We Make Poor Long Term Decisions Through a Short Term Lens. Here’s Why

We need to shift our outlook from short-term to long-term.

Indeed/Getty Images
Indeed/Getty Images

I recently heard someone say something to the effect of “If you are really happy or really sad right now, don’t worry, it will pass.”

This concept represents interesting philosophical and mathematical principles around regression to the mean and the concept of normalization. Here’s a recent example to explain this a bit more.

This week, my wife and I finally replaced a trash compactor in our kitchen that has been broken for almost seven years. Reflecting back to when it originally broke, I remember thinking at the time what a huge inconvenience it was going to be not having a usable trash compactor. Then, when we learned that it was pretty much unrepairable, we were faced with ordering a new one.

But we didn’t. Life got in the way and other things pulled at our attention. Eventually, not having a trash compactor became normal. We’d adjusted to the new reality of using our broken trash compactor as an overqualified and undersized trash can and having to empty it more often.

In fact, the only reason we ordered a new one this week is that it’s part of a larger project this summer to fix everything that’s broken in our home. This includes a new closet door that has gone unpainted and that’s been missing a handle for five years, both of which I’d stopped noticing years ago.

My feelings of annoyance and frustration at not having a trash compactor eventually passed. In the larger scheme of things, living without this appliance wasn’t the big deal it felt to be at the time.

The “this too shall pass” concept also applies to things that initially make us really happy. Most of us can relate to that dopamine surge we experience after buying something new (new car, new home, new trash compactor, etc.). But over time, that new thing simply becomes a regular part of our existence and no longer provides the same level of excitement it once did. It too passes.

Why does this matter? While these are simple examples, they represent those longer-term decisions we all make in life and business through a short-term perspective. When we look at things through a “zoomed in” lens, it can be easy to give them too much significance– positive or negative. Often, what we really need is to zoom out to look at the bigger picture.

By doing that, I believe we make better choices, especially in the moment, overreact less and create a more sustainable state of happiness.

For example, is a few weeks of enjoying that new leather smell really worth the additional years of monthly car payments or the unfavorable feelings you’re likely to have when you open the bill each month? Are those extra features you “had to have” at the time of purchasing a new TV something you’ll even notice or use in a few months’ time? 

Maybe, but more likely not.

Something I’ve tried to get better at is sitting with something for a few weeks and then seeing if it’s still bothering me or making me extraordinarily happy. If those initial feelings of delight or discontent have passed, I know it really wasn’t all that important.

The reality is, time will always pass. By acknowledging this, you’re better able to use your time and energy more wisely and achieve sustained happiness.

Things going really well? This too shall pass. Something really bothering you? This too shall pass.

Quote of the Week: “The ability to discipline yourself to delay gratification in the short term in order to enjoy greater rewards in the long term, is the indispensable prerequisite for success.” -Brian Tracy

This Message is a “Friday Forward”  https://www.fridayfwd.com/this-will-pass/

This article originally appeared on LinkedIn.com

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