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How emotionally intelligent people use the 10-10-10 rule to stop being impulsive and make smarter, better decisions


There are plenty of frameworks you can use to make better decisions. Jeff Bezosuses the two-way door rule to identify reversible decisions and embrace a bias towards action.

Southwest Airlines founder Herb Kelleher used the one-question rule to add clarity the decision-making process.

Science can also help you make better decisions. You can leverage your circadian rhythm. You can the power of experience-based intuition.  You can even sleep on a decision (as long as you get a good night’s sleep.)

Problem is, most frameworks won’t necessarily help you make good decisions when your willpower reserves run low. When temptation trumps determination.  When your emotions work against you, not for you and you struggle to stay whatever course you’ve chosen. 

See two employees arguing at the end of a long day and it’s tempting to ease past and hope the problem goes away.

Walk out of your third meeting in a row to find a note about a customer complaint and it’s tempting to save that call for tomorrow. Hear your alarm go off at 6 a.m. and it’s tempting to hit snooze and skip your morning workout.

When you aren’t at your best, whether mentally or emotionally or physically, immediacy typically wins.

Unless you apply Suzy Welch’s 10-10-10 Rule.

The 10-10-10 Rule

The framework is simple: before you make a decision, ask yourself three questions:

  • 10 minutes from now, how will I feel about this decision?
  • 10 months from now, how will I feel about this decision?
  • 10 years from now, how will I feel about this decision?

It’s easy to feel pretty good about a decision ten minutes from now, especially if instant gratification or conflict avoidance is involved.

Taking a longer-term perspective gets your “future self” involved: Your goals, your dreams, the kind of person you want to be and re-establishes – when you need it most – continuity between “today you” and 10 months and 10 years from now, you.

Research shows that re-establishing that perspective will instantly help you make better decisions.  One study shows that people with greater “present-future continuity” tend to exercise more.

Another study shows they tend to be more financially prudent and more likely to save money. Another shows they tend to behave more ethically, both personally and professionally.

In fact, this study shows the degree of continuity you feel with your future self can actually predict your overall life satisfaction and well-being 10 – yep, 10 – years later.

As the authors of the study write:

When people are better connected to their future selves, they have an enhanced ability to recognize the consequences of their present-day decisions on their future selves.

And that’s going to help them put the brakes on these behaviors. 

The more connected you feel to your future self, the more likely you are to consider emotions you will feel later, not just now, like regret or guilt.

Take an interpersonal issue between two employees. Ten minutes from now, walking away will still feel good.

Ten months from now, when the bickering has escalated and spread to the people around them – as it always does – you’ll wish you had dealt with the problem. Ten years from now, at least a few of your employees will still remember the example you didn’t set… and will follow that example. How will that feel?

What you do today builds the foundation for what you will become. Who you will be in 10 months and in 10 years, is the result of every decision you make – and action you take – today.

Because consistency, not intensity, produces long-term results, the choices you make and actions you take will either work for or against the goals and dreams you have for future you. 

And how, someday, you will feel about yourself.

If you want your future self to be kinder, smarter, fitter, more successful, wealthier, more generous – whatever you hope your future self to be – apply the 10-10-10 rule to the choices you make.

Because who you will be 10 months from now and 10 years from now, starts with what you decide and do, today.

And every day from now on. 

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