Make Better Decisions Using the 10-10-10 Process

“The risk of a wrong decision is preferable to the terror of indecision,” – Maimonides, Spanish philosopher and astronomer, 1135 – 1204

Have you ever been stuck between a rock and a hard place trying to make an excruciating decision? Well, the 10-10-10 strategy might be of help!

My mentor Leila Modarres, recently told me about Suzy Welch, a business leader and author, on a mission to transform people’s lives by teaching them better decision-making techniques. Suzy is the former editor-in-chief of the Harvard Business Review, and contributor to Oprah’s O Magazine’s work-life column. Suzy is also the mother of four thriving children, and married to Jack Welch – the revered leadership guru and the former CEO of GE.

Suzy breaks down the stickiest and the most conflicting decision-making processes to sheer simplicity, by focusing on an immediate, a medium-term, and a long-term vision of the potential impacts of decision.

It’s called the 10-10-10 method.

The 10-10-10 Method

Here’s the idea, if you were to make a difficult decision, it would be worth thinking about the 10-minute impact, the 10-month impact, and the 10-year impact of the decision. More often than not, the 10-year impact of any decision does not look as bad as we usually fear it to be. Things have their own way of working out despite their immanent ambiguity.

Suzy and Jack Welch, Credit: New York Social Diary

The approach has helped people from all walks of life assess their problems through a different lens. We often fret about the impact of small and large decisions on our lives, sometimes leading to inaction or decision paralysis altogether. Alternatively, our mind thinks through the various permutations and combinations of potential impacts of decisions, leading to a completely muddled future prospect. In the end, we often convince ourselves that a decision cannot be made and abandon the decision-making process altogether.

As Theodore Roosevelt once said,

“In any moment of decision, the best thing you can do is the right thing, the next best thing is the wrong thing, and the worst thing you can do is nothing.”

Suzy used the consistency helpful 10-10-10 strategy to make decisions in her own life, and shared the technique in her book titled, “10-10-10: A Fast and Powerful Way to Get Unstuck in Love, at Work, and with Your Family”. She also shares many personal and third person stories in the book, providing examples of ways to employ the 10-10-10 strategy in daily life. 

For example, many of us fear walking out of a seemingly difficult relationship. When imagining leaving the relationship – the 10-minute and the 10-month impact may seem painful, but the 10-year impact may seem more manageable and lucid. As long as we can arrive at a reasonable outlook of the future, the 10-10-10 process makes the decision-making easier.

Using 10-10-10 May Improve the Quality of Decisions

Humans depend on the automatic and instinctive ways to make decisions – for example, we don’t actively think about walking, sleeping, laughing and eating, these decisions are made using an auto-pilot decision-making process. We often rely on this same system, a.k.a “the gut”, to make day-to-day decisions. The gut however, is typically incorrect because it is based on survival instincts, previous biases and experiences, and is mostly a lazy tool to make decisions.

However, if we manage to slow down the decision process and try to envision the short-term, medium-term and long-term impact, we can come to terms with a reasonable future outcome. We are able to use the rational thinking process using information available to better gauge potential risks and rewards. The decision ultimately comes from a more centered and mindful place!

In his path-breaking book “Thinking, Fast and Slow”, Nobel Prize winner Dr. Daniel Kahneman stated,

“True intuitive expertise is learned from prolonged experience with good feedback on mistakes.” 

In other words, intuition must then mean repeated experience with clear understanding about potential pitfalls. Intuition is therefore, not a snappy way to make decisions, a process that’s biased in the first place.

Our Values Guide Us

Palm Beacher Magazine
Suzy and Jack Welch, Credit: Palm Beacher Magazine

The guiding principle when making decisions in life, is our intrinsic value system. Suzy spends a lot of time in the book discussing the importance of personal values in the 10-10-10 process. This is particularly important for women, who are often struggling with work-life balance, struggling with decisions about choosing a full-time career over prospects of being a full-time mother etc.

What works for one person may not work for another. For example, a career-driven father in his mid-30s may want to slow down instead of taking a promotion to spend more time with his growing children. Another father however, may place value on the additional income awarded from the new promotion, and may be okay sacrificing family time in lieu of the promotion.

And that’s the charm of the 10-10-10 process. Each person can apply the process to help make a decision using their personal values. Two people with disparate values are expected to arrive at disparate decision – and that’s okay! After all there’s no single correct answer to life’s problems anyway. 

As Paulo Coelho said,

“Making a decision was only the beginning of things. When someone makes a decision, he is really diving into a strong current that will carry him to places he had never dreamed of when he first made the decision.”

Listen More:

Watch Suzy Welch talk about the 10-10-10 process at the Nordic Business Forum.

If you want to learn more about how the mind makes decisions, watch the review of one of my favorite and most instrumental book about the thinking process – “Thinking Fast and Slow” written by the Nobel Peace Prize winner Dr. Daniel Kahneman.

You can also listen to Suzy and Jack Welch on their weekly podcast as they explore questions about business and life management.

Read More:


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