How do you manage the problems of today and the problems of tomorrow?

“The problems of today versus the problems of tomorrow” is a choice we face each day. Whether to deal with the reality of life staring at us this morning or to deal with those issues that will be more important in the future? That is the real question. It is very difficult to put off fire fighting or problem fixing (short term) in order to do problem resolution or problem prevention (long-term). Dr. W. E. Deming, one of the great business leaders and thinkers of the Twentieth Century often used this phrase about the “problems of today versus the problems of tomorrow.” He counseled business leaders to run their organizations by balancing the problems that confront them on a daily business with the long term strategic issues that the organization needed to address for survival. One of his favorite comments was “putting out a fire in the hotel, does not improve the hotel.” When you think about it, as necessary as it might be, putting out fires rarely improves ones long-term position in the world.

This bit of Deming wisdom is something I try to use to manage and improve my own life. Merely focusing on today’s problems does not prepare me for the future or any real growth. It is easy to live day by day and not plan, not save and not grow for the future. How many people do you know that will not be able to afford to retire? How many people do not put money aside for their children’s education? How many people have finished their college education and never gone back to school for any further growth and development? How many people have a diet or exercise plan that they really follow?

If you are only living for today, what will your life be like tomorrow? There is a story about the man saving drowning people who had fallen in the river. He stopped pulling people out and someone said: “You can’t quit now there are still people coming down.” He replied: I am not quitting, I am just going up river to find out what is causing so many people to fall in.” There comes a time when you must stop putting band-aids on life or when you must get to the root of the problem. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. You will always have to deal with short term crisis. But if your life has no room for the future, you will just keep on having these crises. This goes for money, relationships, marriage or children. The best relationships all take time to build for the future. The issue is not how to do one or the other, the issue is how to manage all of them. It is how to manage the problems of today and the problems of tomorrow.

What do you need to plan for your future? What problems in your life need to be solved immediately? How can you balance your problems of today with your problems of the future? What future problems are you ignoring or not planning for? Why? Who could help you with these problems?

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