In the study of economics, we separate long-run effects from short-run effects. The important distinction in cost analysis is to separate long-run average cost from short-run average cost. In the short run, some costs, like rent and other contracts, are fixed and we have little choice but to pay them. In the long-run, all costs become variable and we have the freedom to make new choices without being tied to fixed costs in the short run.
Similarly, in our day-to-day decision making and rounds of choices, we may be restricted in the short run by commitments that must be honored, including contracts that may involve freedom of job choice, bills that must be paid, and agreements and promises that may restrict our freedom of choice.
The distinction between freedom of choice in the long run and restrictions of choice in the short run illustrates the importance of doing both short-run and long-run planning. In the short-run, we may feel that we have little room for making new choices or for doing anything different than what we are already doing until we pay off our current round of bills and debts. But there is nothing wrong and a lot to be said for doing a bit of daydreaming about where we want to be five years, ten years, twenty years from now, depending on our age and personal circumstances.
As we think about the future, we may settle on a plan that meets our goals and fulfills our dreams. Too often, people become locked into their short-run fixed commitments and do not take advantage of the challenge of figuring out a better road to take, a different and more enjoyable job, a better place to live and raise their family, and some way to get out of the ruts that they have found ourselves in.
When we think about the changes we need and want to make in our lives, such as weight-loss, training for a better job, more education, or adopting better health-related habits, we often don't take the time or effort to sort out the short-run implications of what we decide to do from the long-run consequences of our choices. We may make short run decisions based on instant gratification. We eat something or do something because we have a difficult time resisting or foregoing a choice that may have negative repercussions as time goes by.
One of the difficulties of staying on track in trying to achieve a goal like weight loss is that we feel that we are not getting anywhere and that achieving our goal is a futile and hopeless waste of time. In these circumstances, making adequate allowance for the length of time that it takes to achieve a goal and having a greater respect for the long-run benefits of perseverance can make the difference between whether we succeed or fail in achieving our objective. If losing weight, for example, was an easy goal to achieve, we would not see obese and overweight people everywhere we go in our daily activities. The winners in achieving a goal are those who stick to their plans and do not give up or quit in the short run. We all know what it feels like to fail. We also know what it feels like to have a sense of accomplishment and self-control after we begin making progress toward achieving what may have seemed like an impossible goal for a long period of time.
In short, we need to take care of the short run if we want to avoid a deep sense of disappointment and failure in the long run. So many things are possible in the long run if we stay with the every day routines in the short run that will get us where we want to go. As we give greater respect to our short-run choices, we never know what new and wonderful opportunities can appear for us in the long run.
Task Number 205: Consider both the short-run and the long-run effects of your choices. Good luck, and keep going. The Curmudgeonly Professor.