Entrepreneurship presents an exciting opportunity for everyone wanting to make their claim in this world. So much that planning every tiny detail becomes unavoidable. And planning is one character trait every entrepreneur shares. 

But there’s one trait every entrepreneur considers “the most important.” That trait is long-term thinking. Long-term thinking is similar to planning as both share several similarities. However, the difference between both is that long-term thinking is the initial idea or direction you achieve through planning.

Essentially, you can’t plan without an idea. And to get to the idea, you need to think in the long-term. But how does long-term thinking help you succeed entrepreneurially? Moreover, how do you become better at it? I’m going to explain both in this guide. I’m also hoping you will learn how to apply long-term thinking to achieve your entrepreneurial dreams. 

So with all that said, let’s start.

Long-Term Thinking Helps Excel Your Idea

Linear thinking is the opposite of long-term thinking. With linear thinking, you have a starting point and an ending point. Although linear thinking is great for pinpointing goals and achievements, it’s terrible for coming up with a winning idea.

On the other hand, long-term thinking is excellent for coming up with proven business ideas. Why? Well, because long-term thinking makes your idea that much better. In addition, it helps you explore the “in-between.” When you think in the long term, you avoid the linear ideas that tend to come up. 

Avid entrepreneurs should take as much time as necessary to develop a winning idea for their next big thing. To give you a real-life example, let’s look at Apple. Steve Wozniak came up with the Apple I and wanted to make it portable. 

So what did he do? He put it in a briefcase. Wozniak’s Apple I was a revolutionary idea and the thinking behind modern laptops. 

Read more: How to Start a Podcast for Free (Complete Guide)

Long-Term Thinking Helps You Make Better Decisions

When starting a business, the first thing you do is analyze the market. We do this to determine if the market has a demand for our product. Why go through the trouble of starting a business where no one is interested in buying your product?

It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking in the short term. You might stumble upon a short-term opportunity, but you aren’t seeing the whole picture. Even if it’s an excellent opportunity, will it succeed ten years later? By taking time to consider all aspects of your idea seriously, you consider all the factors. 

This helps you make better decisions that reflect better in the long term. Spending ten years formulating a winning business plan is better than going bust in ten years. This is probably the most common issue entrepreneurs face. 

We’ve all heard endless stories of failed ventures and ideas. Trial and error are so common in the entrepreneurial world that most successful business owners have to learn about it the hard way.  

And many will tell you trial and error are necessary for becoming a successful entrepreneur. But nothing says you shouldn’t be prepared and think it through longer. 

Short-term opportunities will always present themselves to you in one way or another. Avoid them and instead, use long-term thinking to find the right opportunity. 

Long-Term Thinking is Risky but Worth Taking

Every revolutionary idea is risky. The people who’ve come up with some of the greatest inventions had no idea they would change the world this much. Steve Jobs even hated the idea behind the iPhone as it would mean taking a huge risk. 

At the time, Apple had the iPod – a highly commercially successful product. But the likes of Nokia, with the Nokia 5510, marketed their products as a phone that could play music. The concept put Jobs on edge. Jobs knew that creating a phone to rival the market could possibly make the iPod obsolete. But it was a risk worth taking. And the risk certainly paid off.

Long-term thinking is often portrayed as risky. However, you can never take risks in the entrepreneurial world without long-term thinking. That’s what separates successful entrepreneurs from failed ones. Being a bold risk-taker is only possible if you think about the idea in the long term. 

Another example is Elon Musk. He put all his money into three companies with very slim chances of success. 

Fortunately, Elon thought about it for a long time, and the outcome is clear for everyone to see – Musk is the wealthiest man in the world. 

Long-term thinking is risky. But without it, it’s impossible to make outstanding returns on anything. 

Long-Term Thinking Takes You Where Others Can’t

Allow me to reiterate that long-term thinking is, in fact, the most important trait of successful entrepreneurs because it puts the focus on the future. 

And we don’t mean only in terms of planning, but everything. Successful entrepreneurs look at where the world will be by the time their idea becomes a reality. You can’t convince people you have the next best thing if you don’t think ahead. 

