So often in life, I see people (myself included) making decisions that benefit them-short term but damage them long-term. It’s as if a majority of society has lost the ability to think big picture. This summer I’ll turn 48, which means 50 is just around the corner. There’s something about turning 50 that makes one evaluate life, and as such, I’ve spent the last few months really working on looking at every decision from a big picture standpoint. I want to live the second half of my life much more intentionally than I’ve lived the first, and I believe a good way to do that is to look at decisions from a big picture standpoint. What does it mean to think big picture? Here are some examples that have happened to me lately that have caused me to start analyzing the human mind and its seeming inability to think big picture.
Recommended Reading: Think Big: Unleashing Your Potential for Excellence
Big Picture Thinking
I bring my son to DQ to get him a cone. I love ice cream. I’ve really been a champ lately at keeping sugar consumption to a minimum as I work on some health goals. The thought occurs to me that I deserve a treat for all of my discipline and hard work. I think, “I’ll get myself a cone too. I deserve a treat”. This sounds like a nice idea, from a small-picture point of view. But I stop and begin to analyze further.
- How am I going to feel when I wake up the next morning with that extra 500+ calories on my hips and a blood sugar that spent the evening going crazy?
- How am I going to feel when I know that I’ve just delayed my weight loss and fitness goals by another day?
- How am I going to feel when I write down that extra 3 bucks on the spend-tracking spreadsheet, knowing I could’ve put it toward debt?
It may seem like I’m over-thinking a simple issue, but I’ve learned on this journey to debt free that it’s often a whole lot of “simple issues” that add up to a BIG mess, whether in regards to debt, to weight or to life in general. It’s often a whole lot of small picture decisions that seemed like a good idea at the time that turned out to lead to a bad big picture situation. For the record, I decided against getting myself a cone, and I felt a WHOLE lot better the next morning, knowing that I saved myself 3 bucks and 500 calories.
One of my goals this year has been to get back into the stellar shape I was in when we bought this place nearly three years ago. The stress from the move and some other stressful factors led to me packing on 35 pounds in the first two years at the farm. The weight is slowly coming off, and with it, a desire to be stronger, healthier. As such, I’ve made it a goal to add some extra workouts into my days. The workouts really aren’t that draining on the schedule. Some squats, some pushups, some Pilates, etc.
Like you, my schedule is swamped, however. Homeschooling four kids, caring for a home and a hobby farm and running a freelance business take up a good 17-18 hours a day. When night time comes, honestly, I just want to plop myself in front of the TV and zone out. I deserve a break. Each night, as I plop myself in front of the idiot box, I’m faced with a choice: I can watch the tube on the couch, or spend some time on the floor, getting some squats, pushups, etc., in as I half zone out in front of the TV. Honestly, sitting on the couch sounds better, but what do I really deserve? As I go back to thinking big picture about this decision, I start the analysis process once again:
- How will I feel in the morning if I lay on the couch vs. if I use some of that time to do some strength training?
- How will I feel at the beach next month knowing that my choosing the couch option every day had a direct impact on the not-so-firm view of me in a bathing suit?
- How will my decision to lay on the couch instead of spending 20 minutes doing some strength training affect my ability to work, to play and to improve the quality of my life?
So, I get up, and I do the exercises, knowing that, more than deserving to rest, I owe it to myself and I deserve to have a stronger, healthier body that will help improve the quality of my life and benefit me for years to come, as opposed to just letting my body fall into a worse state of disarray and bad health.
There’s work – and plenty of it – to be done around the house. Things need cleaning. I have tutorials and articles that I could read to improve my work life, my personal life or my spiritual life. Yet, the couch is once again calling my name. It’s only 1p.m., but I’ve been up since 5 and going strong for 8 hours. A nap sounds real good about now.
But how am I going to feel the next day when the to-do list is even bigger, because I chose laziness over getting things done? What will my stress level be like then? Big picture, if I can cross a few more things off of the list, it’ll make tomorrow a better day. So I choose to get a few more things done before I take that nap. And it feels good, knowing I pushed myself that extra mile.
Most women (especially moms) I know put themselves last on the list when it comes to caring for themselves, and I’m sure many men do the same. I often think about how nice it would be to have lovely manicured nails, a new haircut, a facial or a good, long soak in the tub. But life is busy and there are things to do. The “small picture” me sees spending time on doing things for myself as a waste of time that could be better used to accomplish the many “to-do’s” I have on my list.
Then I turn to big-picture thinking once again as I ponder my decision.
- How much better of a mom/wife/sister/daughter/friend/worker will I be if I take some time each day/week to nurture and care for myself?
- How much will my stress level decrease and my productivity increase if I treat myself as a person of value?
- How much will I be teaching my kids about valuing themselves if I choose to value myself instead of put myself last?
- How much better will people treat me if I set the example for them and treat myself well?
So I choose to schedule some time in each week to pamper, nurture and care for myself. And the benefits definitely outweigh the time it took to do those things.
In today’s “have it now” society, I think that on many levels we’ve lost the ability to think big picture, in essence training ourselves to get used to being happy with instant results and to see delayed benefits as a bad thing. This backwards thinking could well be the undoing of our society in many ways. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and America saw many years of war and destruction as the founders of this country spent each day learning how to become “the land of the free”. Good things may come with a short amount of effort, but truly great things can come only with time – time and the ability to think big picture and be patient enough to wait for the small daily efforts to add up to great success.