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The One-Third Rule

Updated: Sep 22, 2020

They say the apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree and for me this is definitely the case. For as long as I can remember, something inside of me has been drawn to teaching and coaching. Even as a little boy growing up in soggy Seattle, Washington, I purposefully put myself in situations where I could teach and lead.

If you’ve spent five minutes with my dad you know exactly where I got my proclivity to teach. During my childhood, my dad never missed an opportunity to teach my older brother and me a life lesson. Some of the lessons were profound, and some were just down right weird. Take for example the time when I was around 7 years old and my dad told my brother and me that the ring around the sun (probably caused by a glare) meant the sun had just exploded and we only had 7 minutes to live!!

Now, one could argue that my dad was a looney tune and that telling kids that the sun just exploded is a silly way to teach a lesson. I’m not sure I would argue with you there… However, according to my dad, he told us that the sun was about to blow up to show us that we shouldn’t believe everything we hear. Furthermore, he didn’t want us to grow up simply taking everything adults say as truth just because they are adults. In his mind, he was teaching us a valuable life lesson on how to think critically and how to ask questions and come to our own conclusions.

Regardless of my dads crazy teaching strategies I’ve carried on the same passion for helping people learn from their lives. Of all the things my dad tries to teach me, there is one that sticks out in my mind.

My dad calls it the “one-third rule” and basically, the rule states this: In life, there will be one-third of the people who you interact with that really connect with you and love you for who you are; another third will be indifferent to you and finally, a third of people will simply not like you….no matter what you do.

When it comes to self-assurance, I think I can safely assume most humans seek to be liked by others. Unfortunately, based on the one-third rule, no matter how nice you are or how well you live you life, some people will simply not like you.

So what does this mean?

It means you’re off the hook! It means you don’t have to spend your whole life worrying about what others think about you anymore!

If one-third of all the people you interact with don’t like you, that’s fine because you know there is another third that loves you and another third that you can try to positively influence. Ultimately though, spending time and energy thinking and worrying about how you think other people are perceiving you is a waste of time.

This is why I think the one-third rule in life is powerful. It shows you that no matter how hard you try, you can’t change some people’s minds. It shows that we have less control over others than we think and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. The one-third rule helps you highlight the important people in your life as well as those people for whom you might have opportunity to positively impact and thus create/improve a relationship.

Conversely, and perhaps most importantly, the one-third rule is living proof that you shouldn’t spend too much time trying to persuade others to your way of thinking.

The idea that we can control someone else’s thoughts and emotions is erroneous! Furthermore, as my therapist says, not everyone is born with the set of tools in their toolbox. In other words, what’s right, wrong, good, or bad for you is not necessarily the same for others. We are all born with a different set of tools and therefore, the life we create with those tools is going to look significantly different from everyone else’s.

In the end, the one-third rule taught me how to prioritize the opinions others have about me. Mindfulness taught me that I cannot change people. The only person I can change is myself, and in order to change myself, I need to question my mind and my thoughts.

Through my dad’s silly rule and through mindfulness, I’ve realized I can’t change the one-third of people that don’t like me, but that’s okay! Knowing that not everyone will be my biggest fan gives me the ability to focus my attention on being my best self and love the people who love me for who I am!

Thank you as always for reading. Let us know what you think about the one-third rule. Does it hold true for you in life? Do you have a different rule that helps center you and refocus your attention?

Until next time, many, many blessings.

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