Tetmeyer: Change your thinking

Columnist Grant Tetmeyer encourages us to change the way we think and look beyond the short term.

Grant Tetmeyer

Have you ever thought just how far ahead you actually think? Most of us probably think a day or so ahead unless we are specifically planning something. But businesses think multiple quarters ahead; governmental projects are made with years in mind. Even the Catholic Church thinks in centuries, and the Earth moves in millennia. But we as humans only think in the short run, and it is never good.

There is a reason we think this way, of course. We don’t live centuries or millennia, so we tend not to try and fathom that the world will continue long, long after we have died. It may even cause some to have a nervous breakdown and drink until they think they’re immortal again. But this is the type of thinking that we need, especially if we are going to try and tackle hard societal issues like climate change and racism, which have been here long before most of us have been alive and will be here long after. Long-term issues need long-term thinking.

It isn’t just these large issues, either. Think about how your interactions affect others: and not just the fantasies that we might concoct that turn ourselves into heroes in an attempt to justify negative interactions with people. These interactions, especially severely negative ones, can have long-lasting impacts and consequences on people that we never intended to inflict because of the shortness of our own thinking. We have progressed so fast in our evolution and societal construction because of our fixed gaze on the future and our insatiable need to be better and remain on top. It’s how we got factories that helped kill our planet every time they opened their doors and started the conveyor belts. We focused on speed instead of safety. We go with what is easiest instead of what is best — because we only think in terms of ourselves.

We think about what will affect our lifetimes the most, what we will have to live through and experience. It helped propel humans to the status of one of the most dominant, if not the most dominant, species to ever be on this planet. Humans can be found everywhere on Earth. And the combination of this short-sighted drive for innovation and lack of big picture connection has led us to dig our own collective graves. Our forefathers sowed much while they were alive and in charge. And now, we are left to reap the consequences of their actions. 

I encourage all to think longer. Think past your own life expectancy, past your own world, to the larger one that we all inhabit. Think about what the longer-term impacts are of what you do. Think about everyone who you talk to, who you may have wounded. Think about the stances you take and the things you believe. Because our society and species will outlive any of us singularly. We are all actors on the stage of life, and no one is a main character. We all support each other, whether we think we do or not.