In 1972, U.S. President Richard Nixon asked China’s first premier, Zhou Enlai, for his assessment of the French Revolution, 183 years after the revolution’s conclusion. Zhou’s response: “It is too early to say.”
If I ask you to think long term, what time frame would come to mind?
Would it be ten years from now?
We live in a world of instant gratification. It can be very difficult to think much past the current day, with everything that’s coming at us. Part of the problem is that the quickening pace of, well, just about everything is deemed as a benefit. Over time, our attention spans have adjusted to short electoral terms, the time it takes to market products is shrinking, and myopic quarterly reports from businesses set the investment horizon. Just think: Computerized flash trading systems for stocks recognize movements in market sentiment in mere split seconds.
Since hairsplitting shortsightedness is driven by technological and cultural changes, the trend of “faster and faster” is hard to circumvent. But given the scale of achieving financial freedom, it’s important to think in decades-long cycles instead of a one year cycle.
You see, short-term thinking can only lead to short-term success. The type of personal growth that creates true wealth and real success takes time. Whatever you do today, I guarantee you that you can’t build million dollar bank account before you go to sleep tonight.
As Warren Buffet says, “No matter how great the talent or efforts, some things just take time. You can’t produce a baby in one month by getting nine women pregnant.”
One of the most important changes I made when starting down the path to financial freedom, was to switch to long term thinking. Simply put, I started evaluating most of my major life choices through a long-term lens.
In other words, when I looked at things like how I would spend my money, how I would spend my time, and who I chose to interact with, I switched from thinking about near term pleasure to how my choices would impact my life 10 or 20 years in the future.
I’m not going to lie.
This is a hard switch to make.
Our immediate wants scream loudly. It’s very easy to just let short-term thinking rule the day. But this is the path to mediocrity. We can’t realize our potential unless we think and plan for the long term.
So. if you are interested in shifting your thinking from short term to long term, here are some tips that can help you focus on the future:
Write out a plan
It’s easy to just write down goals. A few short sentences and you’re done. But writing a plan takes time. There is no way to write a 10 page plan about your future life and not have clear thinking. With short term thinking and goals, it’s easy to gloss over the details. By making yourself write everything out, it makes you consider all aspects of how you will become successful in the future.
Force yourself to think past next year
Long-term thinking doesn’t come naturally. We know that things change constantly, but how does our thinking change when we think in terms of 10, 20 or even 30 years? It can be a little overwhelming at first to think that far into the future, but try it and see how it affects your decisions. Explore what you want your legacy to be. Imagine it’s your 90th birthday party: what will people be saying about you? Practice mindfulness, which has been shown to promote more rational decision making, more strategic thinking, and to decrease sunk cost bias (where you throw good money after bad).
Spend only what you can maintain
Instead of buying everything that catches our eye, it’s better to buy things that last and fulfill a specific purpose in our lives. Asking questions like, “Will we have to cut back somewhere else to afford this purchase?” can help you discover what it’s really costing you over the long term.
Dedicate time to think about the future
It’s easy to get sidetracked with the busyness of everyday lives. Successful people make time for solitude. With all the technology we have today, it’s easy to be connected 24 hours a day. But we can’t be our best going from one jam-packed day to the next. Like an artist who is painting, we need to take a few steps back from the canvas of our lives and look at things from a wider view.
When you have big decisions to make, consider thinking backwards. How will you feel about the choice when your 80? Will you regret it? This is a great way to “check in” with your thinking to make sure you stay true to your long-term goals and are not getting distracted.
I believe it’s better to not rush something that can’t be rushed. Instead, commit yourself completely to the long-haul of financial freedom. Focus on the things that really matter and build a long term future with long term thinking!
Be free. Nothing else is worth it.
Want even more tips for thinking long-term and achieving the monumental success you are destined to have? Check-out these posts from the blog archives: