5 Tips For Long Term Thinking (Your Happiness Depends on It)

Real quick, see if you're a long term thinker by answering this question:

You win $10,000 from a scratch-off ticket, what are you doing with it?

The possible choices include:

  1. Spending it on a much desired new car
  2. Paying off the credit cards and using the rest for spending
  3. Saving the money for an emergency fund
  4. Finally getting some things you have wanted

While there is no right or wrong answer, whatever just jumped into your mind is probably indicative of your thought process as it pertains to your long term thinking (or lack thereof).

And in this hypothetical scenario, that happens to only use money as an example, your choice there is a high chance that your answer determines a lot about how you think not just about money – but how you might go about most decisions.

In other words, how we think can really be boiled down to this one simple question… are you a long term or short term thinker?


In this article you will figure out:

  • Are you a short term or long term thinker?
  • Ways to develop a “Growth Mindset”
  • 5 Ways to become a long term thinker when it comes to money.

Are you a long term thinker?

Perhaps you have heard of the marshmallow study.

The study conducted in 1972 but Stanford researcher Walter Mischel was simple. He wanted to measure patience.

So he simply gave young children two options:

  1. Immediate gratification – one marshmallow now
  2. Delayed gratification – two marshmallows later

His team then tracked the lives of the study participants well into their teen years and adulthood (for 40 years) and the results were not surprising.

Overall, the group that waited for the second marshmallow, the group that delayed, on average were more successful, better educated, healthier, and happier.

In other words, their ability to refrain from short term thinking and gratification made them long term thinkers – which is essential for many reasons!

Short term thinking has long term repercussions

Everyone has seen it first hand.

Whether it is insurance companies unwilling to pay for a simple check-up for $40 or a large corporation doing something that moves the ticker temporarily – only to have long term repercussions – we have seen what short term thinking can create.

Problems.

Take for instance Enron. While they had plenty of issues as a whole, the energy titan really suffered from something simple – short term thinking.

If you didn't know, Enron WAS an energy trading company that collapsed after a massive accounting fraud scheme. In addition to not only being greedy, perhaps their biggest downfall was simply thinking short term.

Enron thought they could get away with their short term profit scandal and that it would work out long term.

Every decision they made was for short term benefits, which ultimately led to a path of destruction, greed, and illegality.

And while the failures of Enron may have little to do with your or me now, we can all learn a lesson from their failures to think long term – regardless of how we view money, health and politics (everyone will differ in some way) – our thought process involving decisions long term is vital!

Specifically, are the choices we are making daily short term or long term thinking decisions?

5 Tips: How to Grow Your Long Term Thinking

The first thing you will need to recognize when it comes to long term thinking is this:

It won't happen overnight!

Just like the New Year's Resolutioners who fail in February because they take too much on, creating long term thoughts will be a slight adjustment.

However, it is worth it, and these five tips will help!

Long Term Thinking Tip #1: Know what you want in life & why!

Perhaps the most cliche' on the list, but probably the most vital – knowing your WHY!

When you know what you want in life, there is no deterring you. Think of the famous entrepreneurs and world changers and what they wanted:

  • Martin Luther King – Equality for African Americans
  • Bill Gates – A computer in everyone's home
  • Jeff Bezos – Amazon, even with it not going well for years
  • Elon Musk – Sending people to space
  • Gandhi – Ending the CASTE system
  • Lincoln – Holding the country together
  • Mother Theresa – World peace

Each and every single one of these people and countless others knew exactly what they wanted in life. That made the process of thinking long term simple (not always easy).

Knowing what they wanted (call it their WHY, purpose, cause, movement) kept them on track and focused. They didn't let little things get in the way and reroute their train of thought. Thus, being focused on the long term goal and cause helped them always make decisions towards that, and only that!

However, what if you don't know what you want, where should you start? Look at #2 below!

Long Term Thinking Tip #2: Focus on these areas!

Finding your passion and purpose can take time, and in most cases, many will actually never truly find their biggest want.

Perhaps they might think they found it by substituting careers, work, hobbies or their social life as their “Purpose” but typically that isn't the case. Which once again is why they're easily sidetracked into short term thinking.

So in order to help you start thinking long term, here is a few focus areas to consider. Start by simply asking yourself about each area and where you see yourself in 10, 20, and even 30 years with regards to this area:

Health

What are your goals as it pertains to health? Are you consistently staying active and eating right? Or how about the long term plan for your habits – can you sustain what you're currently doing right now?

Keep all of those questions in mind when thinking long term about your health. This might be the most challenging on the list truly. The burger and fries doesn't immediately impact us, so we typically brush over the long term impact.

To help you think long term with regards to your health, go back to #1 – know your WHY.

For example – you might want to be able to attend all of your kids and eventually your grandkids sporting events. Maybe you want to run a marathon at age 60. Start thinking long term about your health goals and creating a long term health plan!

Family

What are your family goals? Do you want a family? If you have a family what's the goal in twenty years?

As someone who comes from a large family, some of my favorite times are around the holidays. Truth be told it's been rough over the last few years with family members passing. However, my wife and I took the bad, and came up with a long term plan.

