How Short-Term Decisions Affect Long-Term Goals
Written by Asa Fountain
Where do you see yourself in five years?
I’m willing to bet you’ve been asked this question before, it’s fairly standard in the interview process. It’s a fair question. Employers ask this often to see if a candidate would be a good fit. If the candidate has big goals for themselves over the next five years and expects to take on more and more responsibility, but the employer offers little room for advancement, that’s an indication that the partnership may not work. The same works if the employer has plenty of room for growth, but the potential employee is only interested in maintaining the status quo; again, not a great fit.
This question also has some merit on an individual level outside of the job hunt. Setting a long term goal, or creating a five-year plan, creates a destination, and therefore provides a direction for you to travel. Maybe it’s health focused; in five years you want to be at 11% body fat and run a marathon. Perhaps it’s career driven, and your five-year goal is to enter management. Maybe in five years, you’d like to own a home. Setting these milestones and benchmarks early is a great way to point you in the right direction and keep you working toward something greater.
They’re also a great way to set yourself up for failure.
Let me explain why.
Every goal has a starting point, let’s call that “A.” Achieving a goal means you’ve reached its finish, we’ll call that “B.” The fastest route from “A” to “B” is a straight line, so often we look at the pathway of our goal as such:
That kind of predictability would be nice; to know for sure that over a five year period you will absolutely reach the destination you’ve set for yourself. The truth, however, is that the next five years of your life will bring many variables, and our pathway is likely to look much more like this:
Any number of things can happen over the next five years that can keep us from even reaching that destination, as reflected in the graph above. You could:
- Lose your job
- Get a promotion
- Get evicted
- Move across the country
- Lose a loved one
- Welcome a new family member
- Have an injury
- Discover a new passion
Positive or negative, the only constant in our lives is, in fact, change, and these changes and variables WILL interfere with your long term goals. That’s easy to paint in a negative light, but this is a good thing. Change and adversity are the only ways to adapt and evolve as humans, but if we focus on what we have no effect on, we’ll come up short in the end.
So, what do we do?
We move the needle forward not year by year, month by month, or day by day. We move it forward hour by hour by controlling the controllables.
Many of the changes and variables we’ll encounter in the next five years will be out of our control, and focusing our energy on them is an absolute waste. These obstacles can and will get in the way of our pathway forward, but we can still move in the right direction. We do this by creating a new mindset, and a new mantra:
What’s the best thing I can do right now.
On average, we make around 35,000 decisions every single day, and we have control over every single one of them. The majority of these are extremely small decisions with extremely small effects, like choosing to shift your body position in bed. Others are larger with greater effect, like choosing to eat a second slice of pizza. Regardless of their weight, these thousands of decisions add up and will dictate how far forward, or backward, our needle will move toward our end goal.
That might seem exhausting, but we’re not talking about addressing the thousands and thousands of microscopic decisions that we make every second of every day. Instead, let’s focus on the decisions more directly in front of us on a more hour to hour scale:
- Do we get out of bed early, or hit the snooze button a few times?
- Do we make time for a healthy breakfast, or grab something cheap and quick on the way to work?
- Do we focus on the tasks at hand at work, or do we check our phone over and over?
- Do we head home after work and start preparing dinner for the family, or do we swing by the bar for a few beers?
- Do we get to bed early, or binge watch a few more episodes on Netflix?
If the majority of those decisions come from the first option, arguably the more positive options, then our needle will move forward in a positive direction. If most of them were the second choice it will move backward. We can take this mindset and make it more specific to what our goals might be. Let’s say our goal is to improve our carving on our snowboards:
- Do we have a healthy breakfast, or just drink another cup of coffee?
- Do we check the snow conditions at the local mountain so we can choose appropriate equipment, or just see what happens when we get there?
- Did we tune our snowboard appropriately for carving, or are we happy with whatever condition our board is already in?
- Do we leave early to get ahead of the traffic, or stay at home longer hoping it’s a quiet day on the slopes?
- Do we stretch our body properly before getting on snow, or jump straight on the chairlift?
- Do we take a couple of laps to warm up and feel out the snow, or dive straight into big, carved turns?
- Do we start working on our carving at a slower pace, focusing on our stance and work up to a higher intensity, or do we jump into it full speed?
Again, if the majority of our choices were the first option, then our carving will likely improve that day. If most of those decisions were the second option, we’re more likely to put ourselves at risk and lack improvement.
This mindset of making the best decisions throughout the day that will best move us toward our end goal takes work and focus but gives us the best ability to control the many controllable choices we’ll encounter.
If we can do that, our five-year plan looks more like this:
And this path is far more realistic than a straight line.
The long term goal is a powerful thing. It provides a clear destination and can create focus, but that will not manifest by making that one decision alone; it takes thousands, and if the majority of those decisions we make are in the best interest of our end goal then we will make it there eventually, even when the big, uncontrollable changes in life threaten to stand in our way.
Tomorrow, as soon as you wake up and start your day, address each real decision in a similar fashion: pause, take a breath, and ask yourself this:
What’s the best decision I can make right now.
Then watch the needle move.
This article is an original educational publication created by Snow Sports Development Inc.
We encourage it to be shared with snow sports teachers and sports trainers around the globe.
Photo by: Alex Baker
Rider: Matt Foster