The 5×5 Decision Model

You’ve got a tough decision to make, yet conflicting interests and perspectives can render you frozen from taking decisive action. We’ve all been there.

Having observed how the most successful people evaluate their options and then make a thoughtful decision, here’s a framework that may be helpful when you’re trying to make a choice in the face of ambiguity. Essentially, you ask five questions around the impact of your decision, in five different time horizons. I call it The 5×5 Model:

5 minutes – How will you feel in the moment, as the decision is made and communicated? Sometimes the worst decisions feel the best in the near-term.
5 hours – A few hours later, will you still be on an achievement high or will regret start to seep in?
5 weeks – Now that you’ve started to either enjoy results or deal with consequences, are you still feeling great about this decision or wishing you took a different route?
5 years – Looking back at the decision five years out, do you think you’ll be cleaning up from the mess or will you be grateful you made the tough call earlier since it set you in motion for greatness?
50 years – Now long in the past, will you be proud of the decision or ashamed? Did the decision represent your broader calling and represent your most important values? Will you be proud to tell you grandkids about the decision? If you’re gone, will you be happy to be remembered for your choice?

This simple framework can serve as a powerful model to help you land in the right place. As an example, let’s think about eating a box of Twinkies:

5 minutes – Yum! True euphoric pleasure sucking down those highly-processed treats.
5 hours – Now that the taste has worn off and you’ve suffered a sugar crash, you’re probably wishing you made a different choice.
5 months – The enjoyment is long gone, but the extra weight you’ve put on makes you shake your head with regret. You invest in a larger pair of jeans.
5 years – That box of Twinkies – and the subsequent boxes you consumed – led to lingering health issues. You’re now dealing with Type 2 diabetes and not performing to your full capacity.
50 years – your Twinkie habit led to an untimely death. Your kids miss you.

While an over-the-top example for sure, you can see how clear the right decision becomes. Of course, we’re typically dealing with far less obvious choices, but the same framework can help lead you to optimal decisions, and optimal results.

Give the 5×5 Model a test drive on your next difficult decision. Hopefully it will guide you to a place of sustainable success, rather than the momentary pleasures that temptations provide. 5×5 your next tough choice, and the grounded joy of doing the right thing will far surpass the short-lived sugar high of a bad decision.