Shortsightedness – Elevate your perspective. August 20, 2023 by Riston Humans are naturally hardwired to focus primarily on short-term gains at the expense of long-term consequences. This condition is most commonly associated with the old aphorism “too close to the fire to see the flames”. Instead of trying to make decisions based soley on short term gains, we need to make a practice of considering long term effects by detaching ourselves from the emotional intensity present in the immediate circumstance and by widening and elevating our perspectives. The principle of widening/elevating our perspective on current circumstances can be captured through the analogy of climbing a mountain. The act of withdrawing and elevating our perspective involves increasing contemplation time and finding ways to achieve a better outlay of current circumstances and the long-term consequences of our decisions. The essence of this strategy lies in several basic approaches: Detach oneself from the present moment Look deeply at the source and nature of the problems at hand Achieve a wider view of the context and factors that go into the situation Evaluate the potential long-term effects. The challenges present in employing these strategies and overcoming our shortsightedness is part of the reason many continue to engage in extremely self-destructive behaviors like excessive drinking, gambling, and drug use – valuing short-term gains at the expense of long-term quality of life. This shortsightedness is pretty easily exploited by the political class, suckering people into bad solutions by promising short term gains, while downplaying the fact that these solutions almost always create unintended consequences whose severity will only be experienced later on. Four Signs of Shortsightedness and Strategies to Overcome Them Unintended Consequences – By far one of the most common forms of shortsightedness, many of the problems in the world can be reduced to rash actions that fail to consider how multiplicative chains of effect can result in greater harm than if there had been no action at all. Usually these situations are purely reactive, and the disastrous War on Terror has demonstrated the havoc shortsighted action can cause. Unintended consequences are a direct result of non-consequential thinking. Tactical Hell – Not every hill is a good hill to die on, and it’s easier to value tactical considerations over strategic ones. As the history of warfare illustrates, constantly fighting battles will eventually drain one of their energy and resources. Engaging in costly, endless proxy wars eventually wore down the Soviet Union, and more recently has precipitated similar results for the US in Afghanistan. Similar to the saying that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, it is far more preferable to be a competent strategist than a master tactician. Ticker Tape Fever – Based on the ticker tape from earlier days of the stock exchange, people tend to panic and sell when values plummet, or buy in when prices are high. When following trends we have a tendency to let our emotions govern us such that we feel that we’re on a rollercoaster. The t goal for overcoming this tendency is to step back and understand that often there is an ebb and flow, a cyclical nature to events and circumstances. Lost in Trivia – Especially true today with the ubiquitousness of information we are exposed to, sometimes it is easy to get overly bogged down in inconsequential trivia while neglecting those pieces of information that are actually relevant. The key to mitigating this tendency is to scale one’s priorities, and focusing on the information most relevant to these priorities. We only have but so much mental bandwidth, and getting bogged down in trivia will distract from making the best decisions from the most essential information. The Farsighted Human Most people have a negative view of the passage of time, and as a result are constantly immersed in the present while neglecting other references of time. While it is healthy to be grounded in the present moment, living a life of constant reaction to a snapshot analysis present circumstances subjects one to an emotional state like being on a rollercoaster. Time has the great advantage of giving us greater perspective, and as such our relationship to time should be harnessed to allow access to the past wisdom gained from our earlier selves, while allowing us to make the most of every moment and to make decisions based on their long-term effects. A greater relationship with time is what transforms us from mere tacticians to superior strategists.