When it happens like bang, what quickly become obvious are the consequences, and rarely the cause. And when the cause eventually comes to mind, we tend to excuse it with the urgent demands of the obvious (consequence). Common sense tells us that the best way to solve a problem is to treat its cause and its consequence. But do we always look in the direction of the cause when the consequence is quite obvious and calling? Reminds me of Derek Prince during World War II while he was serving as a medical orderly with the British forces in North Africa, and I quote,
A British soldier had come into our reception station with a shrapnel wound caused by a bomb exploding near him. He took off his shirt exposing a small puncture wound in his shoulder. The edge of the wound was slightly black. Thinking of the ready to use sterile dressing that was part of our medical equipment, I said to the medical officer, “shall I get a first field dressing, sir?”
“No, that’s not what’s needed,” the doctor replied. “Bring me a probe.” The doctor had the man sit on a chair. Then he struck the little silver stick into the man’s wound and wiggled it around gingerly for a few moments. Suddenly the man let out a yelp and goes up in the air. “Now fetch me the forceps,” the doctor said. I gave him the forceps which he inserted into the wound in the area where the probe had located a foreign body. Cautiously he extracted a little piece of black metal. After cleaning the wound, he finally said to me, “Now you can bring the dressing.”
Afterward he explained, “You see, the piece of shrapnel that caused the puncture was still there. If you just cover that shrapnel up with a dressing without removing it, it will be a continuous source of infection and will cause further complications.”
Now on the other aspect of cause and consequences, is the Pareto principle or the 80-20 rule. Vilfredo Pareto, a 19th century economist postulated that a large share of wealth is owned by a small percentage of the population. Put more simply, 80 percent of consequences are as a result of 20 percent of causes. Now, how can this apply to goals and personal achievement?
I often tend to push myself to an extent on the cause effect issues; though it’s a sort of character test. I strive to achieve 80 percent of results with 20 percent of required time. Very demanding, you would say; but very helpful as well, especially in restoring focus, concentration and determination in producing results for a given task.
If principles are said to be natural laws, then the Pareto principle will be an effective tool that could transform ones effectiveness and consequently ones life. Knowing that we need 20 percent of our engagements to yield 80 percent of the results needed, the question is, “out of the many things we do or can do, what is that 20 percent that will produce the 80 percent result that we need? In other words, what are the most important things in your life that would create the defining results? Can you draw a line between the 80 percent less effective things and the 20 percent effective ones?
You can separate the few major problems from the many possible problems so you can focus your improvement efforts, arrange them according to priority or importance, and determine which problems are most important using data, not perception.