One Simple Principle That Will Change Your Life

Stephen Covey died Monday.  He was a former professor at BYU, author, motivator, and business coach.  He was probably best known for his best-selling book “Seven Habits of Highly Successful People.”  I have applied the “7 Habits” paradigm to church growth and personal discipleship, as have many others.  His organizational tools through Franklin-Covey stores have helped many of us stay focused, organized, and on time!

Covey was a great believer in personal responsibility and accountability. He taught something he called the 90/10 principle.  What does it mean?

10% of life is made up of what happens to you. You have no control over it.  The other 90% of life is decided by how you react.  That is the part you control.  He once used this example in a seminar that has been widely copied.

You’re eating breakfast with your family. Your daughter knocks over a cup of coffee onto your business shirt. You have no control over what just happened. What happens next will be determined by how you react. You curse. You harshly scold your daughter for knocking the coffee cup over. She breaks down in tears. After scolding her, you turn to your spouse and criticize them for placing the cup too close to the edge of the table. A short verbal battle follows.

You storm upstairs and change your shirt. Back downstairs you find your daughter has been too busy crying to finish breakfast and get ready for school. She misses the bus. Your spouse must leave immediately for work. You rush to the car and drive your daughter to school. Because you are late, you drive 40 miles an hour in a 30 mph speed zone.

After a 15-minute delay and throwing $60 (traffic fine) away, you arrive at school. Your daughter runs to the building without saying good-bye. After arriving at the office 20 minutes late, you find you forgot your briefcase. Your day has started terrible. As it continues, it seems to get worse and worse. You look forward to going home. When you arrive home, you find a small wedge in your relationship with your spouse and daughter. Why? Because of how you reacted in the morning.

Covey liked to ask his audience this multiple choice question.

Why did you have a bad day?

A) Did the coffee cause it?

B) Did your daughter cause it?

C) Did the Policeman cause it?

D) Did you cause it?

Of course, the answer is D.  You caused it!  You had control over what happened. In those 5 seconds following the spilled coffee, your response could have changed everything!  You could have consoled your daughter and say, “It’s ok, sweetie, don’t worry about it”  Calmly change shirts.  Your daughter catches the bus in time.  You give your wife a six-second kiss goodbye. You get to work early.  And you have a great day!

Two totally different scenarios. They began the same.  But ended differently.  Why?  Because of your response instead of reaction.  You had no control over the coffee spilling.  But you did have control over your attitude!

What would happen in our homes if we took personal responsibility for our attitude and applied the 90/10 principle?  In our churches?  In our jobs?  In our clubs?  In our neighborhoods?

How different would this country be if people quit blaming others?  Or behaving like a victim?  Or making excuses for poor conduct?

God made us each creatures of choice.  We can react or respond.  Be positive or negative.  Be good or bad.  Choose your response and change your life!

–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman


Filed under Attitude, Life

26 responses to “One Simple Principle That Will Change Your Life

  1. Great post today! This is something we all need to think about, myself included. I’m so bad at acting out the first scenario. I let my temper & lack of patience get the best of me way too often.


  2. Well said, and a nice tribute.


  3. Aleta

    What great thoughts with a perfect example. Within the 90/10 formula lies the definition of Meekness: strength under control. We need this reminder -to tame ourselves daily. Thanks Ken!


  4. Aleta

    Hello, back, Norma! Miss you two so much!


  5. Bill Hood

    I believe this principle is at work constantly in our personal relationship with God through His son. There are times when our Father places great opportunities before us but, because of our attitude, we fail to receive the benefit of His care and love. Often, we cannot receive the the wonderful gift because our hearts are blinded in rebellion.

    When I think about it, the ability to control my reactions, and thereby my daily experiences, not to mention the experiences of others around me, is a wonderful gift in itself. It shames me that I have not learned and applied this simple principle much earlier in my life. My life, and the lives of many others, could have been so much sweeter and far more productive in the cause of Christ, had I done so.

    If it turns out that God has sectioned off areas of Heaven, based on personality, and I am found a faithful servant at the Judgment, I will be with those who have had the hardest heads on the earth…


  6. Judy Bertram

    A good reminder that our attitude (our heart) dominates every part of our life. It will be how we keep that attitude in check that will define us and how we are reflecting our Lord to others. Always look forward to your posts each day. Tell Norma to drink a cup of coffee and think of me, sure do miss her!


  7. Amen to this!! Pardon the pun! If more of us responded in a loving way the blame and shame and grief of life would be far less! I am by no means perfect, but I have learned to respond in much better ways than I did in my younger years!!


  8. DC

    I reiterate AMEN,,,,excellent post and tribute,,,I also took Covey’s class and try to live by the 7 Habits principles,,,good stuff


  9. Super article! I just copied it and will run it in this week’s bulletin here at Brownsburg. Thanx so much for your great work, Ken. Keep those wonderful articles coming!!!


  10. Great post! How many times do I blame things on situations rather than my own reaction to them?! Thank you for bringing it to light with a great example. -Beth (of The Good Cup)


  11. Great article. I loved the book and need to read it again soon. Thanks for sharing this exerpt and your thoughts about it.


  12. Lavada Freeman

    I’m a little late reading this blog but THIS IS GREAT!! I will share the 90/10 principle with my family and also apply it to my life. Thank you Ken! Beautifully said and a great lesson.


  13. pam phelps

    I was just reading some of your blog this morning, and this one hit home. Something to really think about, and how true it is about how our reactions can change our entire day!


  14. Say, you got a pleasant weblog publish.Really looking forward to study more. Great.


  15. Pingback: Weekly Recap: July 12-17 | ThePreachersWord

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