Could There Be A Math Equation For Perfect Life Balance?
These days it seems like a lot more life choices are driven by data. And now that I live (most of the time) in the start-up land of tech-savvy San Francisco, I find myself often pondering what the numbers can tell us.
Perhaps surprisingly, NMDL has a favorite formula. It’s called the 80/20 rule. And as many of you know, it works like this: As long as you make good choices 80% of the time, you can be a little bit naughty for the other 20% (a little!).
We’ve always applied this practice to personal care products. In other words, you can totally keep your favorite red lipstick and waterproof mascara, as long as you ditch your other dirty products (and eat your broccoli).
But recently, I’ve been factoring 80/20 into just about all things health and wellness, and it’s working out pretty nicely.
One of the big reasons I think this rule is so great is that it encourages non-perfect behavior. Compelling research has shown that we actually have a limited capacity for restriction. At a certain point, the discipline cracks, and rebellious primates that we are, we often go right to the other extreme.
It’s why diets don’t work, long term. Or why New Year’s resolutions rarely last. Because most of this involve extreme restrictions.
The 80/20 rule, on the other hand, is a life plan. Here’s how I’m attempting to use it to find balance across my behaviors.
80/20 On Personal Care Products: My only big cheat in this department is dirty mascara, which I also use to darken and shape my eyebrows. While that might not sound like much, my routine is pretty minimal, so that actually fills my 20% bad-behavior quota!
80/20 On Diet: In this case, 80% represents an unprocessed, plant-based diet, that’s primarily raw. The other 20% is stuff like grass-fed burgers, really good sourdough bread (possibly my favorite thing about SF), delicious high-fat ice cream, dark chocolate, a bagel with lox and cream cheese, or just about anything else that might strike my fancy—rules be damned.
80/20 On Exercise: Just about every day a new study comes out reminding us that exercise is the number one thing you can do for your health, life expectancy, your complexion even! Yoga is my go-to and my (attainable) dream is to do it 5-6 days a week between my gentler home practice and the more rigorous classes I attend (the data says it’s key to get that heart rate up). I definitely believe one day of the week should be totally lazy, where the only leisure activity is some good (or really bad) TV.
80/20 On Alcohol Consumption: Honestly, if alcohol is a 0% part of your life, g-d bless! I don’t think it’s a prerequisite for happiness or wellness. That said, lots of data says it can be beneficial in moderation and at this point of my life, a little bit still provides pleasure (a lot bit, which still happens on occasion, provides only pain). So 80/20 looks like this: I almost never drink at home and I go out to 1-2 nights a week, and I have 1-2 glasses of wine when I do.
80/20 On Work-Life Balance: This one is the hardest for me! I tend to work like a beast, but here’s the goal I have my eye on: 80% not working late into the night or on weekends. So, one weekend-day a month can be work-heavy and one night a week I’m happy to clock extra hours.
80/20 On Sleep: This one’s easy for me to stick to: Bed by 10pm most nights of the week, with one or two nights set aside for some binge-watching or night prowling.
I definitely find it helpful to apply this rule to wellness choices. How does 80/20 apply to your life?