The Importance of the Long Game & How to Play It

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“Playing the long game.”

This is a phrase that we’re hearing many marketing experts — like Seth Godin and Gary Vee — talk about these days.

But, what exactly does it mean? The Urban Dictionary says the long game is, “having a long-term plan, long-term goals, or doing things now that set you up for the future.”

As business owners it seems reasonable to think we’d all be considering it, doesn’t it? Then why is it that we don’t?

It’s because we’ve been programmed to only look for and celebrate quick success.

It seems that everything about the society we live in is designed for instant gratification. From instant meals, to instant messaging, to instant bank transfers — everything is at our fingertips (quite literally), including the validation & gratification that follows.

With the rapid change in technology and ability to share and consume content at lightning fast speed, plus the explosion of online personalities turned millionaires, it can be difficult not to slip into comparison mode and feel disappointed when we aren’t seeing immediate success for ourselves.

But, here’s the deal: all this activity online is leading us to believe that we can sprint our way to success, when in reality, “Life ain't a track meet (no) it's a marathon.” (Thanks, Ice Cube, for those words of wisdom). It’s those who are approaching their lives and businesses like a marathon that will win the true prize: lifestyles and businesses that lead to feelings of fulfillment and accomplishment, even on the bad days — providing an underlying sense of meaning when the quick fixes and shortcuts don’t get us where we want to go.

So, how do we play the long game?

These 3 simple steps are a great place to start:

ONE | ASK YOURSELF, WHERE DO I WANT TO BE IN X YEARS? AND, THEN PROMPTLY ANSWER, “WHY?”

Your long-term plan doesn’t need to be detailed or specific, but asking yourself where you want to be in five (or even two) years, will help you then create a marathon training plan to fulfill your dreams. Answering, “why?”, will keep you going on those inevitable training days where the metaphorical rain is pouring down in buckets and the wind is whipping you in the face. Having trouble answering, “why?”, ask yourself what makes you feel invigorated, excited, inspired, in flow. Then use those answers as a filter for making each new long game decision.

TWO | WHERE ARE THE PEOPLE YOU MOST WANT TO SERVE?

Once you have a clear vision of where you want to be and what you want to do, answer the question, “who will most benefit from what I have to offer?” (If you’re stuck on this question, check out our recent post titled, 5 Prompts for Getting Clear on Your Ideal Client). The key here is to put yourself in places where your ideal client is hanging out, be that in-person networking groups, or online Facebook groups, start showing up and consistently delivering value in those places.

THREE | FOCUS ON GIVING, NOT RECEIVING.

If you think about it, most of what we do in life and business is motivated by outside validation. We take the job to make the money. We make connections hoping that they’ll lead to something else. We proudly “hustle” because we desire the badge of honor that perceivably comes from being productive.

But, on the days when our work’s not validated, what happens? Feelings of emptiness and frustration arise. We get annoyed when our help is unappreciated or goes unnoticed. Our work seems to have been all for nothing if the outside validation doesn’t come in the form of compliments, followers, or likes.

If we’re constantly working for the next reward, satisfaction will be hard to come by. It may seem counterintuitive, but if we give freely to a mission that we care about, produce content of value that’s inspiring, or spend time intentionally connecting with people who matter most, the feeling of emptiness shifts – to that of fulfillment, accomplishment, satisfaction.

When we let go of expectation and shift into joyful giving we set ourselves up for an energy exchange of reciprocity, building our muscles and endurance for long-term growth over time. And that provides a long-lasting sense of validation.

Playing the long game means taking deliberate and consistent action that that is rooted in your why and makes you feel purposeful, energized and fulfilled on a daily basis. Because when you’re operating from a place of ease and celebrating the little steps along the way, those feelings and actions compound over time leading to the end result we entrepreneurs all desire: long-term success.