How to Be of Service Without Burning Out

by Stacey Curnow on · 2 comments

Things which matter most must never be at the mercy of things that matter least . ~ Goethe

I believe there are 3 essential variables that make up a happy and satisfying life: novelty, challenge and service. Pair those variables with the Pareto principle (also known as the 80/20 rule) and I think you have a recipe for success as well.

The Pareto principle states that, for many events, roughly 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes. This principle was named after Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto, who observed that 80% of the land in Italy was owned by 20% of the population. But enough people have observed this principle at work in other areas that it's worth considering its application to our lives in general.

I've seen this in my garden this summer, for example: 20% of my tomato plants are producing 80% of my fruit. It used to confuse me how one plant would be heavy with fruit while the others produced so little, but the Pareto Principle helps me understand it.

In his book The 4-Hour Work Week, Tim Ferriss explains how his business took off when he started applying the Pareto Principle. He looked over his balance sheets and saw that 80% of his sales came from 20% of his products. He also noticed that just a small percentage of problem clients were taking up the majority of his time.

Drawing on these insights, he refocused his energy on his most successful products. And-in one of the most memorable stories from the book-he "fired" his three most problematic clients, informing them that they could either order via fax-the most hassle-free method of ordering he had-or they could look elsewhere for his product. As a result, he cut his workload significantly while doubling the volume of his sales.

What I took away from Ferriss' exploration of the principle was its dual nature. Based on his experiences-and on my own-you have a choice: you can exert your energy in the direction that brings you the greatest rewards-often seemingly without any great effort on your part-or you can direct your energy where getting even the smallest amount of return seems like an uphill climb.

I shared this principle recently with one of my coaching clients. She is a brilliant entrepreneur and yet she often feels overwhelmed and frustrated. She has been spending the bulk of her time satisfying other people in ways that have little or nothing to do with what brings her satisfaction.

She still has something to show for her time and energy-her colleagues love her, and her clients see her as a sort of superhero fighting for their success-but these were not the rewards she was looking for when she started her business.

On the other hand, she could see areas where she did want to direct her energy. So she engaged volunteers to write newsletters and keep up with other social media. She hired an assistant to take care of aspects of the business that did not require her immediate attention, like responding to emails.

Delegating her responsibilities freed up time to do what she's really good at – being of service to others and developing new ideas – while still allowing her to do other things she loves – like preparing and enjoying meals with her partner, taking walks with her dogs and meeting friends for bike rides. And she is happier than she ever thought possible.

Most folks would agree that the majority of their time is not spent on their priorities or the aspects of their lives they find most gratifying, and that's why they can benefit from this principle. To apply it to your life you only have to do one thing – focus your attention on what matters most, the things you do well and what makes you happy.

Do you also feel the most satisfaction when you're being of service? And how will you find ways to give more?


by Stacey Curnow

Stacey is a purpose and success coach who helps you give birth to your BIG dreams. To find your purpose and passion, check out her FREE eBook, The Purpose and Passion Guidebook.
Stacey Curnow
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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Crystal @ Broke-Ass Mommy August 12, 2012 at 9:29 pm

I am all about people – they make me happy (usually). So when the tedious parts of my online business started eating up my time to actually answer questions and work with groups, I got help. Specifically, my husband, lol. Now he handles the majority of the record-keeping and easy answer issues (surprisingly, his favorite parts), so I can handle the customer service part that I actually like. Win-win. 🙂
Crystal @ Broke-Ass Mommy´s Last Fabulous Post ..Weathering Our Weekend Expenses — It’s Blustery!My Profile

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Stacey August 13, 2012 at 3:09 pm

Hi Crystal!

Thanks so much for your kind comment and your fabulous example about how when you focus on what you love, and delegate the rest, it’s a win-win for everyone! Love that!!
Stacey´s Last Fabulous Post ..The Tools You Need to Get Your Work Out into the WorldMy Profile

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