It is hard for us to envision the long term. Especially when it comes to what we want to achieve in our lives. Where we want to be or will be five or ten years from now. While the words seem simple, to “think long term” is anything but that.
Distraction, with our involvement in our daily lives and schedule,
make this an almost impossible task.
The gratification from making immediate decisions together with the disappointment that appears when putting off things we would like to do today but don’t fit the long term make thinking long term a challenge.
We call or text someone immediately because we never have to look for a phone. We buy a snack when we feel hungry instead of waiting for dinner. We buy something we see using a credit card not thinking about whether we have the cash to afford it. We don’t have a lot of practice at waiting for something to happen a long time into the future.
It is equally hard to separate our emotions from the logic that is needed to think long term. When emotional, we look for quick things to release our tension. Long-term thinking requires close attention as to the assumptions and risks associated with doing something either today or for tomorrow. We never take the time to make any of these explicit before deciding what we should do today for a better tomorrow.
Deferring something until later is just as hard. Are we willing to give something up today for a payoff at a later date? Think weight loss. Can we pass on ice cream when the plan is to lose 20 lbs in a year? We tell ourselves “but it’s only one scoop”!
What about getting side tracked? Where other things get in the way that we simply forget about the long term? Can we say no enough times to stay “on track”?
Figuring out what the impact will be on the long term is tricky too. Are what we are deciding to do a short term immediate solution or will it work and align with what we want in the long term?
It takes a lot of practice, much discipline, and continued persistence to live your life based on long term thinking. Sixty one years into my life and I still stumble around long term thinking. There is great value in planning for the long-term. It’s having the interest in continuing to try to do this, even when we stumble, that will make the greatest impact on our lives.