regular with exercise.

Or stop eating foods that they know make them feel crappy or put/keep weight on.

Still, there are days and there are days…I think of this sign I see outside a local bake shop that cracks me up every time. “Yeah, I’m into fitness. Fitness whole cupcake into my mouth.”

What if stopping and starting, or giving only 80%, really is the path to wellbeing and enlightenment?

What if not giving your all truly is the best you can do? Not as a point of surrender, but as a point of strength and sanity.

What if, when you fall off track with your commitment to ________, you simply notice, forgive yourself, and begin again? No extra commentary needed.

Because every moment is a chance to begin again. It just takes one step in the direction you desire.

So don’t give it everything, {!firstname_fix}. Even in meditation practice, one of the instructions is to rest your awareness lightly on the breath, not hone in on it with a vise-like grip. Simply present; not too tight, not too loose.

Try this the next time you feel you’ve “blown it” or are letting others down by not showing up for everything, for wanting to hide out in a hot bath instead. Take your 20% and see if you offer your 80% with even greater love and commitment.

  1. May 19, 2016 at 2:45 pm

    Oh, Sharon, this makes my heart leap with gratitude. Yes!

    1. May 25, 2016 at 5:20 pm

      So glad to hear, Marisa, and so glad to finally be connecting with you after crossing paths online for a while!

Join the conversation!

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *