Friday, August 22, 2014

Short-Term Gain and Long-Term Pain

A dear friend of mine worked in an aged-care home. She was perfect for the job - naturally warm and caring and kind, all the patients adored her, and so did her boss. She was reliable and hard-working and always willing to work overtime.

Gradually over time, her boss came to rely on her more and more, until every day off was interrupted by phone calls requesting her to work overtime and fill in for other colleagues.

After a while she became tired of it and began to think about getting another job…

I wonder how many employers make the same mistake with their best employees? Lean on them more and more, until the neediness becomes stifling and burdensome, and they find another place to work? Their short-term solution (and lack of foresight) makes life harder in the long run, because they lose their best employees and then have the stress of trying to replace them.

Sometimes it pays to honestly evaluate our lives and question if our behaviors and habits and choices are working for us.

Without this kind of awareness, it can be easy to fall into the trap of chasing short-term gains which, under closer scrutiny, actually make life harder for us in the long-term. 

We’ve all heard of people who couldn’t resist the temptation of stealing or cheating or fraud in order to get quick money, and then spent years paying the price for their crimes.

But even good, well-meaning people can fall into the trap of chasing short-term gains and end up with long-term pain. The scenarios may not be as dramatic or obvious as the fraudster who wins big now and loses out later, but they affect our lives just as surely.

This seems to be especially true of parenthood. It can be so tempting to give in to that tantrum, buy that lolly, overlook that bad behavior “just this one time”…for the blessed relief of a moment’s peace and quiet. But what have we gained, really? The next time round (and there always is a next time. Kids are clever that way), it will be that little bit harder, and then the time after that, until the day we realize we have created a rod for our own back. 

I had a stark reminder of this when I first came to Tonga, and was rather disturbed to see my sister-in-law giving her 18mth old son water sweetened with sugar. No doubt it had seemed like a good idea at some point when he was upset and couldn’t be calmed down, but now the molehill had become a mountain with the boy refusing to drink water unless it had sugar added, unable to sleep without his bottle of sweetened water and waking up constantly during the night and crying for more. 

At two years old, his teeth were already beginning to rot and had to have several removed because of terrible toothaches. 

Short term gains and long term pain!

How often do we get involved in an argument with a loved one and insist that we are right. We may well “win” the argument, but the long-term resentment that begins to simmer below the surface has made our victory hollow.

Short term gains and long-term pain!

Our society has become so enamored with the convenience of “fast” food or pre-packaged food. Unfortunately, the obesity epidemic, not to mention the other epidemics of non-communicable diseases like cancer and heart disease, are the results.

We have traded short-term gains for long-term pain – literally! 

It is a false economy to think that you are “saving money” by buying the cheapest foods. Cheap white bread, cheap white flour, minute noodles might look attractive when you’re trying to scrimp and save, but any savings will soon be eroded by the cost of illness and health complaints in your malnourished body.

You simply can’t expect to look and feel like a million bucks if you’re eating from the dollar menu…

The same can be said of “fast” food or packaged “convenience” food and microwave dinners. Any time savings now will eventually be eroded by the lethargy and illness that is the end result of not nourishing your body properly. 

You’re body will never perform like a well-oiled machine if you fuel it with junk.

I spent almost the entire decade of my 20’s, drowning in credit card debt. I would justify purchases saying I needed it now, and next week I’d be able to put the money right back on. But next week came and went, and by then some other bill needed to be paid, and somehow my good intentions became a $21,000 debt.

Sometimes (like the time I rang up and ordered a package from one of those daytime infomercials about how to get rich through real-estate), I even convinced myself that it was justified because it was going to help me make money..!

Each month, we struggled to pay even the minimum payments, on top of the mortgage and all the other bills.
We finally paid back the debt three years ago, only after selling our house and paying out the mortgage. I cut up the cards, closed the accounts and said a permanent goodbye to credit cards. 

Today’s mindset of buy now and pay later has placed enormous strain on so many marriages, families, individuals. Sure, it may be old-fashioned and inconvenient to save up and wait, but the ability to delay gratification and develop patience will reap benefits in the future.

It is good to enjoy today but, in all likelihood, today won’t be our last day on earth. Don’t spend today at the expense of tomorrow...

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