Are Your Short Term Decisions Sabotaging Your Future?

Uncertain Future

Are you pursuing short term results over long term success?  It sounds like an easy question to answer.  Of course we have to sustain ourselves in the short term and why shouldn’t we maximize our return.  I’ve reached a stage in my business where it has become self-sustaining, meaning it is providing me the level of return I need to sustain my family.  This feels good but it is providing me with an opportunity to reflect on an important question.  Have I been pursuing short term results over long term success?

The attraction of short term results

In my first year I needed customers.  It was very tempting to cut my rates to ensure I won new customers.  I coached some people who were not a great fit.  I definitely helped them but was I maximizing my talents and value add?  In some cases I wasn’t.

In the past year my mindset has shifted.  I am making some long term investments that won’t pay off for many years.  I have invested in sales training and branding.  In the short term they will end up costing me.  I believe they will pay me back in the long run so long as I continue to focus on them.

In hindsight, should I have made more long term investments in year one, and resisted the temptation to focus on short term success?  I definitely needed that success for my ego and self-belief.  And I guess it hasn’t turned out so badly.  It is also not possible to change the past so this is a decision I need to keep in front of me.

The danger of short term wins

So, coming back to my initial question, are you pursuing short term results over long term success?  I have a few examples from my coaching that illustrate this question.  In my time at Intel, I would provide career advice.  We would talk about where that person wanted to get to and what skills they needed to develop to get there.  They left the meeting energized and focused on the future.  Several times, the other person would come back at the next meeting and tell me excitedly they had accepted a new role.  The role didn’t align with what we discussed but they felt it was a great opportunity.  Maybe it was, but was it getting them to where they wanted to go?

In another example, I am working with a start-up whose business is about to take off.  They are growing their customer base very quickly which is great.  The problem is can they sustain this level of business?  They may end up overwhelmed and fighting day to day issues which takes their eye off the goal: the goal of creating a wildly successful business that delights its customers and employees.

Four critical questions to keep in mind

As you can tell, there isn’t a simple answer to this question.  It is a question we need to continually ask ourselves.  To do this, I suggest visiting these four questions on a regular basis:

  1. What is my five year goal?
  2. What do I need to get there?
  3. Am I setting aside enough time to do the work to get there?
  4. How will I assess my progress?

If you are like me, this is a constant battle with delayed gratification.  Am I willing to wait for the bigger return?

What are your views on this topic?  Do you have the right balance?