Work out what you want from life. In the 1980s phrase, aim to ‘have it all’. Everything you want should be yours...


Work out what you want from life.  In the 1980s phrase, aim to ‘have it all’.  Everything you want should be yours – the type of work you want; the relationships you need; the social, mental and aesthetic stimulation that will make you happy and fulfilled; the money you require for the lifestyle that is appropriate to you; and any requirements that you may (or may not) have for achievement or service to other people.

If you don’t aim for it all, you’ll never get it all.

To aim for it requires that you know what you want.

Yet most of us don’t fully work out what we want.  So we end up with lopsided lives. We may get work right and relationships wrong, or the other way round.  We may strive after money or achievement, but find after we achieve our goal that the victory is hollow.

The 80/20 principle records this sorry state.  Typically, 20 percent of what we do leads to 80 percent of results; but 80 percent of what we do leads to only 20 percent.  20 percent of our time leads to 80 percent of what we value; 80 percent of our time disappears on things which have little value to us.

But the 80/20 principle does not always apply, and need not apply.  It is there as a diagnostic, to highlight an unsatisfactory and wasteful state of affairs.  If it applies – and it usually does – we should aim to frustrate the principle, or at least raise it to a higher plane where we can be much happier and more effective.  Always remember the promise of the 80/20 principle – if we take note of what it tells us, we can work less, earn more, enjoy more, and achieve more.

To do this, we must start with a rounded, well considered view of everything we want.  This blog post deals with lifestyle.  It’s a short post, but a very important one, so take it slowly and think carefully.  A subsequent post will deal with work and careers; and then another will tackle achievement; and then a final post will deal in more detail with friends and relationships.

Lifestyle and the Key Things in Life for You

The great German scientist, poet, novelist, philosopher and diplomat Johann Wolfgang von Goethe made the quintessential 80/20 point that “Things that matter most – must never be at the mercy of things that matter least.”  They usually are at their mercy.  Make sure it’s not true for you.

So what matters for you?

Do you enjoy your life?  Not part of it, but most of it?  In either case, is there a lifestyle that could suit you better?

Ask yourself:

  • Am I living with the right person or people? (There is no more vital question.  Stop here until you know the answer.)
  • Am I living in the right place?
  • Am I working the right hours – that match my ideal work/play rhythm, and suit my family and social needs?
  • Do I feel in control?
  • Am I relaxed and comfortable with my surroundings?
  • Does my lifestyle make it easy for me to be creative?
  • Do I have enough money? Are my financial affairs organized so that I don’t have to worry about them?
  • Does the lifestyle facilitate whatever contribution I want to make to enriching the lives of the people I want to help?
  • Do I have a small but satisfactory number of really close friends?
  • Do I see them often enough?
  • Is the extent of travel in my life just right – not too much, nor too little?
  • Is the lifestyle right for my partner and family too?
  • Do I have everything I need right here – do I have it all?
  • Do I have too much? Are possessions and obligations and work a stranglehold – are things I don’t need possessing me?
  • Am I too materialistic? What could I happily jettison or give away?
  • How could I simplify my life to boil it down to the few things that give me deep and abiding peace and fulfilment?

Action Implications

Write down the answers to these questions, using pen and paper.  Take a few questions at a time.  Review them in a peaceful place.

Finally, when you are ready, make a short list of action implications – say, five things you intend to do to make your life more ideal, more appropriate to your personality and aspirations.

Then do them.

Simple to say.  Often hard to do.  But the reward from doing them is immense.

So make sure you do them, for your sake and that of everyone around you.


Material for this blog post is partly extracted from the new third edition of my bestseller, The 80/20 Principle, which has now been translated into nearly 40 languages.

Image credit – Pixabay

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