In Your Leadership: How Do You Develop The Short-Term While Satisfying The Long-Term?

Leadership Lesson: It’s important to constantly assess and consider both what you take in in the short-term and how it contributes to your long-term plans and satisfaction, ensuring you’re not giving away too much, or gaining little or nothing in return. 

Do you want to be happy? Or do you want to be satisfied? Is there a difference? 

According to the article A Nobel-Prize-winning psychologist says most people don’t really want to be happy, there is.

Following its title’s lead, the article covers people’s attitude about and work toward happiness — or, actually, how we don’t ascribe it correctly.  

The article states, “The key here is memory. Satisfaction is retrospective. Happiness occurs in real time,” concluding happiness exists in a moment and can be fleeting, whereas satisfaction is long-term, is built, and is what we should all be striving for. 

Think about it: Even society seems to be embracing and understanding this idea that there’s a difference between happiness and satisfaction. Just look at the studies that have come out about what social media is doing to our mental health (which is also referenced in the article).  

Social media becomes problematic when people are driven by the adrenaline of the “likes” on their social media and the attention attracted to their posts, including pictures. In those instances, they are basing their happiness on momentary (fleeting) reactions from others more than they are on building a life outside of that desire to be “liked.” 

Those likes, for instance – what are they? What do we interpret them as? Respect? Validation? Valuation? People may be seeking the “likes” for the moment, without building something more stable, which lasts longer beyond them.

It’s the traditional short-term satiation versus long-term stability argument. You can see it in students who forgo going out with their friends in order to study. It’s also a very strong discipline in the best entrepreneurs, who forgo traditional social relationships to slave away at their craft and passion.

“Happiness occurs in real time” = the likes. “Satisfaction is retrospective” = what you’re truly building for your happiness outside of that world and outside of what is currently happening.

Satisfaction is not a one-time shot injecting a sense of momentary gratification; it waits until later to look back and deem whether or not an experience is still delivering. In the cases above, it’s the student acing their semester and the entrepreneur reaching their sales and business goals. 

The same happens in leadership and our interactions in the workplace.  

Many people may give into the emotions or impulse of the day and what they seek out as a “win” without considering what it does to their reputation, the quality of the work and workplace, and the path of the overall mission in the long-term.  

Related: Before We Can Find Balance With Others, We Need To Keep Ourselves In Check (Part 1)

That’s the issue with most poor leadership: They want what they think is best for now — short-term — without taking into consideration how it will impact the overall path. This is also illustrated in the avoidance of, or inaction toward, a right decision in the current moment for which repercussions will come at a later time. Again, it’s considering the short-game versus the long-game.

Related Book: Leadership & Self-Deception: Getting Out Of The Box

So many of us get caught up in what we want now, future be damned. And this short-term/long-term consideration exists in so many areas. 


In politics, each side wants its own means implemented to achieve what is essentially the same, general overall endgame as the opposing party – a greater, stronger locality, state, or country. Politicians will get elected, get a majority, and automatically shift gears (in the present) to work toward what they want their future to be, regardless of how receptive the current environment is (or can be) toward their changes. The change makes them happy, without really considering what’s realistically going to happen later. (Think tax plans, environmental accords, etc.)

But that’s the political arena, so, yes, it is different. But is it so different from our everyday interactions and relationships?

Emotional Intelligence 

You can also think of this short-term/long-term conflict through the example of emotional intelligence. In the instances where we give into our emotions (like the momentary happiness), we’re not stepping back, clearing our head, eliminating the obstruction of emotion, and making a focused and clear-eyed decision which would allow a better longer-term impact (long-term satisfaction). 

When it comes to momentary impulse, it is hard to not give in and always try to get the upper hand or gratification. It is a learning process of stepping back and counting to whatever number is needed to clear one’s head. (Just another lesson we can learn from what we teach our young kids: If you don’t get your way, don’t lose it. Instead, take a breath, take a walk, and/or count to __.) 

Related Posts:
– Emotional Intelligence: This Is What It’s Like To Break The 4th Wall
– For All Its Relevance And Benefits, Does Emotional Intelligence Have A Dark Side?


Yet another example is when someone shoots for the appearance of perfection, seeking to appear as if everything is working harmoniously, without a hitch, right now. This represents the snapshot of happiness. Through the desire to appear completely in control and dominant, one may be shooting for the appearance of perfection, taking in the praise and respect it garners in the moment.

But is it a facade? Do they forgo building what truly can be from the ground up on a solid foundation of long-term work to reach a deeper, richer satisfaction? (Think of “perfect life” posts on social media.)

How often might we forget to consider the long-term condition of our environments due to the quick wins of the moment? 

We’re a society – or a world at large — that now has the need for instant gratification ingrained in our genetic code. 

So do you want to take your small win now and be happy, or play the long-game and be satisfied? 

This isn’t to say small wins are a bad thing. It’s not to say social media is a bad thing. Or getting emotional. Or taking political action. Or seeking perfection. Like anything else, it’s about moderation, tempered restraint, and balance. 

It’s about assessment. Are you giving in and taking that win because it will add value? That small win today, or your appreciation of what’s happened today – is it going to pay dividends later, or will it wither away at some point, where you have nothing to show for it later? That’s what counts – the return on your investment. 

That’s why I wrote the title the way I did. You’d expect it to say, “…Satisfy The Short-Term While Developing the Long-Term.” It is true, it should be that way. But taking it one step deeper, more thought (and development and consideration) should be put into the short-term, so that you can satisfy the overall long-term plan. 

It all comes down to value. What value do you take from all your interactions with your coworkers, family, colleagues, acquaintances, strangers, partners, stakeholders, etc. 

It’s about being strategic in where you dedicate your time, energy, and appreciation. Those are resources.

Your happiness is also a resource. Don’t allot it and deplete it where there is no return. 

Use it wisely.

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