Act in Days; Think in Decades

This New Year’s post is dedicated to a quote by Bill Gates that has kept me going in even the toughest patches:

‚ÄúMost¬†people overestimate what they can do¬†in one year and¬†underestimate what they can do¬†in ten years.‚ÄĚ

I’m not usually big on quotes, but this one has a profound truth to it. One of which is: humans tend to be incredibly short-sighted.

Most of us think and act only in the now. We get so caught up in the issues of the present that we lose sight of the long-term vision. Therefore, while dealing with today is still important, we fail to optimize for future growth and possibilities.

Let’s break down the quote into its two core components:

“Most people overestimate what they can do in one year...

Many New Year’s resolutions turn into dust because people lack the commitment to fulfill them. I believe that this is often caused by:

  1. A fixation on living the dreamy end result now, rather than the journey and discipline required to accomplish it. Which leads to…
  2. A set of flawed assumptions and goals for that journey. Which leads to…
  3. A sharp drop in morale when that misalignment becomes apparent.
Easy example: going to the gym. I dread going to the gym at the start of a year (or semester back in college) because it’s always overpacked. However, I always find solace in knowing that the crowd will inevitably shrink within a few months.
 
Why? Because:
 
  1. Most new people only focus on the outcome of being ripped now, so…
  2. They expect such results in an unreasonable timeframe and misunderstand the necessary steps to get there, so…
  3. They ultimately become discouraged when the work outweighs the lack of instant gratification.

This leads us to the final part of the quote:

...and¬†underestimate what they can do¬†in ten years.‚ÄĚ

It’s so much more tempting to quit when we don’t adopt a long-term growth mindset. Those who do adopt one can appreciate that the early stages are full of rough patches and uncertainty.

But they also grasp the concept of compounding returns unlike the quitters, who either think that progress will forever be dismal or are too impatient for the trench of disillusionment. 

Moral of the story: while we act in the now, we must think in the distant future. Imagine where you want to be in the next 10+ years, and THEN trace back to methodically deduce appropriate goals for the next day, week, month, year, and so-on.

You may not look like the Hulk by the end of this year, and that’s not the end of the world. Your actions will continue to build on one another.

In the meantime, what did you learn? How did you grow? Keep taking it one step at a time, and over time you can look back to see your results compound. Now those are rewards that are worth reaping.