We decided to make sure that one day go to family members to have Thanksgiving and to celebrate Christmas. But it doesn't stop there.

We want to have three or four kids and eventually adopt. We want to instill values into our future kids that carry over to others and lastly, we want to leave behind a legacy!

While it might seem like pretty deep stuff, none of this will b the result of long term thinking – we have these long term thinking goals written out and in our house!

Career & Business

Our family goals are pretty large. So with that comes the fact that we must create.

So here is a question for you, what are your career and/or business goals? Are you thinking long term when it comes to them?

For many, the daily grind for lack of better words, becomes so daily and routine, that their career just becomes a cycle. They go to work, come home, repeat.

So because of the hamster wheel, they start to lose focus on long term ambitions they once had like:

  • Advancing their position
  • Training others
  • Starting a business
  • Enjoying their work

However, with long term thinking and goals in your career or business, it's easier to stay focused and passionate! First, start by looking at the people you work with 5-10-15 years ahead of you.

Make a mental note of what you want in their life/work and what you do not. Now, make a plan to start thinking with the want list while at the same time avoiding the do not list.

This will help you begin to think long term and make long term choices, instead of short term choices!

Finances

Your finances are up there with your health. It might even be a close tie between short term decisions with money and short term eating choices.

Simply put – it's really easy to make some short term choices when it comes to money. We say we are on a budget, but we overspend and don't hold ourselves accountable.

While most money is behavior, it's hard to discipline ourselves when we are not thinking long term! So here are some tips to think long term when it comes to money:

  • Debt – What is your plan and goal to pay it off? Can you delay the good for the great later?
  • Retirement – are you saving at least 15%, if so are you working to save more?
  • Savings – How much are you saving and what options are you looking to create in case of emergencies (See emergency fund)
  • Travel – What amount of your money do you plan on using for travel? Are you thinking short term small vacations or long term large vacations?
  • Lifestyle – What sort of lifestyle do you envision long term? Are you making conscious money choices that will get you there?

Spiritual

This can mean a lot of things for a lot of people. I will leave this here because this is an area to consider as you begin your journey of thinking long term.

There is plenty of research that shows having a spiritual walk leads to more happiness and prosperity, things worth considering!

Mindfulness

Similar to your spiritual foundation, if you're in your late 20's or beyond, it's time to start thinking longterm about your mental well being!

There are plenty of activities, hobbies, and habits to consider to make your life better

Social

Long term, what relationships do you want to achieve? Are you open to changing association to think long term and gain more happiness?

Keeping these things in mind, your social life can bring your down or up in life, so it is important to consider who you hand around long term.

Try asking yourself these questions:

  1. Does this person make me better?
  2. Do I really want a relationship with this person in 5-10-15 years?
  3. If yes, what kind of relationship?

Sometimes our social life is the biggest influence in our decision making, thus we are influenced to either think short term or long term!

Long Term Thinking Tip #3: Read up!

Congrats to you! You're already reading up on long term thinking. However, the buck doesn't stop here.

Like a sound healthy eating plan, you will need to continue to evolve and change in your thinking. And to do this, continue educating yourself on the subject.

A good start is setting a goal to read at least four books on positivity, forward-thinking, or long term thinking. Here are a few books that are worth considering to help you out:

  1. Work Less, Make More
  2. Start With Why
  3. Magic of Thinking Big

Here is another reason why reading and educating yourself when it comes to your thinking is vital – it will keep you hungry for more! Learning will help you create action, and action will help you stay consistent!

Long Term Thinking Tip #4: Control what you can control

You can't control these things:

  1. Someone's death
  2. A sudden layoff at work
  3. A sick child or family member
  4. Bad traffic

However, what you can control – your exercise, your mindset, your diet – you can control in some ways. Long term thinking means you give your thoughts and attention to what you can control AND not what you can't.

Create a plan to target certain areas such as fear and stress that cause strife in your life. Don't focus all of your attention and practice asking this question:

In five years, will this problem matter?

This is an example of long term thinking! Here are some great tips to help you focus on what you can control, not what you can't!

Long Term Thinking Tip #5: It's not supposed to be easy.

If you're confusing thinking long term with being an easy process you're sadly mistaken.

Long term thinking is harder than making short term choices. For one, it is super convenient to think short term – because it's easier.

The easy choice is not to run, the harder long term choice is to run when you really don't want too! Getting comfortable making hard decisions that are better for the long run is where you need to start!

Embrace the fact that it won't be always easy to use words like no and think long term, and all of a sudden something weird happens – it actually becomes easier!

Final Word on Long Term Thinking

The truth to the matter is that long term thinking, delaying your gratification – whatever you want to call it – has never been easier AND harder at the same time.

  • Easy – nowadays with so many distractions, it's easy to quickly separate yourself by implementing a few long term thinking tips from above.
  • Hard – nowadays, with countless distractions, social media channels, streaming videos, thrills, fun, social activities, and temptations – it's never been harder to think long term.

All that being said, like any habit, if you focus and stay consistent – long term thinking can become a habit. And habits can be forged into our subconscious minds.

Create the habit of long term thinking and you will guarantee yourself prosperity, health, and success, or at the very least – give yourself the best shot!

Question: How do you think long term?