How do you feel about the decisions you made 5-10 years ago?
Are you happy about:
- Where you went to college and your major of studies?
- That job you took?
- Where you bought your home?
- Investments of your time and moy?
I’ve had several conversations recently about key decisions people are pondering or have made in the past and have come to a not-so-surprising conclusion …
Important decisions made with a short-term perspective are often regrettable 5-10 years later.
It got me thinking … why is that?
It seems that often times, we make big decisions with a short-term perspective, looking at the situation with a view of the immediate impact.
For some it’s a matter of maturity and the ability to realize implications based on past experience. Additionally, many folks think more tactically vs. strategically, focused on the here and now rather than the big-picture/future. (Check out Marta Steele’s recent blog post on that topic).
There are three common characteristics that lead many to default to this way of thinking:
- It requires less effort to take the necessary action
- It is easier to see what’s right in front of you
- It offers quicker/instant gratification – the payoff is now
Here’s how it plays out:
Scenario #1: “I was offered a job where I get paid to do what I like so why should I stay in school and get my degree?”
The short-term view looks like … Great, I can make money & don’t have to bother with going to class and the stress of homework and tests!
The long-term view looks like … I’ll have to put in lots of time and effort to get through college and won’t have extra spending money now. However, I’ll have a degree that will allow me to fill jobs where I can get paid much more over the coming years.
Scenario #2: “I think I’m going to take that job that the headhunter has been calling me about. It’s actually less challenging than my current role and she’s offering more money.”
The short-term view looks like … This job will be less stressful because it’s work I’ve done before. I’ll be getting paid more for doing less challenging work.
The long-term view looks like … It would be great to be getting paid more money now, but I think I’ll get bored. The content of my work is what keeps me motivated and engaged and I’m really learning more at my current job and building great skills that are really marketable.
If you feel you may fall into this short-term thinking trap, consider these questions to help balance your perspective and make better decisions:
- What are my assumptions? What could happen if my assumptions are wrong?
- What is my emotional state? (frustrated, desperate, exhausted, infatuated)
- Am I making this decision out of fear or faith?
- Are my values in alignment? … you may need to reflect on what your values are
- What is the worst that could happen?
Of course it’s a good idea to talk through your logic and ask others for their perspectives. You might also think about someone you admire and respect –“What would (NAME) do?”
Bottom line – don’t just take the easiest path. Think through the long-term implications of those big decisions and envision your best future. If you can picture it … it’s more likely you’ll achieve it!
Martha Duesterhoft is a Partner with PeopleResults. Follow her on Twitter @mduesterhoft or connect via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.