If you want to create something, lead a good and enjoyable life, you need to apply long-term thinking towards this goal.
Long-term thinking is hard for us all. Yet, it is a #1 lesson I've learned over a time that it is a long-haul trip and you need to think in this category.
Why you should drop what you are doing right now for uncertain reward a couple of years from now?
Why should you run (swim, do any form of activity) now? It is known to decrease the chance (not avoid it as there is nothing sure) of possible cardiac arrest in the future. But you are here now, and it is painful and takes your time.
Where's the reward for all your effort?
Everything around us tells us to focus on short-term gains and results, where long-term gains and results are what matters and where the actual gain is.
Thinking long-term is hard. You need to convince yourself now to think about the possible (not given) future and that you may benefit from the current activity in the future. Another example is planning ahead of time and executing steps to complete it, with future outcomes years ahead of you.
It makes things like losing weight or saving for retirement hard. That's why many people don't start it or fail initially, as the results are not there or are minimal in the short run. It is especially true in financial planning and savings, where you plan for a possible future 30 or 40 years from now.
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Long-term thinking at the individual level is hard. Long-term thinking at the group level is like another dimension of being hard.
I had a recent discussion with a friend over dinner about global warming and its possible outcomes. Regardless of what you (or I) think about it, it is an exemplification of a problem with long term thinking:
- You need to think about possible consequences (or lack of such) tens of years ahead of you.
- You need to think not about yourself but about the people who might not even be on the planet and are strange to you.
- You need to think about the possible events (or lack of such) which are not local, and you might not experience that firsthand.
It sounds like a tough job to convince someone to think about it all if they cannot sort out their financial planning to save for retirement in the first place.
It's not about convincing you to think about global warming, but this is an excellent example of the problem with long-term thinking on a personal and group level.
My observations and practical approach to it:
- I observe (anecdotal evidence) that people who put long-term thinking to work get better results live happier, and better prepare for the unexpected.
- Trying to force long-term thinking on someone fails. You need to convince yourself that it is something that works and will help you be better off. Examples are all around it, and there is no need to produce them.
- The biggest problem is motivation, with a lack of obvious evidence that it will work.
What I do about it:
- I set my expectations and validation points towards the trajectory rather than the specific goal. Taking the example of financial preparation: I observe if my net worth is on a growing course, rather than putting particular goals to reach in an absolute number.
- On things that do need long-term thinking, I don't do checks too often. Instead of checking and planning things every week, I do it once per month or once per quarter is enough. Sometimes progress is not visible in the short term, and it makes people demotivated.
- I try to confirm my assumptions and change those if required on a regular but longer basis - let's say once a year. Do I work towards the future I want to live in? Does what I do contribute to it in the long run?
Long-term thinking is with me in many areas of both my professional and private life. Simple examples:
- I do physical activities to stay healthy for a longer period (not granted), running and adding different activities (swimming, biking, strengths training - this one is planned) now and then.
- I do financial planning towards the future to secure myself when I am not able or willing to work. It influences many decisions I make towards current spending.
- I do regular health checks, as it increases (not eliminates completely) the chance of catching some problem early when it occurs.
- I do spend time reading and researching things to increase my chance to have a promising, professional career longer in the future in various fields (even if I don't know what it exactly will be in 10-20 yrs from now)
- I maintain my activities around blog / social media / this newsletter even if I don't need them right now. It helps me sharpen my saw and requires going outside of my daily "bubble."
Those are simple examples of long-term thinking in action. It doesn't have to be something drastic or fancy.
It is a deliberate process of thinking ahead and asking yourself questions about your desired future self, and acting for it, even if it is not granted. Progress is hard to make or measure in a short period.
Long-term thinking and acting with it in mind is the key to calm and successful (I need to research another word for it :) ) life on your own terms.
What are your long-term thinking areas and examples from your personal or professional life? Share it with me and others in the comments section.