Dealing with the short term while managing the long

We all have objectives, missions, strategies, dreams. Call it what you want if you’re managing a company, your own career or even just your life goals.

We all try and have our destination in mind.

– it gives us focus

– it helps us align our actions in some form of consistency

– it avoids us turning in circles and not dealing with problems

While you might agree that from a corporate point of view companies are good at developing strategies you might think this doesn’t apply to people.

I disagree.

It might be simple things like staying healthy, finding a spouse, getting a job or more complex things like getting promoted, moving cities or countries. You might have different views on which of these is simple or not but that’s not the point. We all have objectives whether we realise it or not.

They tend to be long term and we tend to think of them being good if we achieve them. They will hopefully bring us something tangible we don’t have at this moment in time. When we achieve them, then they (by definition) change into something else.

They may become running a marathon, having kids, getting promoted, changing company, becoming CEO, finding an apartment in that new city, finding a city in that new country, making new friends, etc.

What becomes complicated as we manage these goals is the impact of short term setbacks.

How do we manage against the long term when the short term doesn’t play ball?

Here are some tactics I use that might be helpful.

  1. Keep the long term goal in mind
  2. Try understand whether the short term impact is temporal and can be ignored or if it impacts you ultimately achieving your goal, in which case it needs to be managed.
  3. If it needs to be managed, can you find a way to manage through it but keep the long term goal? Has the long term goal changed or does it need to change?
  4. If you can’t manage through it, can you use it to move sideways and hence finally toward your goal or can you find something in it that helps you finally achieve your goal?
  5. Always assess new ways to get to your goal. Nothing is ever linear and each obstacle usually provides something to help you achieve your goal. Find that something.
  6. Keep the long term goal in mind

Managing the long term requires constant recalibration of your position and your approach. Think of hiking up a mountain that you’ve never climbed before. You see the peak and you know that the peak is where you want to get to. You might come across a river too wide to cross and may need to walk an extra hour to find a place to cross it. That deviation might get you to come across another hiker who knows a shortcut (or not and it could just make you a little tired). A fallen tree might seem like an obstacle to climb over but some fallen branches might be perfect for you to build a fire with. I could go on but I think you get the idea. You need to keep finding the way to move forward.

Now your goal might change or the journey might help you see that you are missing some things.

You might suddenly realise as you get closer to the peak that it is in fact unclimbable with the current equipment you have. Either you have to backtrack to get the equipment you need or you may decide the lake just below the peak is a perfect destination as that last climb might be a one man climb and you risk a fall and you could lose everything.

Don’t be disparaged by road blocks. Keep moving forward.

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