Hundreds of years ago people had to fight for survival in a different way than we do today, but some of their insights can help us thrive in our modern circumstances. Back then, people had to physically defend themselves, so doing anything that gave them an advantage was important for protecting their families and interests.
One tactic was understanding how to expand your “horizon” so that you could see an enemy coming from a distance. If you’ve ever seen castles from the past, you’ll notice they are built on high ground or some sort of hill. This is because most successful kingdoms realized that with high ground you could actually push the horizon out further and increase your visibility — a huge advantage over low ground. So that’s where Kings and Queens built their castles.
Fast forward to the modern era: expanding your horizon is still a key distinction between businesses that are able to succeed and thrive versus businesses who are always caught off guard and struggling to survive. I’m not talking about moving your business to the top of a hill or buying a telescope, I’m talking about expanding your “planning horizon.”
Your planning horizon is how far out you look into the future when you are doing strategic planning. This one habit will literally determine whether you live day-to-day, week-to-week, or year-to-year. For example, if you haven’t been on a vacation in a while or holiday shopping seems to sneak up on you every year, chances are good that your short planning horizon is to blame.
Simply put, the further you consistently look into the future while planning, the higher your chances for success. Let’s use the example of planning a vacation: if you plan a vacation for next week, what will happen? Likely you’ll pay the highest prices for your flight, hotel, etc. because you won’t have the time to shop around or wait for discounts. Also, many of the activities that you wanted to enjoy on vacation may be sold out or unavailable for the same reason. Your stress level will likely be elevated and the vacation won’t be nearly as much fun as it could be.
On the other hand, if you were planning a big trip for twelve months from now, the experience would be completely different. You could wait for great deals on flights, hotels, etc. and you’d have no trouble booking the activities you wanted. You would experience less stress, have more options, and get much better results in every area of the trip.
The same is true in business and in life. I’m sure it’s not news to you that planning further in the future yields much better results, but far too many people have a very short planning horizon and are suffering needlessly because of it.
Ask yourself how far in advance you are actually planning. Do you plan daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, yearly? I believe that if you aren’t at least considering things on a yearly basis (and ideally closer to 3-5 years), then your planning horizon is too short.
This doesn’t mean that you only make plans for the year and then never plan again, it simply means your plans for today, this week, and this quarter are based on accomplishing the things you want to achieve this year (or decade). If you never look this far into the future, your business is stuck reacting and in ‘survival’ mode rather than living proactively and flourishing.
Consistency and alignment of long-term and short-term planning are essential in accomplishing large projects and building your business. If you take the time to evaluate your planning horizon, adjust it accordingly and use it to guide your daily actions, the results will amaze you!
Garrett Gunderson is the founder and Chief Wealth Architect of WealthFactory.com, and a financial advocate for entrepreneurs.