How Different Perspectives Change Everything

How Different Perspectives Change Everything
This post was written by Arne Dรถrries


Most people have an idea of what short-term thinking and long-term thinking are and how they are different from one another.

But aside from the difference in definition, would you be able to explain in crystal clear terms what consequences these differences bring about in real life?

In this post, I am uncovering this exact subject and clarifying the importance of being aware of the difference between short-term and long-term thinking, being aware of the corresponding practical consequences and being able to use this knowledge as leverage for building your best life.

This post covers...

  1. ๐Ÿฉ Short-Term Thinking
  2. ๐Ÿฅฆ Long-Term Thinking
  3. ๐Ÿ”ฅ How It Changes Everything
  4. ๐Ÿง  Brainwash
  5. ๐ŸŒ Conclusion

Short-Term Thinking

Before diving into the deep end, let's first clarify what short-term thinking and long term thinking even are and also talk about what they are rooted in.

First, short-term thinking refers to the mindset or bias of prioritizing short-term (instant) benefits, rather than prioritizing or even considering the long-term (distant) consequences or potential benefits.

Short-term thinking is rooted in a number of different mechanics of the human body and mind.

There is the present bias that describes the general tendency of humans to follow instant gratification. Theories suggest this natural bias is rooted in the scarcity and unpredictability of the ancestral past of the human species where there was the circumstantial need to not miss out on present opportunities for some very abstract potential future benefit.

Then there is this thing called hyperbolic discounting, a term first popularized by economist David Laibson, which describes our human tendency to radically discount the value of things the further they lie in the future - a phenomena rooted in our decreasing ability to cognitively model things lying farther in the future.

And lastly, there are also socially rooted causes for short-term thinking. FOMO (the fear of missing out) is one of those examples where for example our need to fit in and match the standards of others in this present moment causes us to put future benefits on the line for instant and direct rewards.

Long-Term Thinking

Moving on to long-term thinking, long-term thinking refers to a mindset that has the foresight to not only consider potential immediate rewards but to be able to look beyond, in hope for a different and often bigger goal in the distant future. In more direct terms, it is about delaying available instant rewards for distant ones.

And although easy to understand on a theoretical level, long-term thinking is particularily interesting because on first glance, it actually seems quite unnatural:

Long-term thinking is not our default way of thinking because evolutionarily, we wouldn't have done that great of a job surviving as a species if we had continuously delayed benefits into an uncertain future.

From this evolutionary perspective, long-term thinking can very much be considered a privilege:

long-term thinking allows us to make more sustainable decisions that serve a long-term purpose. But under natural circumstances, there simply isn't enough certainty about the future that it'd be wise to take this "sustainable" long-term approach.

Since we are not living under natural circumstances though, in our modern world, long-term thinking has become possible because our societies and their corresponding supportive structures provide us with sufficient stability and certainty about the future that it there is no or at least significantly less risk in sacraficing instant rewards.

How It Changes Everything

Now that we understand the difference of short-term thinking and long-term thinking, let's take a look at how this knowledge is practically valuable.

The one core opportunity this difference between short-term and long-term thinking creates is the ability to change the interpretation of circumstances.

Let's take a look at a simple example:

  • ๐Ÿช‘ Circumstance: Exercising
  • ๐Ÿ‘€ Perspective short-term thinker: "hard, requires so much effort"
  • ๐Ÿ‘๏ธ Perspective long-term thinker: "easy, makes my life feel easier and helps me avoid exhausting health troubles"
  • ๐Ÿช‘ Circumstance: Binge-eating fast food
  • ๐Ÿ‘€ Perspective short-term thinker: "easy, makes me feel good"
  • ๐Ÿ‘๏ธ Perspective long-term thinker: "hard, can already tell I am going to have to put in a lot of effort to fix the damage from this"

When looking at these examples, it becomes clear: our interpretation of the same circumstances varies drastically depending on the perspective from which we look at them. Things that seem hard from a short-term perspective seem easy (or at least easier) from a long-term perspective.

If our goal is to optimize for more long-term thinking so that we can profit from its sustainability benefits, this freedom to change the interpretation of circumstances becomes a total game-changer in building your best life!



I would absolutely agree that it's a vast simplification to say that long-term thinking is always better than short-term thinking.

But considering that in our modern societies, we do have this privilege to think long-term without having to worry about being eaten by a lion. And also considering that short-term thinking is our default way of thinking anyway, brainwashing ourselves into long-term thinking as much as possible may not be desirable in every single situation, but can still be a useful tool to leverage the power of thinking more long-term.

To do this, there are a number of things that can be done to incorporate and promote more long-term thinking in our lives.

From simply making it a practice to zoom out in everyday moments to think about the long-term consequences of actions to writing a quick journal at the end of each day reflecting on the effects of the choices made that day - there are many ways to practice long-term thinking.

For more advanced long-term thinking brainwashers though, there are a range of specific exercises that can boost your abilities to think long-term even more:

  • The ideal ordinary week
  • The yearly review
  • identity separation (differentiating between the different versions of you across time and treating them as separate individuals to create a sense of responsibility for your future self)
  • ...

Like always, it's a process!


As humans we are privileged to have a mind that model things that don't exist, a mind that can reflect on things that have happened and mind that can look beyond the present moment. And on top of that, we are privileged enough to live in societies that provide is with the physical and timely freedom to actually use these powers of our minds.

In the realm of perspectives, these abilities and privileges allow us to shift between long-term and short-term thinking.

By being aware of these two different types of perspective and making use of the opportunity hidden within - the ability to change our interpretation of the same circumstances to some desired interpretation - we can fully leverage our natural gifts and optimize our lives for sustainable long-term thinking.