Yes, decisions can be difficult. And, perspective is like an x-ray that enables our discernment and wisdom.

10 Minutes, 10 Months, 10 Years. This idea by Suzy Welch is simple-yet-powerful: before you make a decision, consider what the impact of that decision might be in 10 Minutes, 10 Months, and 10 Years. Click the image of her book to grab a copy.

It’s easy to skip, being so simple in concept. But consider the advantage of habitually asking ourselves this question. It serves us by separating our impulses from our long-term ideas of self-actualization. And, as we’re ever-striving for, puts our decisions and our current perspective into a wider framing.

Some examples:

1. A friend has just propositioned me for a sexual connection. I’m in a monogamous relationship, and so are they, but there is no denying the chemistry…

In 10 minutes…things could feel really, really good. ;)In 10 months…I may still be regretting this decision. We will have caused severe heartbreak, and probably the end, of our respective relationships.In 10 years…I may still be with my current partner. If I decide to do this I probably won’t, and I won’t be with this friend either…

This was easy to clarify. I may ‘want’ this now, but when I consider it in a wider context, I don’t want this at all.

3. My spouse wants to paint the house bright blue, and just arrived home with the paint. Are they crazy?! I need to stop this now.

In 10 minutes…The conversation will be over and I’ll be calm, or the first brush strokes will be on the house.In 10 months…Hmm, well I might get used to it. I do like the color. I’m just worried that it will de-value the house…In 10 years…I may paint it again. We want to live here for at least that long, and that’s time enough to paint the house again if need be.

Ok, blue it is! Even if we decide to paint it again in the future for financial reasons, it will be worth it to live in a house that’s a color we both enjoy for years.

2. I’m currently in college, majoring in Biology. But I’ve LOVED my Chemistry class so much that I’m considering changing my major to Chemistry…

In 10 minutes…if I choose to change, I’ll get a rush of a sense of progress.In 10 months…I’ll have all new classes, new classmates, and new career ideas forming in front of me.In 10 years…In all likelihood, I’ll be working in a Lab instead of a forest. Whoa, I didn’t realize how important that was to me until just now.

I’m going to see what the working lives of chemists is like. And I’ll talk to some peers working in both fields before I make such a big decision.(Note that in this case the ‘answer’ was to ask more questions. That’s still an extremely valuable offering from a perspective exercise.)

4. Everyone around me is laughing in my face! That guy at the bar pushed me over and made me look like an idiot! It’s time for a fight…

In 10 minutes…I’ll have regained my status and sense of pride.In 10 months…I could be facing court for assault.In 10 years…This could be the night I remember for what made me a felon, unable to vote or find a job.

Yikes…I’m going to let it go.

Try engaging in this practice in retrospect.

What are some big things that have already happened to you, what decisions led to that, and how do they appear through the rear-view mirror now?Were you thinking about things on this scale? Would you have acted differently?

Now, how about your life right now? Are there any decisions facing you currently that you’ve been wrestling with? View this practice as a way of stepping back and getting a different angle on the problem you’re solving. Try using this method for the next 3 decisions you have to make. If it goes well, try again for the next 10.

Note that you can adapt this scale for insight as-needed. Sometimes minutes won’t do the trick. Try 10 days, 10 months, 10 years. 🙂