I could tell he hadn’t slept well. His bloodshot eyes and disheveled appearance weren’t normal for him. And I could tell his wife was worried about him. Clearly there was something weighing him down… and keeping him up.
That’s why they both found their way into my office.
The weight of the world was on his shoulders over a decision he needed to make… soon. I listened as he laid out what he was wrestling with… what had kept him awake for a week straight.
When he was done, I asked him one question that took less than 10 seconds to answer. And in 10 seconds, he not only had his answer, he also had the weight of the world off his shoulders.
So… what was that question?
The 10 Year Test
Somewhere along the way I had picked up a technique that helped me put decision making in perspective. I call it, “The 10-year test.” It goes like this:
10 years from now, what will you remember more… choice A, or choice B?
Simple, right? Well, sometimes!
In the case above, this sharp young 2nd Lieutenant was about 2/3 of the way through USAF pilot training. His older brother had been diagnosed with a very aggressive cancer and was fighting for his life. They weren’t sure if he had months or days left.
His decision was: do I go and spend time with my brother, or do I stay and complete pilot training (which is no cake-walk, I might add). If he went to spend time with his brother now, he would “wash back” in training. He would not graduate on time, nor would he graduate with the class he had become so close with. He would be a new guy, in a new class, taking steps backwards.
No wonder he couldn’t sleep.
Until he answered this question: Ten years from now, which will you remember more… that you were with your brother in (possibly) his final days… or that you graduated pilot training on time?
Well, when you put it that way… duh!!!!
I visibly watched the light bulb come on over his head. They had clarity, and peace. A complex decision was made easy through the power of perspective.
The Power of Perspective
I have used the 10 year test frequently since that time. And I have to say it works… in most cases. But not every decision will be as clear as the one above.
So I’ve learned to supplement the 10 year test with two additional layers when the decision still seems cloudy and more perspective is required.
Layer 1 – Kingdom Impact
If the ten year test still has you in a tie-breaker mode, I recommend asking which of the decisions will best forward God’s agenda?
While this will vary from person to person, perhaps one of these questions will help you narrow that down:
- What is God calling you to do?
- Where is the greatest need that you can do something about?
- Which of the options would allow you to point people to God better?
My inspiration for this layer comes from the man who filtered every decision in his life through Kingdom Impact: the Apostle Paul.
“Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ” (Phil 3:8 NLT)
Layer 2 – Counsel
This idea comes from the wisest human I “know”: King Solomon.
“Plans go wrong for lack of advice; many advisers bring success.” (Prov 15:22 NLT)
If ten years hasn’t given me enough perspective, perhaps 10 friends will. (Actually, it’s probably less than 10 friends, because wisdom doesn’t always happen with numbers!).
The counsel I look for has these qualities:
- People I respect
- People who don’t all think like I do
- People who, at the end of the day, have God’s best interest in mind (that’s right… God’s best interest, not mine!).
The ten year test may not help you make every decision, but I think you’ll be surprised at how much clarity it can bring to most decisions we face. If not, there are two more layers that can get you even farther down the road.
Oh, and by the way… that 2nd Lieutenant?
I was there the day he pinned on his wings, six weeks late.
And he was there, the day he saw his brother for the last time on this earth.
I’d say he made a great decision.
How do you make important decisions? What layers or questions would you add to help make decisions with clarity?