I discovered this year an alternative to creative New Year’s resolutions, the One Word strategy. The idea is that you select one word that will be your strategy for the year, all the activities you do should work towards that strategy, and you stop doing things that contradict that strategy. So for instance, if your word is ‘minimalism’, as you stand in the shop debating whether you really need an owl-shaped lamp; ask yourself “is this meeting my minimalism strategy?”
I really like this idea, it’s easy to remember, and helps to focus you. There is no one specific goal, no barometer or test to beat yourself up with at the end of the year if you fail. There is simply a continual realignment of activities towards your strategy.
My word for the year popped up for me immediately. It is ‘acceptance’; mainly acceptance of myself, but for good measure, acceptance of other people, including my children. This word had popped up in a few conversations in the few weeks before I decided to pursue ‘one word’; with my counsellor, who has made me realise I cannot inure myself to the feelings of others until I accept myself for who I am; and with my friend when discussing how to detail with my anxious 6 year old.
But just telling myself that I had to accept myself wasn’t enough to make me do it, and indeed it might take me all year to reach a level of acceptance that helps, so I had to do a little more rationalising around it. Enter the Pareto Principle.
The Pareto Principle is a rule of thumb that states that 80% of effects come from 20% of causes. It’s commonly used in business to describe effects such as “80% of sales come from 20% of products”. I’m not sure how much scientific accuracy can be attributed to the figures, but as with most heuristics it is simply a pragmatic way of thinking about things.
I’m going to bastardise the Pareto Principle for my own ends and proclaim the following:
- a) I am good enough for 80% of people
- b) I am good enough for those people 80% of the time.
Essentially, I estimate about 20% of people find me annoying (some of you might consider that an overgenerous estimate). Of the 80% who like me, they probably like about 80% of what I do. For you thick skinned, carefree humanoids out there this might be no biggie. But for me, with a pathological need to be liked, these figures are crushing. But part of my acceptance piece is to realise that this is normal. No-one is universally liked. And even good people get things wrong sometimes, like Michael Gambon as Dumbledore. Or the Sex and the City movies.
So this year will see me putting into practice my strategy of acceptance, at least 80% of the time. And if I don’t, I will accept myself anyway.