Sunday, 18 July 2010

Overcoming the constraints of short-term thinking

Undoubtedly, we live in a short-term world. If you work for a company that is listed in the stock market, you will feel the pressure to reach monthly targets. Financial results have to be reported every quarter to shareholders and rightly so. There is no escape.

If you are a movie distributor, you watch the weekly box-office receipts like a hawk. You want to know which kind of movies are doing well these days. Historical romance? Vampire stories? Is there a trend that you can follow? When a film goes into theatrical release, the first weekend is decisive. There is no choice.

Are you opening a retail outlet? You need a powerful campaign in order to make sure that shoppers come to your store on day one. Cash-flow targets must be reached on a weekly basis. If results fall short of expectations, the location might be reconsidered. If the store does not become profitable quickly, it might be shut down. There is no option.

Many jobs are short-term. Products are conceived for maximum attractiveness and minimum durability. Relationships are superficial. Companies sell their brands overnight to total strangers. Clothes lose their colours after a few washings. Books that don't sell within 18 months are shredded. Is there no alternative?

Yes, luckily, there is a better way. It is called long-term thinking and it wins hands-down in every field. Look at your own life and your own preferences. Chances are that you have been wearing the same brand of shoes for a long time. Most people's choices are remarkable stable when it comes to their family doctor, their favourite place to shop for clothes, or to buy groceries.

If you list your greatest achievements in life, those you are most proud of, you will detect in every case the thread of long-term plans. Learning to speak a foreign language or to play piano are remarkable accomplishments that require years of effort. Acquiring professional qualifications and establishing a business on solid ground can demand a decade of your life.

Although we cannot change the short-term orientation of the world we live in, we do not need to constrain our thinking in the same way. Each person is free to make his own decisions. Causes can bring about effects that shape a man's life for years. Refusing to see beyond immediacy leads to spiritual impoverishment.

Effort devoted to connect current events to future consequences will be compensated down the line. Great achievement comes from consistency of purpose sustained through decades. Make your own plans and carry them through with serenity. Days can only be lived to the fullest if we think and act with the perspective of a lifetime.


[Image by mrpattersonsir under Creative Commons Attribution License. See the license terms under]