Some of you may have heard of the Pareto Principle, also known as the 80-20 rule, which states that, for many events, 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes. This rule, based on the findings of the Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto, has become a common rule of thumb in business, demonstrating, for example, that 80% of sales and complaints come from 20% of customers, roughly 80% of the world’s wealth is controlled by 20% of its population, 80% of sales and human resource problems come from 20% of employees, 80% of computer problems come from 20% of computer bugs, 80% of injuries come from 20% of hazards, 80% of health care costs come from 20% of patients, and 80% of crimes are committed by 20% of criminals. This amazing phenomenon has been used by personal growth scholars to project powerful strategies for human development. If 80% of our problems come from 20% of our lives and 80% of our achievement and happiness comes from 20% of what we do, it stands to reason, Divine Reason, that we can transform our lives, our eternal salvation, and that of others by simply focusing on the 20% of what is most important in our lives and efforts 80% of the time and cutting out as much of the 80% of our lives that is getting us nowhere eternally.
Given all of the above, it occurred to me that, if this principle has been so successfully applied to business, one should be able to apply it to the most important business of all, which is our personal salvation and the salvation of those we cross paths with.
Thus, I propose that 80% of our sins come from 20% of our activities; 80% of our salvation possibilities come from 20% of our words and deeds; 80% of the good we do is only directed at 20% of the people we come in contact with; 80% of our worries are spent on only 20% of what is truly important; 80% of our time is spent on only 20% of what Christ has taught us; 80% of our prayer is directed at 20% of what we should be truly praying for. I further suggest that 80% of what it takes to become a saint requires a change in 20% of our effort, but that that 80% of that very same effort is only 20% of our usual attention and care. I could go on and on, and I invite you to send me your own elaborations of this 80-20 rule applied to the business of salvation, of following Christ, and of bringing Christ to this world on a daily basis.
My purpose behind all of this is to suggest that we apply Pareto to Paradise by following a few simple steps. First, we must identify and expand the mere 20% of our lives that is actually moving us closer to God. Second, we must identify and reduce the 80% of our lives that is actually moving us farther from God or causing us to simply spin our wheels on what is most important. Third, we must identify and expand the 20% of our prayers that are properly and constructively applied toward connecting us with our Creator and identify and reduce the 80% of our prayers that are improperly and destructively applied toward favoring our wants and whims over God’s Divine Providence and love and service of others. As St. Therese of Lisieux, “the little flower” of Jesus often observed, it is the little changes in our lives that often make the greatest impact on our holiness.
Ultimately, we must ask ourselves if we would call someone our friend if they supported, assisted, cared, and defended us 20% of the time. Despite our inconsistency, stubbornness, arrogance, disloyalty, and weakness, Christ continues to reach out to us, hoping that we will turn that 20% into our 80%.