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Bruce K.

Opportunity Shaper for startups both young & old

Huge Decisions Demand the Rocking Chair Test

October 24, 2013 

When you have to make a potentially life-changing decision, use the Rocking Chair test. It’s simple and highly effective.

Imagine a much older version of yourself, near the end of your days. You are sitting in a rocking chair on a quiet porch, reflecting back on your life. All that matters is whether you are proud of the decisions you made and the actions you took.

Sitting in your rocking chair, which decision will make you happy?         

Rocking chair on the deck - Antigua, Mar 2010

Rocking chair on the deck – Antigua, Mar 2010 (Photo credit: Ed Yourdon)

Why this works

Big decisions often require short-term sacrifices. To get into the Olympics, you have to sacrifice most of the fun and games of your childhood. To earn a 4.0 in school, you have to sacrifice most of your social life. You might have to travel incessantly to earn a promotion or close a deal.

The Rocking Chair test puts these sacrifices in perspective. In the scheme of your life, is it worth a few months – or years – of sacrifices in order to accomplish something big?

The answer isn’t always yes. Picturing yourself in a rocking chair, you may decide that family is more important than money, that time with the people you love is worth more than any promotion or job.

The Rocking Chair test makes it easier for you to look inside yourself and discover who you really are and what you really want. I’m not sure why, but it can be a lot easier to look into the heart of an older version of yourself than to simply ask of the present you, “What do I want?”

When confronting huge decisions, it is vitally important to use your own values to make the decision, rather than to allow yourself to be influenced by the people around you.

The Rocking Chair test is a subtle way of reminding yourself that there will come a day when you are truly alone with your decisions and actions. When that happens, it won’t seem so important that your father thought you were crazy to become an artist, or that your boss (what was his name again?) tried to bully you into dropping what turned out to be the best idea you ever had.

It works for small decisions, too

You might be in the middle of months of bickering with your spouse or boss. You’re convinced that the other person is wrong, that you are simply reacting to his or her inappropriate behaviors.

Time for a reality check.

The Rocking Chair test can help you gain some perspective with regards to these situations. Will the older version of you be proud of the way you reacted to every perceived slight with a quick retort or nasty look? Given decades to reflect, will you be so convinced that there was nothing you could have done differently?

I think not.

If you want to hear more from me, just click the Follow button below. You can also download my free guides at Kasanoff.com, or read my book with Michael Hinshaw Smart Customers, Stupid Companies. On Twitter, I’m @NowPossible.

Image credits: sonjalovas and Micky**/Flickr

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