Suzy Welch's 10-10-10 Process Can Help Guide Important Health Care and Caregiving Decisions

Dorian Martin Health Guide
  • Around 2003, when Mom exhibited memory loss but hadn’t been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, I wish that my family would have had access to Suzy Welch’s book, “10-10-10: 10 Minutes, 10 Months, 10 Years – A Life-Transforming Idea.”  My gut instinct in 2003 was to jump in, take control and solve the problem; instead, our family kept hitting heads because we each took a short-term view that varied by individual.  And I personally went through a lot of emotional, mental and physical turmoil in trying to be a “good daughter” through providing help for my mom that wasn’t focused on what she needed while trying to keep our family together (and also juggling a high-pressure job and taking graduate courses).

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    In reading this book, I found that Welch’s strategy can help readers move past their initial gut reaction so that they can base their decisions on their own values and what they want their own lives to really look like (as opposed to making a split decision in the heat of the moment). “While we can handle many types of social interactions with highly evolved aptitude… our minds are not nearly as adept at making decisions with multiple variables and time frames...” Welch wrote, adding that rationality is undermined by stress caused by factors such as time pressure, peer pressure, lack of information and information overload.  The 10-10-10 system provides a good way to tap into what a personal strategic planning process that looks at the ramifications of your decisions and allows you to look at what you want out of your life.

    So how does the 10-10-10 process work? Here’s one of the examples from the book, which also happens to closely mirror my experience (albeit without Alzheimer’s). A woman named Lynne planned to start a new public relations firm. However, a week before she was supposed to travel internationally to meet with her first major client, her parents fell ill. The parents called and asked Lynne to cancel her trip and come to be with them in another state, even though neither parent’s life was at stake. Lynne’s initial instinct told her to travel to be with her parents, but she decided to use the 10-10-10 process to analyze the situation in which she found herself.

    -          Using the 10-minute timeframe, Lynne believed that if she decided to visit her parents, she would lower the guilt she would feel about leaving them when they requested her help. However, Lynne worried about the impression she would give to her first major client and the ramifications for their future work.

    -          In looking at the 10-month view, Lynne believed that her parents would be healthy again and back into their routine; however, she believed that if she cancelled the international trip, her firm would be struggling because she hadn’t built the relationship with the client.

    -          When analyzing the situation through a 10-year window, Lynne surmised that her father might have died, but her mother probably would still be alive.  Lynne also began to think about whether she would be willing to fly to be at her parents’ side every time they experienced health problems. If she decided to drop everything to always care for her parents on a moment’s notice, Lynne doubted she would establish a successful enterprise.  Furthermore, Lynne believed that if she opted instead to go on this initial trip, she would be running a successful company with multiple employees.

  • Deciding that she needed to go on the business trip based on the 10-10-10 process, Lynne began to consider other options that she hadn’t considered, including hiring a visiting nurse for her parents and getting her brother to agree to travel to be with their parent s. “Her consideration of the three time frames had opened her eyes to a solution she hadn’t been able to visualize in her ‘heated’ emotional state,” Welch said.

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    Lynne’s personal reaction to the results of the 10-10-10 process also was described: “By imagining how I would feel in the future – and how I wanted to feel – the crisis ended up changing my relationship with my parents for the better. It’s so much healthier now. It forced me to set up a sustainable system to care for my parents. It made me get on the phone and bring my brother into the equation. 10-10-10 helped me get over myself.”

    If I had knowledge of the 10-10-10 planning process, my choices about caregiving would have looked different than Lynne's - as they should! And I could have seen how we could have used the 10-10-10 process to access each famiily member's wishes and then come to a consensus on how to proceed (instead of hitting our heads regularly against the wall).

    I’d encourage members of this community to get a copy of Welch’s book and then begin to think about the decisions they are making based on the 10-10-10 formula. The results will help you clarify what you want in your life as well as unveil other options in relation to health care and caregiving.


Published On: June 08, 2009