The Rule of 10-10-10

In the September issue of Oprah I found an interesting article by Suzy Welch on decision making. Everyone makes decisions, big, small, life-changing and life-threatening everyday. The author contends that her formula for working through the problem-solving process on the way to coming to a definite decision is one that could change a person’s life or at the very least help those of us who have over-analyzed our dilemmas to the point of inertia.

She calls her solution 10-10-10. And its implementation is simple. When faced with a difficult, or not, decision, ask yourself three questions: What are the consequences of my decision in 10 minutes? In 10 months? And in 10 years? The answers to these questions will usually give you enough information to proceed to a decision.

Sounds too simple, doesn’t it, but I think Ms. Welch is on to something. The problem most people have when trying to decide is that they tend to see only the immediate future of that decision. What will be the impact now. Projecting the life span of a decision further out than, say tomorrow, helps because it allows the decision maker a chance to step back and be realistic.

I applied this principle to a dilemma of my own recently when trying to decide if I should contact a man I met at my graduate seminar earlier in the summer. After a disastrous stint at eHarmony, I was reluctant to use email as a dating tool again but by applying 10-10-10, I was able to walk myself through the what-if’s and decelerate the panic that a rather introverted person such as myself feels when reaching out to a prospective dating prospect.

So, what were the consequences of emailing this man at ten minutes out? There were none. It takes longer than 10 minutes for emails to arrive at their destinations sometimes and even longer for recipients to actually check their messages. I have a friend who checks her email once a week and that’s a good week.

10 months from now he will have rejected me or not. If he did, it would be rather quickly known in that I would never receive a response or after a few emails he would stop replying or ask me to not contact him again. Disappointing if he does not choose to get to know me but not life-altering, and if he were to be interested? Well, at 10 months we might still be dating, or we could have dated a bit and discovered we were not compatible, but either way I am hardly a loser.

10 years from now? Unpredictable, but say he passes on me. Ten years from now I will be far from the life I currently lead, for better probably, and being turned down by a guy I only just thought was cute and cuddly once upon a time, and whose name I will likely have difficulty completely recalling, will in all likelihood not cross my mind much, if at all. And if we should hit it off? Again, hard to predict but relationships are learning experiences, and one thing I have learned about men is that there are a lot of them, so one man shouldn’t be the recipient of all hopes and dreams before you know if he feels likewise.

As a result of this mental exercise in rational decision making I have been in contact with this man for about a week, and although I am not getting overly positive vibes, and wouldn’t be at all surprised to ultimately be turned down, it’s nice in its own way and for what it is.

Now, could this formula be used with bigger issues? I think so, and the author talks about how she used the 10-10-10 to come to the decision to end her marriage many years ago. A decision that she still feels was the best for all involved.

I did something similar two years ago when I decided to go back to school and get my masters. Whether you use a model like this one, or have some other tried and true method, the point is that making decisions is an everyday occurrence in the life of everyone. Putting off, avoiding completely, and agonizing over both choices is a waste of energy. Having a system to help you evaluate choices thoughtfully and thoroughly is, in the long run, a good decision to have made.

4 thoughts on “The Rule of 10-10-10

  1. Dear Annie,
    Suzy Welch here. I just read your (very old) blog about my column on 10-10-10. Did you ever end up using the idea in your life? If so, I would love to know how it worked out!
    ps i love your blog

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