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Laxmi Hariharan

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Does 80% of Happiness Come From 20% of Your Life?

Posted: 30/06/2013 12:12

My last few years have been spent trying to keep pace with the so called fast track on the outside, while on the inside I wanted to be a writer. The turning point came when a close brush with death, made me realize I had to write the book(s), and deliver on the dreams of my five-year-old self, before it was too late.

I was determined not to wait till I 'retired' to write.

Yet, I did not want to compromise on my lifestyle--or at least the kind of life I was used to thanks to a decent paying job--which meant I had to find a way to do both. Hold down a fairly full on day job and write.

A juggling act alright.

But as I walked down the road to becoming an authorpreneur, I realized every single writer, including some very famous ones, hold down a day job to pay the bills. If they could do it, why not I? So in my quest to do both, I came up with a few guideline themes for myself.

a. The Red Thread: This one is really cool. I drew the red thread which went through my life, the theme that kept it all together. I actually physically drew it on a sheet paper and put it up--to remind myself that jobs would come and go, but what my life always came back to was this inherent ability to write, to communicate. By being able to physically see it every day I reminded myself that it was in me and I would never lose it. It was strangely reassuring.

b. The 80% rule: Most of the people on the island of Okinawa in Japan, live to be over 100. Researchers have traced their longevity to a practice called hara hachi bu that is "eat until you are 80% full." The result? Lower rates of disease and longer life. In this post Justin Jackson explains how he has carried over this 80% rule into his life.

So at work for he became conscious of the amount of energy he spent at the office. He would deliberately pace himself so that he spent only 80% of his mental energy throughout the day. He explains its more about being mindful, to pick 2-3 big things to complete during the day and after that focus on little things which do not need energy. As he explains, this means he is in for the long haul, without fear of a burn out.

Works for me too.

The additional benefit of the 80% rule I discovered was that it brought a sense of detachment to my day job. This paradoxically made me more efficient at what I did. You see, unlike previously where I would emotionally involved, by taking a step back from the day to day, I can now keep things in perspective.

This meant I take my ego out of the job, so it makes me a great team player and quite calm in crisis situations.

Yet, by consciously holding that precious 20% back during the working week, I now have enough mind space left to focus on my writing over the weekend. (If you want to be pedantic, well 20% x 5 (days) = 100%. And if you add that onto the 100% of the weekend, and yet keeping back 20% over each day of the weekend, I still have 160% to play with for myself and my writing for that period of time. Cool right?

c. This neatly brings me to the 5:2 diet rule which advises to eat less for two non-consecutive days of the week, but eat normally but healthily on the other five days as an easier way of losing weight. Reading between the lines, it actually leads back to the 80% rule, which is to hold back a little and not give it a full 100%.

Interestingly though I interpret it in my life as doing the day job for 5 days of the week, and being an authorpreneur for the other 2.

By experimenting I have also learnt that when I am in the middle of completing a book--when the muse is with me and the writing is going well--I can always flip the balance, i.e. try to fit in more writing every day of the week or plan and take time off so that the 80% of my week day is actually focused on my writing.

So then, the bottom line seems to be 80% of that much sought after self-fulfillment kind of happiness comes from the 20% of my time which I am able to spend writing. Tying in with that oft quoted/ misquoted 80-20 rule or, the law of the vital few, which states roughly 80% of the effects, comes from 20% of the causes.

Seems about right.

What do you think? Have you any similarly interesting themes you have in your life? Do write in and tell me.

Laxmi Hariharan is a content branding strategist (via MTV & NBCUniversal) & author of epic fantasy. Find her @laxmi or at LAXMI writes

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