Think Long Term

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Here is a young man who was part of my team. Almost every day when we knocked off, I would see him at the bus stop. One day I decided to give him a lift. The first sets of conversations outside work, earned him a lift with me almost every time it was convenient.  

In one of the conversations, we spoke about cars. He immediately acknowledged that for him, a car was a want than a need. I prompted him to say more. He went on to explain that, he considers himself fortunate that as a Zimbabwean, he got employment in South Africa and he was not certain how many times his work visa would be renewed.

Yes, he will in the future “when the time is right” get himself some wheels. His focus was on building a house for his grandmother back home while the opportunity existed (related article: Seize the opportunity).

When I saw the picture of what he was building for his granny and by extension the rest of the family, I was blown away.  

This is a simple story and you have come across similar ones before.  You and I faced similar predicaments but what makes the difference is the choices we made. The idea here is not to be technical about decision-making processes. Far from it, the idea is to demonstrate the difference between short-term and long-term thinking.

Short term thinking is about compromising the achievement of long-term goals and not thinking deeply about the context and the inherent consequences. This is so common in our body politic where self-serving decisions are made (especially economic and financial) at the expense of future generations.

As individuals, we get ourselves in trouble with impulse decisions. We rather buy cars and things we don’t need at the expense of investing in children’s education or investing early for retirement. We continue to rake up debt even in hard economic times to please others.

Do we know what is the right thing to do? Yes, conceptually we do but the challenge is in practice.

“Concentration, focus, long term thinking – those are the qualities that separate a warrior from a mere flailing fighter”

Timothy zahn

You need to practice long term thinking. Successful nations have outlined 100-year plans to secure future generations. Successful people have 10 to 20-year life plans. Long-term thinking compels you to think about the bigger picture of your life rather than being consumed by the here and now.

Here are a few considerations to start thinking long term:

  • Clarity: have a clear picture of what you believe your future should look like.
  • Think possibilities: maximizing your constraints limit your ability to think about what is possible.
  • Shun political correctness: you will never reach your goals trying to fit with the masses.
  • Respect the process: you heard it before and maybe experienced it, anything worthwhile takes time to build. Be patient.
  • Sharpen the saw: growing intentionally builds character. Your life will rise each day to your newly defined level.

We know of stories of people who failed to think long term at the expense of immediate gains. They are either forgotten in history or they are living life on the terms of others. Not you!

Tex Hlalele is a Personal Mastery, Leadership & Organisational Effectiveness Specialist. Book Tex to help you and your team gain insights and possibilities for individual learning and organizational advancement on +2764 656 6174 or visit He is the author of the book, Face the person in the mirror.

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