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The 70/30 Rule of Satisfaction

I was chatting with my cousin today on job satisfaction and other life issues.

As we were talking I stumbled on a realization about the reality of satisfaction. Here's my theory: 100% is an impossible number to obtain to be satisfied. We can never be 100% satisfied with anyone or anything. So, I arbitrarily chose a lower number. I wonder if we can be satisfied only 70% with anyone or anything?

What if, the most anyone can be satisfied is around 70%. Then, anything beyond this is not the general reality. This obviously has wide implications.

Some examples follow:

a. When I look for an employee, is it realistic for me to expect someone who fits all the criteria 100%? No, it is not practical. If I can get someone who fulfills 70% of the criteria as long as the critical ones are fulfilled, I should choose to be content.

b. If you are working at an office or any job: Expecting to have 100% job satisfaction is unrealistic. If we stand back and see the big picture: if we can get 70% of the perfect workplace, the perfect boss, the perfect co-workers, then we should be satisfied.

c. When you get married, is your spouse about to fulfill 100% of your dreams? Absolutely not! If you can get about 70% compatibility and agreement, it is probably the most we can get. (the same with family members).

d. When you have children, will they listen to you and obey you 100% of the time? Even if they did that initially, it is just a matter of time before their individuality and personhood cause a drop in their compliance.

e. With friends (or any other relationship), will anyone be 100% compatible with anyone else? Unlikely.

Having a realistic expectation in every relationship will help in two ways:

1. It will help us to be content with what is reality. Contentment is a choice. So we can choose to be content with 70% compatibility and compliance. Alternatively, I can choose to be unhappy by focusing on the 30%.

So, Paul can say, "I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want." (Philippians 4:12)

2. It can help us to avoid disappointment and therefore jeopardize relationships. When our expectations are lower, then disappointment is also lower. If I get into any relationship knowing that the most I will be satisfied is 70%, then anything in that relationship that doesn't gel with me, I can easily attribute it to the 30%.

(For a sermon on contentment, see here: Mud Pies)


a. Once you realize that your employee won't be the perfect employee fulfilling 100% of the role, then employers can account for it in other ways, other than placing unnecessary pressure on the employee and in the company.

b. Once we know that any person can only find 70% fulfillment in a job or in an employer, that will prevent him/her from quitting her job or getting frustrated. Instead, they will work around the 30% that cannot be fulfilled.

c. Once we realize that we can have only 70% compatibility with our spouses (at best), then we won't put unnecessary pressure on the relationship or look outside the relationship in the futile effort to get the elusive 100% satisfaction. For those who are looking for spouses, expecting to have a potential spouse to be 100% compatible is unrealistic.

d. Once we realize that we can have only 70% compliance from our children, then we won't treat them like robots (that would give 100% compliance). Rather, we will treat them like people with minds and personalities of their own.

e. Once we realize that we may only get 70% similarity in viewpoints and thinking (at best) with friends, neighbors, and colleagues, then we are free to disagree and yet continue the friendship.

At the end of the day, my own views and personality change over time. Thus over time, I am not 100% compatible with myself! How then can I expect to be fully compliant with another unique individual? Aiming for a lower number, like 70% and choosing to be content with that, is more realistic and likely to result in more successful (and compatible) relationships.

Photo by NeONBRAND on Unsplash


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