We all want to lead lives of our own making. But in today’s accelerated world, it can seem as though there are just too many choices and too little time. So we decide by not deciding or by letting gut instinct guide us.
As a working mother of four, I realized some time ago that if I didn’t start making decisions more deliberately, my life would soon be living me, rather than me living it. So I came up with a strategy I call 10-10-10—a life management tool to sort out any complicated decision by assessing its impact over time. In essence, 10-10-10 is about happiness: It’s a path towards confident choices, minus the frantic edge and angst; a way to get unstuck from paralyzing dilemmas.
To begin, decide which issue you need to resolve and pose the problem to yourself as a question: Should I quit my job? Should I hold my son back a year in school? Should I end my relationship?
Next, be honest and exhaustive as you consider each option and ask yourself what the consequences will be:
—In the next 10 minutes?
—In 10 months?
—In 10 years?
The first 10 just means “right now”—as in, one minute, hour or week. The second 10 represents the point in the future when the initial reaction to your decision has passed but the consequences continue to play out. And the third refers to a life you want for yourself down the road, even if its particulars are vague.
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Finally, take the “data” you’ve compiled and compare it to your beliefs, goals and dreams. Ask: “Knowing what I now know about my options, which decision will best help me create a life of my own making?"
10-10-10 helps us to identify our deepest values and live in accordance with them, I learned as I began to share the process and saw it applied to situations I’d never imagined. It invariably leads to faster, sounder decisions—ones we can clearly explain.
That was the case for Antoine Jefferson, a 27-year-old government employee from Philadelphia, who told me how he used 10-10-10 as he pursued his personal goal of reinventing the welfare system.
Raised in a disadvantaged neighbourhood by a single mother, Antoine stopped school in class VII and was moved into foster care, bouncing among five families. Perhaps the most defining experience of Antoine’s life was the realisation, in his early teens, that he was different. Not just because he was gay, but because he was unrelentingly optimistic. Things could be better, he believed, if people just stopped hurting each other.
Antoine had been given a job at the state’s busiest welfare office, directing clients through the application process. The idea of helping people in need thrilled him initially, but his excitement soon turned to despair. His co-workers rudely addressed the people coming into the office every day. "Applying for welfare happens at your lowest moment. There’s so much shame in it," he explained. “The system is supposed to be about lifting people up, not breaking them."
One night after work, Antoine wrote an impassioned manifesto about how office protocol should change. When he showed it to his sister, she gently tried to warn him off. "Everyone will hate you, Antoine."
For the next few hours, Antoine used 10-10-10 to sort through the possible consequences of presenting his proposal. In the immediate term, relationships at work would be strained. He had already expressed his views, and his co-workers had brushed him off.
In 10 months, Antoine predicted, those difficulties would continue as he refused to back down from his role as office cop. On the other hand, if Antoine stayed mum, he feared a crushing sense of hypocrisy would overwhelm him.
Antoine’s decision became clear when he considered the 10-year scenario. "I realized I was willing to take the heat— even wanted to take it—for the chance to improve the system," he said. "All I could think was, ‘If not me, who?’ Someone has to lead change, even on the lowest rungs of the ladder.”
The next day, Antoine met his boss to describe his concerns. She received his manifesto positively.
But after she brought it to a meeting with the staff, co-workers started to freeze Antoine out, as expected.
Rather than manage the mess, Antoine’s boss asked him whether he would be willing to be transferred to an office across town.
He agreed. “I wasn’t sorry or angry for a second,” he told me recently. “I feel as if I did the right thing.”
Today, Antoine continues to 10-10-10 all dilemmas on a daily basis. As he puts it, 10-10-10 “hushes the noise so the mind can see what it needs to.
Which brings me back to my description of 10-10-10 as a life-management tool. The truth is, if you use 10-10-10 consistently, it becomes less of a tool or a methodology; instead, it’s an infinite and sustaining heartbeat.
It becomes a way of life.
Write to Jack & Suzy
Jack and Suzy are eager to hear about your career dilemmas and challenges at work, and look forward to answering some of your questions in future columns. Jack and Suzy Welch are the authors of the international best-seller, Winning. Their latest book is Winning: The Answers: Confronting 74 of the Toughest Questions in Business Today. Mint readers can email them questions at firstname.lastname@example.org Please include your name, occupation and city. Only select questions will be answered.
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