This morning I had no milk for my tea. So, I put my coat on, walked out the door, and 10 minutes later I was back from the supermarket with a litre of milk in hand. And all before 7 a.m.
What a luxury!
Today's world makes our lives so easy. There's isn't a problem that can't be solved in a few hours. Need some milk? Pop to the store—it's open 24/7. Need a last-minute gift or the latest gadget? Click on the Amazon app and get it delivered the next day. We have instant loans, instant dates, instant messaging. Feeling low? Fire up Instagram and get some instant feedback from your followers. Hungry? Order takeout, or get one of those pre-portioned cooking packs delivered to your door. You don't even have to chop the vegetables anymore.
No wonder, then, that hardly anyone is able to think long term.
For some personalities, this is a problem. Sensors, and especially the Perceiving variety, would much rather live in the world of "right now" than the world of "could be." It's hard for their brains to see into the distant future. Overnight solutions are their happy place, and it's all too easy for SPs to forget about what they want in the long-term. And there's society, laying all that instant gratification right out in front of them and further distracting them from their goals.
Here's how Sensor-Perceivers can move a little slower, get out of the fun bubble, and learn to play the long game.
#1: Have a Vision, Not a Plan (a.k.a What Would Arnie Do?)
As a young man, Arnold Schwarzenegger did not regard bodybuilding as simply a hobby. No, he had a clear vision of himself on the podium of Mr Universe, with his fellow bodybuilders behind to applaud. After that, he would settle in the United States thanks to his international reputation as a bodybuilder, and he would become a movie star.
Talk about having a vision of the future! But it is clearly a vision—an aspiration—and not a specific plan for how to become a movie star.
For SPs, planning is okay for concrete goals that are immediately achievable ("I shall send this email today.") But most of you are vague about your end game because it feels just so out of reach. Having a strict plan of action is simply too restrictive because, for you, goal achievement is as much about adapting to new situations as it is about executing a concrete project. You might plan to do things one way, but a few months later the plan could look entirely different than how it started out.
Don't fight your personality, SPs! For you, the future should be less of a project and more of a vision that leaves you plenty of flexibility for how you get there. That's not to say you should completely wing it; just that it's wrong for you to get bogged down in the nitty-gritty details like SJs do.
Just make sure the vision itself is tangible, concrete and capable of closure. "I want to be rich" is too vague, whereas "I'm going to make career decisions that maximize my earning potential" gives you something to latch onto as you move your vision from the macro to the micro level.
#2: Look Through the Telescope
What's the purpose of a telescope? It's to make faraway things look closer. That's what you have to do with a long-range plan—put it through a telescope so it doesn't seem quite so distant.
Playing the long game is tough for Sensors because the farther away the goal is, the more abstract it becomes. Suppose you're saving to buy a house in a few years' time. What if the economy takes a nosedive? What if you lose your job? What if an opportunity shows up next year that you just have to run with? The immediate is real and graspable; the further you go into the future, the more imponderables get in the way. For SPs, this is very, very demoralizing.
The telescope helps you narrow down the focus. So take your vision, and focus on one small action for getting there. If your vision is to buy a house, could you commit to saving $200 per month? If it's getting in the best shape of your life, could you commit to doing HIIT twice a week? Make that small thing happen without waiting for circumstances to decide for you. Acting just a little each week or each month is much better than acting jerkily from time to time and getting knocked off focus.
Small tasks are not daunting or restrictive but their accumulation keeps the fire hot and allows you to achieve great things.
#3: Use the 10/10/10 Rule
Business writer Suzy Welch's "10-10-10 Rule" is designed to help people consider their decisions from a future perspective, by asking:
- How will I feel about my decision in 10 minutes?
- How will I feel about my decision in 10 months?
- How will I feel about my decision in 10 years?
If you tend to make decisions based on a heat-of-the-moment reaction, this strategy will help your choices feel much less urgent and emotionally loaded. Because if you ask yourself how will you feel about this action in 10 months or 10 years, so many times the answer is "I won't even remember doing it!"
When you are playing the long game, every decision you make connects to the longer-term vision. In a sense, you are not asking whether something matters, but how long it matters. If the impact of every action is gone after 10 minutes, then you're not taking yourself to the next level.
#4: Take the Third-person Perspective
Even the most logical thinkers are prone to cognitive bias, which is a systematic error of judgment that can distort our decision-making. Let's face it, if you had to weigh up every possible option before making a decision, you would never make even the simplest choice. So, we all rely on mental shortcuts that allow us to act quickly.
For SPs, that means troubleshooting in the moment instead of doing the thing that will work out best for the long term. Often, it isn't the here-and-now focused choice that's the problem, but the fact that it's continuing a pattern of short-term choices that combine to point you towards a worse long-term outcome.
One strategy here is to step back from your choices and consider them from an outsider's point of view. If a friend came to you with the same dilemma, what advice would you give? SPs tend to be much better at giving advice than they are at taking it, and your openness and candor mean you can be counted on for sound and solid reasoning when it is needed.
So the next time you're struggling to take the long view, get some distance from yourself and imagine what kind of advice you'd give to a friend in the same situation.
The Bottom Line
The long game is the opposite of the short game. It means making a sacrifice today to make tomorrow better. If you can do this consistently, the results feed on themselves. But when you're an instant-payback-seeking SP, planning ahead is tough!
The important thing for SPs to remember is the long game is still a game. You're supposed to enjoy playing it! Enjoy the pleasures of life, but do it sparingly. Hash out the general direction you want to go in life and measure your decisions against that vision. Whatever happens in the future is a consequence of what you do now. Judge your actions not by whether they matter but by how long they matter, and you'll soon be making small steps towards a much bigger achievement.