Ready To Take Charge Of Your Long-term Goals? The Pareto Principle Can Help

August 14, 2023

bucket list on a journal

I’m a big believer in the act and art of bucket lists—a clearly defined list of what is most important to accomplish in the span of a lifetime.

Bucket lists center us. They ground us to the ideals and accomplishments we value most. But what if I were to tell you that you’re likely doing your bucket list wrong?

Whether you’re 17 or 71, let me introduce you to the Pareto Principle—the economic principle that can propel you to long-term success and transform your bucket list dreams into bucket list dones. 

What is the Pareto Principle?

First developed in 1896 by Vilfredo Pareto, the Pareto Principle originated after the eponymous Italian economist observed that 80% of the land in Italy was owned by only 20% of the population. This 80/20 pattern continued throughout his life when he noticed that 20% of his plants bore 80% of its fruit. After ongoing observation, Pareto established a power law distribution stating that roughly 80% of outcomes come from 20% of causes. 

When considering your day-to-day, it’s easy to see the Pareto Principle play out in real life. Chances are you wear approximately 20% of your wardrobe 80% of the time, spend 80% of your time in 20% of the rooms in the home (who really uses the guest room or basement more than a few times a year?), and get 80% of your highest sleep quality during 20% of your sleep.

These are all things we do naturally, without even realizing the impact that the Pareto Principle has on our day-to-day lives. And yet, there’s a magic to knowing the Pareto Principle. Once you’re aware of how it naturally operates, you can use it to change your life.

Setting Long-term Goals Using The Pareto Principle

When considering your bucket list or list of long-term goals, it’s easy to write a long list only to accomplish few (if any) of the items listed. Rather than viewing them all equally, the Pareto Principle can be applied to focus only on the goals that matter most important to you.

For example, if someone named Emma had a list of long-term goals that looked like this:

  1. Start a thriving home garden
  2. Travel to all seven continents
  3. Save one million dollars for retirement
  4. Start a successful cupcake business 
  5. Write a cookbook
  6. Teach yoga professionally
  7. Have two kids
  8. Buy a home
  9. See all the National Parks
  10. Hike Everest

Chances are, she’d likely feel overwhelmed and may or may not accomplish some or any of it. 

To become excellent at something, it takes time, patience, and practice. Rather than being pulled in ten different directions with mediocre results, the Pareto Principle can help Emma identify the top 20% of her goals that matter most, so she can devote 80% of her effort there. 

If Emma decides to make an excellent cupcake business and write a cookbook one day, she may not be able to travel to all of the National Parks and continents in order to focus on her business. That said, she will allow herself to make her cupcake business the best it can be, all the while dedicating the remaining 20% of her time to her other goals and dreams.

Consider embracing the time investment and setting the other 80% of goals aside to push yourself into your top 20%. While it may seem silly, it’s truly strategic.

Applying the Pareto Principle to Your Goals

Once Emma decides to focus on her cupcake and cookbook goals, she can still use the Pareto Principle within the framework of her business.

Chances are, 80% of her sales will come from the top 20% of her customers. Rather than focusing all her time and energy into marketing and brand awareness, Emma can leverage the power of the Pareto Principle to grow the amount of orders from her most loyal customers and use those customers to promote her business. She can do this through coupons, cupcake freebies, and other deals to keep her regulars happy and returning to her cupcake shop for long-term growth. 


The Pareto principle encourages us to think smarter—about our goals, our values, and our world. Whether you’re launching a new business or determining how to prioritize the twists and turns of life, consider the Pareto Principle a guiding light to center and hone what matters most. Stop doing more for less, and minimize to best maximize your life.

Also by Dana: I Tried A 30-Day Gratitude Calendar. Here’s What Happened

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Photo: Vijay Saiwal via Pexels

Dana Drosdick
Dana is a marketer living in Saratoga Springs, NY with a passion for all things related to stewardship, faith, wellness, and personal enrichment. Her work has been featured in various Chicken Soup for the Soul anthologies, The Odyssey Online, and The Banner Magazine. Follow her at @danadrosdick on Instagram for foodie trends, her latest book recommendations, and far too many photos of clementines.


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