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Cultivating Long Term Thinking

By: Brian Kim - October 5, 2007

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I don’t think I need to take any time explaining what the benefits of cultivating long term thinking are. It’s something that people know in the back of their mind they should do, but they rarely get around to doing it. Why?

Because people tend to think that long term thinking takes away from the present moment, and that’s certainly understandable. They think it’s a direct 1 to 1 tradeoff and because they can’t really “experience” the long term future, they choose to fully experience what they think they only can, and that’s the present moment.

I’m all for being in the moment and experiencing things in the now, but for the purpose of this article, I’m applying the cultivation of long term thinking to endeavors such as a life long dream, becoming proficient at a certain skill or task, learning a new language, financial retirement, etc.

One of the easiest ways to cultivate long term thinking is to be able to see clearly in your mind exactly how you will benefit from being where you want to be in the long term. It sounds simple but it’s very powerful because with this clear picture in mind, you’ll have something that will guide your actions in the present.

Without this clear picture, you leave your actions up to whatever you feel like in the present moment, and that will vary on a day to day basis, depending on present circumstances, events, and feelings going on in your life. Your actions become “random” in a sense, without any direction because there’s no real tangible force “guiding” it.

As a result, you miss out on the cumulative effects of each successive action taken toward your particular vision. You lose the compound interest effects when you refrain from cultivating long term thinking.

If you have a vision of a future worth fighting for, you won’t feel like you’re sacrificing the present for the future. On the contrary, you will enjoy the present and all that you do in it because you know it will lead to the more pleasurable future you have in mind.

High quality traits such as self control and discipline will start to manifest itself through this long term thinking process. You won’t have to really “force” yourself to do the things you know you have to do. You’ll do them because you’ll want to do them.

You’ll begin to see how every little action you take towards your long term vision affects its progress in a cumulative fashion, until you begin to see your vision coming ever so closer to you with each passing day.

When you read start reading biographies of people who have achieved worthy endeavors, you’ll see that long term thinking and planning have always been the correct and natural way of going about it. We always hear what seem to be “overnight” success stories in the news, but many people are ignorant as to what the back stories of those were, and as a result fall prey to the idea that things will happen overnight. Notice that when you pursue the easy route by not thinking long term, there is no pain in the beginning, but pain will start to accumulate over time, growing ever so slightly more with each passing day.

But, take the seemingly “hard” route through long term thinking, and there might be some big pain the beginning, but it will lessen over time and your pleasure will start to increase inversely in proportion over time as well.

In short, with long term thinking, things will get easier down the road.

With short term thinking, life will get harder down the road.

Using financial retirement as an example, long term thinkers will contribute a certain amount of their earnings into their retirement accounts, whether they are 401ks where the company they work for matches their contributions up to a certain percentage, Roth IRA accounts, mutual funds etc. And with a respectable average return rate on their investments per year, they will be sitting on a very nice nest egg for retirement.

Others who don’t plan for the long term and want massive returns on their money now will waste their money on investing in pyramid schemes, in a “hot” stock tip they heard from a person at the bar, or by wiring their money to a certain “Nigerian prince” who recently contacted them via email. You protect yourself from these kinds of things by cultivating long term thinking because long term thinking “filters" out all the things that aren’t natural and points us in the right direction.

Many tend to see long term thinking as a constant uphill battle, but it’s more like a terrace with really long steps. It appears like nothing is happening as you walk on each very long step, but all of a sudden, you go onto at a higher level than before and another and another and the steps, the length of them seemingly get shorter, but they are actually the same size. It’s just that you’re moving faster than before now because you have momentum on your side.

Time is the ultimate litmus test of revealing to us whether we really want what we hold in our minds.

Time tests our desire, our belief in ourselves, our fortitude when the results we want aren’t coming, but once the tests are passed, we start learning, things start to change, doors start to open, opportunities abound and by mastering the cultivation of long term thinking, we learn to enjoy the present and all we do in it, and look forward to an even better future.

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4 Responses to “Cultivating Long Term Thinking”

  1. Lawrence Cheok Says:

    Brian, This is an article that strikes a chord in me.

    To be very honest, I am easily frustrated with the short sightedness of short-termed thinking. The benefits of long-term thinking, as you have mentioned, are obvious and far greater than that of near term benefits.

    I am also sadden by the number of people trapped in their perspectives, their circumstances, their emotions simply because they are not long-term. This can be proven by the large number of people who fall for get-rich-quick scams.

    It is also with this in mind that I have embarked on my blog of life long learning. Hopefully someday I can touch and influence positively like you do.

    Thanks for this great motivation!

  2. Brian Kim Says:


    Thank you very much for your kinds words. I really appreciate it!

    Here’s to your journey of life long learning - a great example of cultivating long term thinking!

  3. Prasanna S Says:

    A very good one and right from my college days I had a long term vision of what I wished to be in the coming years, how my long term goals are going, etc. After reading your book “Think and Grow Rich” I had a strong desire to accomplish certain things.

    Even though I may sometimes don’t live in the present, but the benefits of thinking big and long term is sure to yield rich dividends.

  4. Brian Kim Says:

    Prasanna S,

    Thanks for the kind words as well.

    It’s good to see you have the long term vision and the desire too. It will yield rich dividends.

    And by the way, “Think and Grow Rich” was by Napoleon Hill ;) , but no worries, I understood what you meant.

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