One Simple Rule to Overcome Anxiety

Fear often keeps us from the things we want.

Maybe we want to go talk to that guy, or ask that girl out, or go to that party. But we're afraid.

What if  he doesn't want to talk to me?

What if she says no?

What if I feel awkward at the party?

In the moment, these fears can seem really big. And when our fears are big, we play it safe, which means we avoid the things we really want to do.

Fortunately, there's one simple rule you can use to give yourself courage.


It's called the 10-10-10 rule, and it was developed by Suzy Welch, a business writer. In a nutshell, the 10-10-10 rule asks yourself to imagine the likely outcomes of a decision...

  • 10 minutes in the future
  • 10 months in the future
  • 10 years in the future

It's developed for business decisions (what will happen in 10 minutes/10 months/10 years if we launch this new product?) but it's really useful for social situations too.

10-10-10 For Social Situations

What happens when you apply the 10-10-10 rule to social situations?

Well, let's say you're at a party and you want to strike up a conversation with someone. What are the best and worst things that might reasonably happen? Well....

  • In 10 minutes, best case you will be having a great conversation, worst case the conversation will flop and you'll feel awkward.
  • In 10 months, best case you are still friends with the person you talked to, worst case you have a dim memory of an awkward conversation
  • In 10 years, best case you are STILL friends with the person you talked to, and there is no worst case -- you're not going to remember an awkward conversation from a party ten years ago.

Long-Term Courage

When you look at it this way, the path is clear. You should start the conversation, because the potential upside (a new friend!) is much greater than the potential downside (10 minutes of awkwardness.)

And you'll find this is true in many social situations where you feel anxious or scared. When you use the 10-10-10 rule to give yourself a long-term perspective, it's much easier to overcome fear and make the best decision.

Or to put it another way -- it's hard to be afraid of 10 minutes of awkwardness when you're thinking about the next 10 years of your life.

So try it out!

Next time you are afraid of taking the initiative in a social situation, just ask yourself "If I do this, what is the best and worst thing that might reasonably happen in 10 minutes, 10 months, and 10 years?"

This only takes a moment, but it will give you a clear direction and the confidence to push past fear. Try it out, then report back in the comments how it worked for you!

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