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Many of the upsetting experiences we have in our daily lives come from thinking that something is "wrong" in the immediate here and now. Your kid won't go to bed, and the battle is driving you crazy. You just looked at your 401k after switching funds and realized that you lost money. You are petrified to give a presentation in front of an important potential business partner. You just went on *another* dud first date. We are creatures of immediacy, and so we tend to focus on the frustration, regret, worry and annoyance of the incident at hand.
I call this playing the short game: celebrating short-term successes and bemoaning short-term failures. There might an evolutionary reason for this kind of thinking. But what would your life be like if you played the long game?
I am a big fan of looking at my life as a long game, because it means that every daily mistake or uncomfortable situation, which can be bad news in the short game, can actually be good news in the long game.
Because in the long game, lessons learned through mistakes and tough times are arguably more important than doing something right or easily the first time. You will be able to use that lesson as a tool for the rest of your life, where it can do some major good over time.
As a small example, today I realized that I am on an outdated cell phone plan that is costing way more than the newer plans do. My knee-jerk reaction was to be upset that I didn't catch that earlier, and regret wasting money for goodness knows how long. That is the short game.
But in the long game, it's okay. Maybe I lost a few bucks this year on my phone plan, but I have now learned that I should check in occasionally with my recurring expenditures (phone, insurance, investments, etc.) and just make sure that I am purchasing wisely. I am certain that this lesson will save me some serious dough when I have bigger financial decisions to face than a cell phone bill.
I am playing a long game with dating, as well. Yes, I am focusing on love in 2013, so get ready for lots of dating examples this year, my readers. When I go on a date, it's easy for me to think only of the short game. I hope he's my one. I hope the date goes well. I hope he thinks I am cute. And so on. But if he's not the one, I go home disappointed.
If I focus on the long game instead, then I can see how each date, dud or not, is important in the long run. What am I supposed to learn about the men I attract? About the men who attract me? About how I treat people? That lesson gets me one step closer to my "one," and so is a success in the long game.
Where in your life should you switch from playing a short game to a long game? What situations would you then be able to celebrate as lessons, instead of regret as mistakes?