For some folks, living in the “here and now” means seeking instant gratification. So they buy pills to lose weight, go under the knife to look young, and purchase lottery tickets in hopes of striking it rich. In business, they request favors five minutes into a new relationship, hold “fire sales” rather than building customer loyalty, and bark orders at employees rather than leading with trust. They believe (or should I say, hope) that taking the quick-and-easy route is the optimum path to success.
The problem is, if you think trust, respect, and credibility are easy to obtain, you’re kidding yourself. If you think loyalty is created, a reputation is earned, or success is achieved at the drop of a hat, you’re sadly mistaken. And if you think money can buy youth, gifts can win a child’s love, and a clean bill of health can be attained without healthy living, you’re dreaming. In fact, if you think there’s a magic bullet for anything worthwhile in life, you’re living a fantasy. Success requires hard work, commitment, patience, and determination. There are simply no shortcuts in the long run.
Are You Selling Your Future Short?
We hit the ground running without first creating an action plan to achieve goals; we ignore small problems and then drop everything when they become an emergency; we shoot from the hip and spend double the time fixing ill-conceived decisions. Don’t we realize we’re compromising our future? Here are common examples in which wanting everything now sabotages our long-term success:
In our personal life:
- We measure relationships by what we’ve gained rather than by what we’ve done to strengthen the bond.
- We negotiate agreements to gain the upper hand rather than making everything win-win.
- We mislead people to win their support, and then lose their respect when they learn the truth.
- We address easy items on our to-do list rather than tackling more challenging priorities that require immediate attention.
- We view new acquaintances as opportunities, ripe for the taking, and then wonder why networking fails.
- We retain PR machines to defend ourselves rather than living honorably in the first place.
- We buy things to feed our ego and then face crushing bills that we can ill afford.
- We chase new business opportunities while letting dissatisfied customers slip through the cracks.
- We’re too busy to mentor new hires and then wonder why these talented folks are slow to learn the ropes.
- We squeeze vendors into submission and then expect their loyalty.
- We terminate employees without regard to the impact on the survivors.
- We maximize quarterly performance at the expense of a promising future.
Your Future Is Now
Tomorrow’s coming whether you’re ready or not. People who don’t anticipate the future often seem surprised when it arrives –– and it usually does. So plan ahead. But remember that thinking about tomorrow isn’t the same as doing something about it.
You must plant seeds to reap a harvest. As the Chinese proverb says, “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.” So sacrifice today to secure your future. But make sure to strike a balance … short-term wins enable you to build trust, instill confidence, and maintain momentum.
Don’t swing for the fences. While hitting singles may not be as exciting as hitting home runs, they both put points on the board. Plus, the cumulative impact of doing small things in a consistent and dependable manner is huge. So don’t belittle the small things that you do each day. As Frank A. Clark, the politician, once said, “Everyone is trying to accomplish something big, not realizing that life is made up of little things.”
There’s no shortcut to success. Nothing great was ever achieved without desire, hard work, and sacrifice. If the grass is greener on the other side of the fence, chances are it’s getting better care.
Whether you’re trying to establish credibility, develop a trusting relationship, adopt a healthy lifestyle, or build a reputation, don’t expect to hit pay dirt overnight. Short-term thinking may ultimately hurt your long-term interests. Be patient. Create milestones to measure your progress, and, whatever you do, live with honor. People, and organizations, with integrity inspire credibility, instill confidence, encourage respect, and enable you to hold your head high. That itself is a great reward. Plus, doing things for the right reason will come back to you in spades. The key to success is knowing that your situation today is often determined by your choices and actions yesterday. As Aesop said, “Slow and steady wins the race.”
Long-term outlook. Hard work. Patience. Honor. Now that’s a winning formula.