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Why Choose Long-Term Solutions to Resolve Tricky Dilemmas?

When short-term solutions to problems are mostly makeshift, go long-term.

Key points

  • Short-term remedies, though at times necessary, may not adequately address the issues that underlie them.
  • There can be serious consequences when people don’t scrutinize the possible repercussions of hasty behavior.
  • Discipline demands flexibility, a readiness to change tactics based on feedback obtained from one's actions.
  • In making tough or tricky decisions, both short- and long-term time spans need to be scrupulously considered.
Source: Kotenko/123rf
With time and patience, even under the worst conditions, greenery seeds can beautifully bloom.
Source: Kotenko/123rf

My previous post focused on why short-term remedies for problems—though at times necessary, maybe even imperative—may not be able to address the underlying root cause. Or the issues may be just too complicated for short-term, stopgap measures to permanently resolve.

The present post is intended to make you more aware of why, in many instances, it would be preferable to get beyond the short-term biases automatically programmed deep inside your old survival brain.

Patience Tends to Be Rewarded More Than Eagerness

Earlier, I distinguished between getting revenge and achieving justice. And I suggested that such a well-nigh universal impulse is to take retaliatory action against another’s offensive boundary transgression right away.

Pursuing justice, on the other hand, is more challenging, for it generally involves a waiting period—planning a sequence of organized, reparative behaviors over time. That’s why much shorter-term vigilante justice tends to be much less about justice than revenge, illegally assuming authority to punish those perceived as acting criminally.

But in the quest to right a wrong, it’s far more prudent to act within the law. Taking matters into your own indignant hands is not only less likely to accomplish your objectives but also could get you charged with a felony. It’s you who could wind up imprisoned.

People who lack patience, however, or are governed more by emotion than reflective thought are prone to choose a course of action that quickly alleviates their tension. But there can be serious consequences when you’re not carefully evaluating the repercussions of acting precipitously on your behalf.

The Role of Discipline in Prevailing and Finally Triumphing Over Adversity

Perhaps more than anything else, being successful in life demands discipline, which, if you think about it, intimately relates to patience.

Disciplined individuals have cultivated the habit of not acting on the spur of the moment. Prior experience has taught them that in the long (or longer) run, they’re better off taking extra time to reflect on alternatives than reacting right away to provocations or impasses.

It’s not that their apparent procrastination is anxiety-induced but that they recognize the foolhardiness of not weighing beforehand the consequences of attempting to solve problems swiftly—and, likely, capriciously.

Moreover, before giving themselves permission to act right away, thinking ahead, they’ll appraise whether such short-term action coalesces with what longer-term goals they’ve decided are optimal to pursue. If they do implement an immediate solution, that will happen only after they see it as coordinating with longer-term goals.

Ideally, you also want to be clear that these goals truly mirror your values and broader vision—that they transcend mere expediency.

If, for instance, you want somehow to address the worldwide indignity of starvation, you might look at how the lack of education and commensurate employment are two factors lying at the root of the problem. Only then would you consider shorter-term, interim remedies, like furnishing food for those who might otherwise perish.

Discipline is also required to regularly review whether each of your steps toward a final solution has proved effective or whether any might need to be replaced by something you hadn’t assessed earlier.

Although it might initially seem so, discipline doesn’t have much to do with being steadfast or unwavering. Rather, it demands flexibility, a readiness to change tactics based on the feedback you’re obtaining from actions already taken. Whether on paper or in your head, you want to scrupulously document what you did and its outcome.

Because long-term solutions necessitate predicting future possibilities, despite how clued into the present you may be, that’s hardly any guarantee you can forecast all the variables that ultimately will determine the future. Plus, the longer the time required to reach the future date you had in mind, the more errors you’re likely to make along the way that could compromise your plans.

To be an expert at a card game, you need to develop the right skills (consisting mostly of, well, patience and discipline). But even then, the confounding element of chance may defeat you. Notwithstanding your using all your accumulated card-playing chops, you can’t ever be certain about what hasn’t yet happened.

Still, even if your well-thought-out efforts fail, you’ll have less to regret than had you acted hastily. And you’re less likely to blame yourself for contingencies you couldn’t have known in advance. After all, both intra- and inter-personal reality are mutable, resistant to the formulations that, within closed systems like mathematics, you can rely on.

As the Danish proverb ironically puts it: “Prediction is hazardous, especially about the future.”

Developing the Skill Set for Efficaciously Employing Long-Term Solutions

Adopting long-term solutions won’t do much good if you lack seasoned judgment—the reason that the young aren’t very proficient in executing long-term plans. You might be gifted and mature beyond your years, but as long as your lifetime experience is limited, so will your wisdom be.

And even if you’re older, you may still have little training in the kind of analytic decision-making that a situation calls for. So you should make a point of:

  • Learning from both your elders and peers—and especially leaders in your field
  • Soliciting feedback from friends and associates who have no interest in defeating or competing with you
  • Reading about how others have successfully dealt with impasses or issues similar to yours
  • Attending (whether in person or online) lectures by authorities on the type of person or subject that’s challenging you

Unless you acquire the appropriate long-term skill set, you may be all the more tempted to grapple with your perplexing problem on the fly, viewing yourself as capable of managing it when, much of the time, you may not be. Immediate solutions can easily turn out to be mistaken or even delusory.

Short Term and Long Term: A Balancing Act

In the end, there needs to be a beneficent balance between short- and long-term solutions. Acting impetuously when upset never makes much sense. But frequently, you need to do something to keep the problem from getting worse before you come up with a longer-term solution for resolving it. So both time spans need to be considered—and considered proportionately.

As one writer wryly observes, “If you don’t take care of the present, you won’t make it to the future; if you don’t plan for the future, you’ll remain where you are in the present.”

© 2024 Leon F. Seltzer, Ph.D. All Rights Reserved.

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