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How to Be a Long-Term Thinker in a Short-Term World

You set goals for yourself before the COVID-19 pandemic hit in 2020 and you’ve attained none of them. By now, you thought you’d be well on your way to a better career; maybe you would have even crossed off a few Bucket List items.

None of that came to pass.

Maybe it’s time to read “The Long Game: How to Be a Long-Term Thinker in a Short-Term World” (c.2021, Harvard Business Review Press) by Dorie Clark.

As a speaker and business educator, Dorie Clark has had many opportunities to talk with conference attendees. She noticed something surprising about those talks: most of the attendees mentioned that they were so busy, they wished they “had time to think.”  They were frustrated, and feeling like they weren’t “keeping up.”

If you’ve had similar feelings, you probably require “white space,” Clark says. That means time to ponder, wander, plan, and dream.

More importantly, white space gives you room to stop looking at goals for this week or this month and start thinking about five or ten or thirty years from now. Says Clark, “… we can attain almost anything we want – but not instantly.”

Being busy has become a sort of competition for your time and we have to back away from it. Learn to say “no” if something doesn’t fit your long-term plans, even if the offer is so delicious that it hurts to turn it down.

It’s okay to “be bad” at something. In fact, it’s good if you are. Being terrible at something gives you room to legitimately be stellar at something else that you can own.

Learn to set goals that are right for you. Know what you like and what you don’t. Think about your hobbies and the things you do well, and then work to put these things together.

Tap into your curiosity and follow it. Give yourself a chance to explore. Stop feeling “dirty” about networking.

Perhaps most importantly, be patient. Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither is your best life. Sure, you can hardly wait to get where you’re going, but sometimes you must.

In the meantime, deep-breathe and read Clark’s “The Long Game.” But know this before you do: there’s a lot inside this book that you may not need, at least not now. Clark includes many personal anecdotes, perhaps too many. You’ve probably learned some of the information from other sources, and its reiterations are reiterated.

Still, it’s all about the nuggets in the book and there are plenty of them. Readers who need that final nudge to step off the busy-busy treadmill will find that nudge here, in a hundred small non-confrontational ways that add up.

Once you’ve finished reading the book you’ll be able to spot small thinking-spaces throughout your day in which you can indulge guilt-free, pleasurably, and in a way that feels right.

“The Long Game” is a read-then-read-again kind of book. It’s perfect for those who need to learn to look past the edge of their desk. Remember: patience. “The Long Game” is helpful, but it will take a while before you know it’s working.

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