THE POWER OF TEN; Are You into Instant Gratification or Do You Always Take the Long View? Philip Delves Broughton Reports on a New Decision-Making Process That Will Change Your Life in Minutes

Article excerpt

Byline: Philip Delves Broughton

DURING the split second when you hit the snooze button in the morning, a couple of competing thoughts may flit through your mind: first, it would be a good idea to get up now and push on with the day; second, to hell with it, I'm going to sleep for a few more minutes. Buried in that larger decision are all kinds of micro-decisions that dictate the kind of person you are.

Are you the sort who can haul yourself off for a run each morning? Or someone who has been putting off a fitness routine for years? Are you the kind who biffs out a novel for a couple of hours each morning, or one who just talks and hopes that eventually the time will magically open up to pursue a creative endeavour? Do you accept that extra glass of wine so as to enjoy the moment, or refuse it because it will impair your mind tomorrow morning?

The extent to which an individual moderates short-term pleasures in favour of long-term health and prosperity is the subject of a new book by Suzy Welch, a business writer married to Jack Welch, former chief executive of General Electric. The title of her book, 10-10-10, refers to the framework by which Welch suggests we make decisions.

As you decide, consider what the consequences will be in 10 minutes, 10 months and 10 years. Hitting the snooze button and skipping the run may be good for the next 10 minutes, but not in 10 years as your health declines.

Spending time with your children may come second to work for now but how will you feel in 10 years' time? Might you want that time back?

Welch herself says the catalyst for the book was an incident some 14 years ago when she was an editor at The Harvard Business Review and the mother of four children under seven. She had been invited to a resort in Hawaii to address a group of insurance executives. She decided to take two of her children with her. Her daughter got sick on the plane, her son caught sunstroke on the first day and while she was giving her speech, they both burst into the room wearing hula skirts, desperate to escape the resort's day camp.

Sitting on the balcony of her hotel that night, she came up with 10-10-10 as a way of thinking about decisions like the one she had made to bring her children on a business trip. She had wanted to integrate them into her work life. But it had been a disaster. But then again, it could never be a question for her of either family or work. It had to be both, at the same time, but in a more organised manner than she was managing.

"I came to know for sure that as a working mother, you never crack the code," she writes. "Luckily, I also know that being a working mother gets easier as your kids get older and they discover, at last, that you are a crashing bore. Indeed, I remember the first time I looked into my eldest son's eyes and realised he would rather be looking back at a friend. …