Change with a Long Time Horizon

False Maximums: Catching Yourself Up with Short Horizons

I love a good diagram. A good diagram has the ability to take what looks like chaos and turn it into beautiful, understandable ink on paper. That said, it always pays to examine what’s not being show along with what is. Check out this one for example:

Time vs. Happiness with Short Time Horizon
Time vs. Happiness with Short Time Horizon

This simple graph explains a huge number of situations. From quitting a mediocre job to leaving a just-ok relationship. Often when examining situations for decision making, we look into the future for how that might make you feel. It should be obvious to everyone out there, that leaving an abusive job or bad relationship is going to benefit them in the long-term (as well as short-term). As we move from bad and abusive towards things like ok or satisfying, we start to get caught up. Yes, things are going to get worse in the week following breaking up with a partner who you are attached to. If you stay in the relationship, that happiness line will likely stay pretty stable. So it seems like a good idea to stay in the relationship right? Looking at this graph, it is. Let’s take another step back though. Let’s look at the next 6 months.

Time vs. Happiness with Long Time Horizon
Time vs. Happiness with Long Time Horizon

Suddenly you have the possibility of meeting someone, or finding a position that’s not ‘just ok’. It’s amazing. Your plateau in the relationship is suddenly much higher, you’ve gained a level of happiness beyond what you were trapped at in your ‘just ok’ position previously. If you project that out another 6 months, you’ve suddenly got a huge happiness gain.

I’ve simplified life for the purposes of this example, certainly I can’t guarantee that you’ll find a new job or relationship soon after leaving the old one, or that it’ll turn out to be better, but I can guarantee that a stagnant job or relationship isn’t going to suddenly become amazing in nearly 100% of cases. If we accept mediocre situations because we foresee short-term unhappiness resulting from making a choice, we fail to see the bigger picture, allowing ourselves to get stuck. Next time you’re stuck on a decision, take a step back and draw out a graph of time vs. happiness. Then extend the time axis and see if you get a different view of things.

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