Over the past few years I developed a bad habit I didn’t even realize I had until just recently. It affected almost every area of my life for the poorer. Now that I see it, I can’t believe I hadn’t noticed it sooner and am a little sad at the lost time because of it.
What was it? Short-term thinking.
I think I started down the road of this habit being a work-at-home dad. While working on long term goals and projects, I often would get interrupted by the kids (after school or on days off of school) when they needed something. It happened a lot more when they were younger and needed more of my support, less so recently, but instead of jumping back into what I was doing, I let myself get frustrated. “Why bother getting restarted on something if I’m just going to get interrupted?” I asked myself. “Getting restarted” turned into “getting started”. I moved from proactive to reactive and when I moved to reactive, I filled my time with web surfing and mindless social media. When my dad moved in with us last year and I spent a lot of time care-taking, my reactionary mode got even worse.
The Long View
The correction to short-term thinking is the long view. Obvious, I know. I was thinking about this when I wrote Identity-based Goals and want to expand those thoughts further.
“19 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
Matthew 6:19-21 talks about storing up treasures not here on earth, but in heaven. While Jesus is talking about money and possessions, it is the focus on the distant future that is important. Eternity (in heaven) is the ultimate long view. Most importantly, that is where your heart is.
At a temporal level, when thinking about where your heart and thoughts are in the short- and long-term, there is a significant difference.
Short-term thinking is:
- Less rational
Long-term thinking takes a different approach. It is:
- More mature
- More valuable
- Empathetic toward others
As an example, if I am in the middle of doing something and am interrupted by one of our boys, I can take the short-term or long-term view.
In the short term, I get mad because my task was interrupted. I react in anger and flip out, barking out a harsh response and make a big deal about how much of a martyr I am for having to deal with this kid’s insignificant problem. I leave him upset, unwilling to disturb me again for something down the road that may be really important, and show him he’s not as important as whatever it was I was doing. I also never quite get back to the task because I’m still stewing over the interruption.
In the long view, I stop what I’m doing knowing that I can pick up the task again later. I stop to listen to what the request is and offer assistance. If the request was something he could have taken care of himself, I take the time to teach him how to do it. There is growth there for him. I build our relationship instead of tearing it down. I show love in action. When I return to my task, I know this minor bump hasn’t destroyed my goals nor sent the Earth hurtling into the Sun.
Welcome to Adulthood
You might be thinking this is just common sense adulthood stuff. True. Sometimes I’m dense.
But I’m correcting that.