The 90% Rule


We’ve all heard the famous saying, “Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it.” But – how often are you aware of your reaction? How often do you consciously diffuse that reaction and replace it with a more tempered response? How often do you feed the initial reaction?


The reality is we’re always living by the 90% rule. We’re always living in the 90% playing field. And so the question is, what does your 90% look like?


When someone cuts you off in traffic after a long day in the office, what’s your go-to response? When your loved one isn’t acting the way you want or giving you what you feel you need, how do you react? When adversity strikes – when a loved one is sick, you lose your job or your relationship ends – what’s your 90% look like?


Last week I was on a retreat in Mexico with my teacher, Patricia. Throughout the week, I was reminded just how important it is to be stretched and challenged to my edge physically, mentally and spiritually. I was reminded that it is how I decide to show up in those moments when I’m literally in the edge, that determine the quality of my experience and life. During the week, the most valuable tool I learned to develop was my level of awareness and I left the retreat hyper-aware and really tuned in; so much so that when I found out my flight was delayed on the way to the airport Saturday morning, I was able to shrug it off and acknowledge that it gave Rob, Shelley and I time to grab a bite to eat and hang out. But, the most powerful lesson in awareness came while Shelley and I were waiting in line to check our bags. As I was literally talking about reactions and awareness, the lights went off at the Cancun airport. The power had gone out and a collective wail filled the room. I found myself inappropriately laughing out loud as I simply took in the scene. I noticed how the lights were out and the crowd was tense; but I also felt myself quite content. I wasn’t worrying, complaining or heavily sighing in aggravation (my usual M.O.’s). About 10 seconds later the lights and power came back on and almost instantaneously an exasperated sigh of relief fell across the crowds.


And it hit me. That moment – THAT very moment – was the 90% rule. Yes, the lights had gone out, but it was the people who turned their power off and became a victim to their circumstances.


So often we blame our circumstances for our temperament: if only this happened…if only this was different… Or, we blame other people for our shortcomings – they’re the reason we’re not as happy, successful or fulfilled as we want to be. But here’s the problem with blame: it fucks up the 90% playing field. Blame will never – I repeat never – empower you because it strips you of your power and puts it outside of your self. When you blame something or someone else, you can’t take ownership of the situation and when you don’t take ownership, you can’t create the outcome of your own life’s happiness. The decision to blame and give away your power will always keep you from making the changes you need to make. Simply put, blame keeps you stuck and playing in a much more limited 90%.


During Tuesday evening’s workshop, Patricia talked about blame and had us create a list of people we were blaming. Some were easy to identify and put on the list, but one surprised me: Patricia. I was blaming MY teacher. I blamed her for not being where I wanted to be within SatiLife, for not giving me the exact opportunities I wanted. I blamed her for having favorites and not being “my” teacher. It was a Holy Shi(f)t moment for me because I could look back and see how my 90% playing field was deeply affected by the blame. Acknowledging my blame allowed me to see my career dreams with much greater clarity – so much clarity that I didn’t realize just how big my real dream was! Writing a letter to Patricia and sharing my feelings with her, apologizing to her for blaming her, radically opened my heart and expanded the field of my awareness.


I will tell you this. Owning your blame is not easy. It wasn’t easy to acknowledge that I was blaming Patricia. My ego wanted to be right and believe that it was her fault and only she could change how I felt and where I was in my career. Apologizing wasn’t easy. Vulnerability is never easy and my blamer tried to justify how we didn’t need to tell her the truth because we had already “acknowledged” it. The reality was I didn’t want to be raw and open and vulnerable.


I will tell you this. Owning your blame WILL set you free. Beyond your wildest dreams. Owning my blame and allowing myself to be really vulnerable left me broken open – filled with so much love, gratitude and appreciation for my teacher, her practice and this process.


This week, notice when your blamer gets loud. Notice when the weather gets you up or keeps you down. Notice when another person ruffles your feathers or makes you happy. Notice when you’re excited at work and also when you are frustrated. Tune into HOW you feel WHEN you’re feeling it.


When you notice the thing or person outside you as a trigger rather than truth, you’ll see that that situation or person is just feedback – it’s your 10%. And the best part about that recognition is you open up the 90% playing field. When you’re just noticing and not blaming, you’re in control and you get to decide what – if any – power you give to the situation.


Things will come up to test you, to challenge you and to throw you off – but remember, the only person that can truly turn the “power” off is YOU.