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Short Game vs The Long Game

It is easy to think that you need to have lots of luck to succeed and ignore the importance of investing in success every single day. Too often, we hope for luck rather than work on making things happen.

Different outcomes come from doing things differently.

Most of us play the short game. Playing the long game has an advantage. At first the long game seems like hard work, but when you look back over the years you can see the difference in outcomes.

The longer you play the long game, the easier it is to play and the greater the rewards. The longer you play the short game the harder it is to change and catch up with the person playing the long game.

So, what makes up the short game and long game?

The Short Game

The short game is putting off anything that seems hard and instead do what seems easy or fun. The short game offers visible and immediate benefits. The short game is seductive.

  • Why do your homework when you can go out and play?
  • Why wait to pay for a phone in cash, when you can put it on your credit card?
  • Why go to the gym when you can go drinking with your friends?
  • Why invest in your relationship with your partner today when you can work a little bit extra in the office?
  • Why learn something boring that does not change when you can learn something sexy that impresses people?
  • Why bust your butt at work to do the work before the meeting when you can read the executive summary and pretend like everyone else?

The effects of the short game multiply the longer you play. On any given day, the impact is small but as days turn into months and years the result is enormous. People who play the short game do not realize the costs until they become too large to ignore.

As the weeks turn into months and the months into years, the short game compounds into disastrous results. It is not the one-day trade off that matters but it’s accumulation.

Playing the long game means suffering a little today. And why would we want to suffer today when we can suffer tomorrow. Actually, all we have is today.

The Long Game

The long game is the opposite of the short game, it means paying a small price today to make a tomorrow in the future easier. If we can do this long enough to see the results, it feeds on itself.

From the outside, the long game looks boring:

  • Saving money and investing it for tomorrow
  • Leaving the party early to go get some sleep
  • Investing time in your relationship today so you have a foundation when something happens
  • Doing your homework before you go out to play
  • Going to the gym rather than watching Netflix

The long game is not debatable. Everyone agrees, for example, we should spend less than we make and invest the difference. Playing the long game is a slight change, one that seems insignificant now, but one that becomes the difference between financial freedom and struggling to make next month’s rent.

The first step of the long game is the hardest. The first step is visibly negative (not fun). You must be willing to suffer today in order to not suffer tomorrow. Therefore, the long game is hard to play. People rarely see the small steps when they are looking for enormous outcomes, but deserving enormous outcomes is mostly the result of a series of small steps that culminate into something visible.


In every aspect of your life, you are either playing a short-term or long-term game. You cannot opt out and not able to play the long-term game in all parts of your life, you need to decide what matters to you and do it.

Time amplifies the difference between the long and short-term games.

The question you need to think about is where and when to play the long-term game.

Knowledge, relationships, and finances are good places to start as they are things that will compound.

About David Lawson

Finding the Light is a locally owned and operated counselling and life coaching business based in Bundaberg. We seek to empower our clients to find their way forward to a better life by using the approaches of counselling or coaching. If this blog article has raised more questions please contact us by email or call us on 0407 585 497 to arrange a time for us to discuss the article. Mention this blog and we will give you a FREE 30 minute session to discuss.

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