The first digital nomad, Steve Roberts, thought people would eventually travel and work as technology improved. Eventually, that became a reality, and being a digital nomad nowadays is worth it for several reasons. For starters, it gives you the freedom to explore opportunities and travel the world. 

In addition, it makes you more productive as you uncover new opportunities during your travels. Lastly, it can increase your income by a significant amount as it makes you free from traditional working norms. 

However, very few people can be digital nomads. Achieving a significantly different lifestyle from most others takes long-term thinking and planning. 

But Steve Roberts saw the potential of computers, laptops, tablets, smartphones, and the internet. So he started way ahead of everyone else and was the first to revolutionize the lifestyle. 

How to Become Better at Long-Term Thinking?

So that begs the question, how do you develop the trait? How do you become better at thinking in the long term? Well, there are several ways to do it. Not every single one will appeal to you or work for you, but you will eventually find a way to hone your long-term thinking skills.

Let’s explore that in more depth.

Identify What You Want

This will sound quite a cliche, but every successful entrepreneur doesn’t start without knowing exactly what they want. To identify your “wants,” you need to think in the long term.

So the first step to becoming a long-term thinker is to identify your goal in life. If your goal is to launch a successful business, start thinking about what the business will be. But don’t stop there.

You must plan out every single step of the way. Doing this will not only give you direction and instructions on where to start but will make the process of thinking in the long-term much, much simpler. 

I have to admit that it will not be easy, especially when you come across short-term opportunities to help you accelerate the goal. But you must stay away from short-term gains and stick to your beliefs.

Focus On It

You can’t map out your entrepreneurial career and sideline it for the time being. You need to keep thinking about ways to achieve the end goal. For many people, this is where long-term thinking stops.

They know what they want and how to achieve it. So, they start working on making their dream a reality. But you’re making a massive mistake by stopping thinking in the long term. Instead, you need to continue to evolve and change the way you think. Doing this prepares you for the unavoidable obstacles life throws at you. 

You must never lose focus on your end goal and always stick to long-term thinking as a means to achieve it. In a sense, you must always be one step further. And the only way to keep a distance is through long-term thinking.

Monitor Your Progress

Long-term thinking doesn’t mean sitting at home daydreaming about the future. It means thinking about the future but working your way to achieving it. 

If you want to be better at long-term thinking, you have to start monitoring the progress you make on the road to becoming a successful entrepreneur. So you must “check in” and see how you’re doing from time to time. 

Doing this gives helps clarify how far you are from achieving your goals. If things are going great, you’re on the right track. But you must change the thinking process if things aren’t doing great. 

Having the ability to adapt to each situation is a trait of every successful entrepreneur. But traits often complement one another, and that’s exactly the case between adaptability and long-term thinking. 

Through long-term thinking, you are making it easier to adapt to each new situation you find yourself in. Why? Well, because you’ve already explored it before. 

You know exactly what to do if something goes wrong. It’s in your head, and all you need to do is implement the solution. 

Final Thoughts

Long-term thinking is a trait every successful entrepreneur has, but is it an overlooked trait? Most people will tell you that the most important traits an entrepreneur must have include leadership, self-motivation, work ethics, competitiveness, integrity, etc.

While these are all important traits, the most important one is long-term thinking. Long-term thinking is the first step in the process of becoming a successful entrepreneur.

It helps you map the road ahead and helps you plan for every situation. It is the starting point and the ending point of the journey, and it makes sure it is a successful one. 

But most importantly, it is a trait that every successful person you read about has. Without it, they would be lost, narrow-minded, and only look to achieve short-term gains.

Short-term gains will never take you to the top. So stick to your long-term beliefs, and you will eventually start making money from your idea. 

This is a guest post written by Erik Bergman

Erik Bergman co-founded Catena Media and helped grow it to over 300 employees and a $200 million valuation before stepping away to start Great.com, an iGaming organization that donates 100% of its profits to environmental charities. In addition to running a successful online affiliate business, Erik also hosts the Becoming Great podcast, shares entrepreneurship tips with his more than 1 million social media followers, and contributes to sites like Entrepreneuer.com, Business Insider, Foundr, and Forbes.

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