Short vs. Longterm Thinking: Why You Should Be "Playing the Long Game"

Short vs. Longterm Thinking: Why You Should Be "Playing the Long Game"

Short vs. Longterm Thinking: Why You Should Be "Playing the Long Game"

Are you somebody who struggles with goal-setting and accountability? If so, it may be because you’re caught in a short-term mindset as opposed to a long-term mindset

Your personal and business goals require a long-term strategy. In today’s day and age, it is beyond easy to get caught in a vicious pattern of “what comes next” without giving ourselves a moment to breathe. This is especially true for busy CEOs, working mums, and other individuals who need to split their attention between multiple environments and responsibilities.

The thing is, nobody wants to be trapped in a situation where they are having to compromise on lifelong goals or dreams because subconscious short-term thinking is getting in the way. So, what’s a busy woman to do?

The answer is simple: you need to play the long game when it comes to the way you think and execute your ideas. The “here and now” is important, but what’s even more important is reprogramming your thought patterns so that the way you act in the “here and now” has a massively positive impact on your future.

Unfortunately, we live in a culture of instant gratification, and that’s where short-term thinking tends to come into play. Let’s break down what both short-term and long-term thinking look like in action.

Short-term thinking in action

Short-term thinking simply means considering only what is in front of you at any given moment. As opposed to considering the possible impacts of a course of action over the long-term, short-term thinkers focus on what might happen today or tomorrow.

While it’s totally normal to want quick results, the reality is that the most beautiful outcomes in life — the things we truly want to work towards in our careers and lives — require a little more time (and planning) to achieve.

Long-term thinking in action

When you prioritise long-term thinking, you are also putting your future first by making small but meaningful shifts in your daily actions. This will look different based on your goals, but the overall premise of long-term thinking is that each step you take towards a given goal, no matter how small the step, will add up over time. 

Examples of short and long-term thinking

There are endless examples representing the dichotomy between short and long-term thinking.

“Do I go to the gym today or do I stay on the couch in my sweats because it’s comfortable?”

“Do I address that fight I got into with my sister or do I ignore it and hope it all goes away?”

“Do I spend on the ‘nice to have’ item I want now or save for the ‘essential’ item we’ll need in a few months?”

These are just a few scenarios in which short-term and long-term thinking need to battle it out. 

Why doesn’t everyone just decide to think long-term?

Here’s the thing about long-term thinking…it seems obvious, right?

Why wouldn’t we make decisions that have a bigger impact on the things we want down the line versus the things we want 10 minutes from now? How can we let our short-sightedness get in the way of our future dreams?

Well, as easy as it is to see the value in long-term thinking, following through can be much more difficult.

Part of what repels people from long-term thinking (even subconsciously) is that it requires the ability to plan for an outcome that doesn’t exist in the given moment. So instead of thinking, “How can I achieve this?” and creating a strategy to get there, people end up thinking, “What if it doesn’t work out? Why should I bother planning so far ahead?” and giving up before they even start.

We also can’t forget that long-term thinking does often require sacrifices. It requires both the courage and discipline to say “no” to making choices based on what’s easier, more pleasurable, more convenient, cheaper, more fun, etc — as well as the patience to stay focused on an outcome that may not come to fruition for months or even years. A key element of long-term thinking is understanding that there will be vast stretches of time when it’s not clear if something is working, isn’t working, or isn’t working yet but will work soon. You have to be willing to plow through that uncertainty and persevere!

How to shift from short to long-term thinking

If you can identify with more tenets of short-term thinking than long-term thinking, this doesn’t mean you’re doomed to fail! It may take a little time, but you can rewire your brain to start thinking more about the future and less about instant gratification.

First, remember that not all decisions hold the same consequences as others. Choosing whether to have oatmeal or an omelette for breakfast doesn’t require the same amount of forward-thinking strategy that, say, choosing to hire a new team member or not might.

When you do run into a situation that requires you to prioritise the future over the present, be mindful and ask yourself the following questions:

    • “If I make this choice (versus the other choice), how will that play out in the future?” Choosing to skip your workout once won’t impact your routine immediately…but skipping it three times a week over a three-month long period may hinder results.

  • “How will I feel about this in the future?” It’s impossible to predict exactly how you’ll feel months or years down the line, but you’ll likely have a sense of whether or not the choice will have long-lasting positive effects and what those effects could be.

    • “If I do or don’t take this action right now, what could happen?” Having a realistic list of all the potential consequences that could occur based on your actions makes it easier to weigh the short-term vs. long-term benefits and come to a decision.

    Ultimately, long-term thinking comes down to the idea that every little thing you do counts. It may not seem like it will matter NOW if you cut corners or take the easy way out, but you can’t say that it won’t matter down the line.

    Serial entrepreneur (and one of my favorite leaders in the business world) Gary Vaynerchuk has also observed that sometimes long-term thinking requires letting go of short-term goals that are at odds with your big-picture plan. If you want to make a million dollars in one year, your short-term goal can’t be to make $300,000 in one month — or you’ll find yourself caught back in the cycle of “what comes next.”

    When I work with my clients, we make sure they have a clear path towards their LONG-TERM goals complete with the actionable steps and implementation guidance that will help them get there. To learn more about how you can work with me and shift your thinking from short to long-term, head to my Services page!

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