The Short Term Long Term Challenge

From minutes to seasons and years

And on the pedestal, these words appear:
My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings;
Look on my Works, ye Mighty, and despair!
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal Wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away

Percy Bysshe Shelley, Ozymandias

We often set ourselves short term challenges. Transitioning those to long term efforts can be a motivation challenge. However, most success requires years of effort and we need to plan for that continuing contribution.

We are at a delicate point in our response to the coronavirus pandemic. We are at the end of short term responses and given the ongoing issues around the world, we must start to move to longer term efforts.

Short Term

In our lives and our work, we love quick wins, 90 day sprints and the short sharp shock. We are used to seeing performance as a short term effort.

Now is the only time we have, so there will always be an immediacy to our needs to make change and improve performance. Extra efforts can make a significant difference and can be part of shifting to new paths and systems of performance. Adaptive leadership focuses on the need to make sure interactions are part of creating and sustaining the tension to create enduring change.

However, many of the common high impact short term activities amount to asking for extra effort. Asking for extra is a drain on the individuals involved. When we release that request for extra effort, we can see performance decline to the original level or in some cases below.

Shifting to Long term

However, in most change there are deeper systemic and structural issues at play. This kind of change requires years of consistent effort from many individuals. There’s no heroic leader or effort that will transform these situations.

When we shift from the urgent now to thinking about this longer term effort, our motivation can crash. We ask ourselves ‘how can it be this hard? how can it take this long? why are there setbacks?’ All the effort we put into the short term can feel like a waste when there is more work to be done. Starting over is hard and feels unfair.

To make change that lasts and addresses the largest issues in our lives, work and society, we need to prepare to slog the long term change. We have to work with others to ensure that the short term does not cause a detriment to our motivation and performance in the longer term.

Balancing the short and long term requires us to work with empathy for the individuals working on change and those involved in the system. Sustaining hope for a better future is key along the journey. New rituals that signal a transition to the longer term can help us with the change and work ahead. We can focus on the now and see continuing progress day-by-day.

The long term effort helps us to focus on our community and that we cannot do this alone. If we need to support our mood in this transition, then we can lean on each other to help with the support and assistance we need.

Nothing that is worth doing can be achieved in our lifetime; therefore we must be saved by hope.

Nothing which is true or beautiful or good makes complete sense in any immediate context of history; therefore we must be saved by faith.

Nothing we do, however virtuous, can be accomplished alone; therefore we must be saved by love.

No virtuous act is quite as virtuous from the standpoint of our friend or foe as it is from our standpoint. Therefore we must be saved by the final form of love which is forgiveness.

Reinhold Niebuhr

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