Take time to live in the present

One of the things I have always appreciated about privately-held or family-owned businesses is that their management can think long term. They don’t have quite the earnings pressure which managers at publically held firms face. When your stock is widely held, you have to think about the stock price every day, and rarely can you focus out ahead farther than the next quarter’s earnings report. I think it is a lot tougher to build something of value when you are forced to think in 90-day increments rather than in one-, three- or five-year blocks.

But in the current interest rate environment, even managers of closely-held companies are being forced to think short term. Speaking at a recent seminar I attended, an economist urged business owners to think short term when managing their investment portfolio. Managers who tie up their asset for years to come in search of yield will get burned when rates start to rise.

It is good for those of us in privately-held businesses to get a reminder every now and then about the importance of thinking in the present. It is too easy to focus on the future at the expense of the present. Rather than being grateful for the present, we end up being presumptuous about the future. Doesn’t that sound like a recipe for misery?

I think we can alleviate a lot of stress in our lives by acknowledging what we have today rather than focusing exclusively on what we want for tomorrow. Gratitude is cultivated by thinking more about what you have than about what you want. Thinking about what you have can yield surprising thoughts: Oh my gosh, most of us have so much more than people living in other parts of the world! What a good thing to remember just a week before Thanksgiving.

A colleague of mine always urges fellow business managers to acknowledge the support and help of those around them. For many, that starts with family and friends; staff, colleagues and customers are right there as well. When we think about what we have, it is the relationships with those closest to us that make gratitude easy.

There are 525,600 minutes in a year. If we can easily count each minute, then let’s make an effort to really live each minute. Long-term thinking is important but I can see that it’s not enough. Whether managing your investment portfolio, your business or your life, the best long-term plans start with a profound appreciation for the present.

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