You see it in the stock market when people are more focused on the quarterly earnings results than they are on the results needed to make the next five-year plan a reality.

You see it in the sustainable movement when it comes to not wanting to spend a lot today because the upfront costs are expensive – even though you’ll save money on the back-end. Think: solar panels.

You see it when businesses that need to generate immediate income make choices that ultimately sabotage their long-term vision and goals.

You see it when people opt for the “lose 10lbs. in ten days” approach to losing weight rather than a more sustainable approach that may take longer, but will be healthier.

You see it when people put expectations that would be normal for a long-term relationship onto one that’s just getting started.

What is the “it” that I speak of: tension.

We all operate in two modes: short-term (today) and long-term (future). And the space in the middle of these modes tends to reveal how well you and I are addressing the demands of today whilst preparing and investing for the future.

This space in the middle is where the tension surfaces.

This space in the middle is where all the personal development happens, too.

Personal development. It’s how you enhance your self-awareness about your values, beliefs and purpose; it’s how you grow deeper into your identity; it’s how you become more aware of and cultivate your talents; it’s how you discover your strengths and resiliency; it’s how you know where to (re)focus your energy and effort.

Personal development is that “thing” you don’t always invite, but that you most certainly need to help you navigate the vicissitudes of life with aplomb.

I swear: business and, by association, money are two of my best personal development tools. (Imagine me saying “best” in a tongue and cheek tone!) So said because I know when I get to the other side of the challenge, I will eventually be okay. Usually better, in fact. But that space in middle…ugh!

In life and business, there will always be a need to navigate the twin demands of producing the results you need today while preparing for the results you want and need for the future.

So, what about you? When it comes to your life and/or business, where do you feel the “today vs. tomorrow” tension? Likewise, what personal development lessons are you learning?

Recognize the current tension

As you were reading the words above, what area/s of your life, business, or both immediately came to mind like some sort of confirmation of, “oh, this is what I am feeling?” The more you ponder this tension, what details are you recognizing?

Let’s step back from you and look to a recent news announcement: Deutsche Bank (which acquired my former employer, Bankers Trust) announced it was laying off approximately 18,000 people. This is a classic example of cutting costs (aimed at producing short-term results) with the goal (hope?) of meeting margin targets in the future.

Embrace & manage the tension

Since you know the short- and long-term tension naturally exists (even if you don’t label it as such and probably come face-to-face with it almost daily), how can you get better at managing the actions required to produce results today with those that reflect investing into your future? 

Or, perhaps more important is how can you get better at managing how you feel about the tension?

For example: are you having a hard time consistently tracking how much you’re spending and saving weekly or monthly (actions required today) even though it is an effort required to reach your 90-day, 12-month, 5-year savings goals?

Can the tension be eased?

What I’ve typically noticed about the tension between short- and long-term is that the former helps you feel more in control while the latter reminds you that the future is uncertain. Therefore, balancing the tension of these two modes will (likely) never be “perfect.” Yet, making a mental match (on paper is better) can go a long way to easing this tension.

The way I see it, the tension between short-term and long-term is like the seesaw at the playground. When it is out of balance (picture one side higher than the other), whatever the higher side represents, that is likely taking more of your resources (be it in the form of money, time, or relationships) from whatever the lower side represents. Said more plainly, when the higher side represents long-term (preparing for the future), that is taking more of your resources from the short-term (meeting the demands of today)…and vice versa.

So when it comes to managing the seemingly conflicting objectives of short-term vs. long-term, the question you want to have on repeat is this:

Are you making choices and decisions that rob your future in order to ease the stress of meeting the demands of today? 

Every time you answer, “yes,” pause. In that space in between, you may decide to stick with “yes,” or you may discover an alternative you had not considered before! And either likely contains a personal development lesson you hadn’t anticipated…or one that you need to relearn!

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