In the morning, a man walks with his whole body; in the evening, only with his legs.  —Ralph Waldo Emerson

A number of years ago, we were presented with the opportunity to buy a company that had tremendous potential for our business. As is the case with many opportunistic deals, timing was critical: it had to be a fast evaluation and negotiation. I was very excited about the possibilities this acquisition presented and jumped-in. Lost in the thrill of the chase, I worked relentlessly to find a way to get it done. Within a few weeks, we had evaluated the deal, negotiated terms, and lined-up funding.

The day before I was to fly out to a formal closing on the transaction, a stack of contracts, spreadsheets, and notes stared back at me from the top of my desk. A nagging doubt had entered my mind. Now that the challenges of structuring, negotiating, and funding were met, I began to look past the closing of the deal.  In all of the noise of numbers, contracts, and conversations, had I missed something? Retracing my steps, I realized that the fundamentals of the deal were still good and the strategic justification for it remained – this acquisition would guarantee our ability to meet growth projections for the next 12 months and beyond. Perhaps the shadow of doubt now in my mind was simply the natural fears that emerge with any significant commitment?

Then I realized that it wasn’t our vision at month 12 that concerned me…it was the morning after the deal was signed. Absorbing the new operation was going to put significant strains on our existing organization, and though it looked like it would play out well in six to twelve months, that first 180 days was going to be really painful. After about 24 hours of doubtful anguish leading up to the closing, I was on the phone with the sellers at midnight the night before telling them that I wasn’t flying out; we were walking away from the acquisition.

We’ve all been there: standing at the edge of a significant decision. Weighing the pros and the cons, we work through the logical arguments trying to reach the right conclusion. With financial decisions, the risks and potential rewards can be easy to calculate. Our risk tolerance (or lack thereof) can make some of those decisions easier. What about the less dramatic decisions we make?

For many of us, the longer range future is easier to manage. In that future, we make more money, work through our current problems, enjoy more happiness, balance our time more effectively, eat less and exercise more, make better decisions, and generally live a better life. The greater challenge lies in the next moment, day, week, and month. We often make decisions without properly envisioning the morning after and imagining what those initial steps will be like. The first moments after a decision are foundational. Our commitments can be brilliantly prescient or horrendously mistaken. In the long run, we always see things working out but it is in the mornings-after that our long run vision runs off track.

In the long run, we always see things working out but it is in the mornings-after that our long run vision runs off track.

The impact points of big, dramatic, decisions are easy to see if we take the time to look. A major problem for most of us are what we perceive as smaller decisions. In the small choices, the stakes seem so much smaller so we don’t spend the time really considering the morning after. The mistake in this thinking is underestimating the impact of these small decision; especially over time. Consider food or money: it is in the small decisions that we falter. Buying a house or a car? You take the time to properly analyze the options, determine what you can afford, and find the best deal. Should you encounter buyer’s remorse, you have something to sell. What about a five year habit of Starbucks twice a day? There is no recovery of that money or those calories – they add up quickly and time flies.

I am not here to suggest that we replace long-term thinking with short-sightedness. Clearly a blend of both is necessary to maximize our effectiveness and be our best every day. However, we need to remember that hopefulness tends to blind us to morning-after ramifications. A distant horizon always gives us more time to figure things out and fortunately, most of us are innately optimistic about our future prospects. No matter the magnitude of those prospects, their fruition is dependent on many morning-afters. Your choices in those many moments will bring you closer or take you further away from whatever future you envision.

This week, in personal or business decisions, consider the morning after. Go ahead, paint big, bold, visions for your future. Put yourself at a profound edge with major potential positives for your life. Then think of the morning after and the myriad choices you need to make to bring it to life. From there, make the decisions every day that take you closer to that vision. Let your morning after see the light of forward momentum toward your best life. One choice at a time.

 

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