80-20 Rule – How to find Eudaimonia at Home and Work


Build Upon More Than Just Happiness

By Secili DeStefano, PT, DPT

We have all been through a difficult season. I gave a talk to a group of fitness professionals recently on osteoarthritis, aging, and pain.

We had a lot of fun and told a lot of jokes, but at one point we talked about falls. I relayed a story about a wonderful patient I treated who was in his ’80s. He was doing well, gaining muscle and bone mass through a strength training program he was participating in at my clinic. When COVID-19 hit, he stopped coming, sat in his chair for three months, and became sedentary. One night, he got up to go to the bathroom, lost his balance, fell, hit his head, and died. It was a sad but obvious realization that none of us will make it out of here alive. The human experience is one that will end eventually for all of us. So, we need to examine our lives, realize that we are the drivers of our destiny and implement joy, purpose, and meaning into the fabric of our personal and professional lives while we are here.

The Private Practice Section is “committed to championing the success of the physical therapist in business” and the APTA to “transforming society by optimizing movement to improve the human experience.”1 These statements show the difference that these two organizations strive to make in society through our work. To articulate the upside of the human experience and to use this to champion the success of the physical therapist in business we need a metric, a framework, and a process. That is where the psychology model of eudaimonia well-being comes along.

Eudaimonia is a combination of the prefix “eu” (which means good, or well), and “daimon” (which means spirit). Eudaimonia means happiness, but it’s not intended to mean a state of mind or feeling of contentment.2-4 In Aristotelian ethics, it was understood to mean the condition of human flourishing or of living well. Aristotle originally coined the concept to describe the highest good — whether that be excellence, human virtue, or whatever enables good human performance.

Happiness alone is quite insufficient, but eudaimonia, now that is a word to build on. The concept of eudaimonia well-being is comprised of six crucial elements that experts believe are a prerequisite for authentic and lasting happiness:

  • Autonomy
  • Personal growth
  • Environmental mastery
  • Positive relations
  • Self-acceptance
  • Purpose in life

Using these elements and the 80-20 rule, we can begin to transform ourselves and society around us. The 80-20 rule was named after a 19th-century Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto. Pareto believed that 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes.5,6

We can all think of examples in applying this concept. Maybe 80% of profits are brought in by 20% of clients or therapists, 80% of feedback comes from 20% of the customers, and so on, but have we thought about how this can be applied more deeply? Are we strategic thinkers in our personal growth patterns or do we get so caught up in doing the busywork that we don’t have time to be strategic and guide the happiness and purpose in our lives?

Just think of the possibilities! What if we embraced eudaimonia and lived by Pareto’s 80-20 principle? If we can all create the clarity that eudaimonia brings, could we more easily discover the 20% of actions that are going to make 80% of the difference? How would that impact our relationships at home? How could that clarity impact your company? How could it help us manifest the dual vision of APTA and PPS, transforming society and building better businesses?


1APTA. Mission and Vision. https://www.apta.org/apta-and-you/leadership-and-governance/vision-mission-and-strategic-plan

2Deci EL, Ryan RM. Hedonia, Eudaimonia, and Well-Being: An Introduction. Journal of Happiness Studies. 2008;9:1-11.

3Huta V, Waterman AS. Eudaimonia and its distinction from hedonia: Developing a classification and terminology for understanding conceptual and operational definitions. Journal of Happiness Studies: An Interdisciplinary Forum on Subjective Well-Being. 2014;15(6):1425-1456

4Heintzelman SJ. Eudaimonia in the contemporary science of subjective well-being: Psychological well-being, self-determination, and meaning in life. In E. Diener, S. Oishi, L. Tay (Eds.), Handbook of Well-Being. Salt Lake City, UT: DEF Publishers.

5Ruini C, Ceseitti G. “Spotlight on Eudaimonia And Depression. A Systematic Review of the Literature Over the Past 5 Years.” https://www.google.com/search?q=eudaimonia+80%2F20+rule&rlz=1C5CHFA_enUS919US919&oq=eudaimonia+80%2F20+rule&aqs=chrome..69i57j0i546l3.14499j0j7&sourceid=chrome&ie=UTF-8. Published August 30, 2019.

6Ruini C, Ceseitti G. “Spotlight on Eudaimonia And Depression. A Systematic Review of the Literature Over the Past 5 Years.” https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6720155/. Published August 30, 2019.

Secili DeStefano PT, DPT is a certified physical therapist and owner at Optimal Motion Physical Therapy. Visit her on Twitter @secilid or contact her at secilidestefano@optimalmotionpt.com.

Copyright © 2018, Private Practice Section of the American Physical Therapy Association. All Rights Reserved.

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