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Short term pain for long term gain

By Mark Passfield - posted Friday, 1 April 2016

We have all heard and used the term “short term pain for long term gain”. All coaches, educators, employment councillors, and parents try to instil this idea into their team, students, clients, or children. We do this because we want the best for those that we are spending our time on and with. Each individual is to some extent narcissistic, we are willing to accept change as long as it does not overbearingly weigh on us and our current situation.

The country however needs a holistic outlook with a long term view. The Australian voting public need politicians that have the skill set to show us how these two seemingly opposing positions can line up. Australians need to be led on the journey and convinced that the short term pain of change will be outweighed by the long term national and personal gain.

I like to see people get ahead and personally relish in success. It is natural to formulate a plan for our career, plan for present financial expenditure and our future financial status within retirement. We are actually encouraged to think in this manner via current government policy. To dream in such a manner requires to some degree a level of narcissistic thinking.


When putting a business plan together one attempts to synchronise goals, and budget for the best; one month, one year, and five year outcomes. Start ups consider making a loss for a period in view of the long term advantages. Consideration is made for many variables such as; sales and revenue streams, human resources, operational costs, marketing, and reinvestment strategies.

A new graduate looks at an apprenticeship as an investment in a career as does someone that spends four to six years (and some even longer) in tertiary education. Therefore within our personal goals we allow for some short term pain for the long term gain. However when considering public policy most want to know how it effects me here and now ignoring the holistic five year plan and the long term gain.

Mike Rounds a prominent American politician in the 1950’s stated ‘We can do things the cheap way, the simple way, for the short-term and without regard for the future. Or, we can make the extra effort, do the hard work, absorb the criticism and make decisions that will cause a better future’. Presently federal politicians are; criticised for chasing the populist vote, criticised for trying to reduce spending, criticised for not taking control of spending, criticised for not taking decisive action, criticised for being arrogant and not listening and being out of touch.

One could say they are vilified for whatever action they take. Under the Howard Government Australia experienced the lowest unemployment in recent history. During this same period Australia also experienced high wage growth reaching an all time high of 4.3 percent in 2008, low unemployment of 4.0 percent which some consider to be full employment, and surplus budgets resulting in a zero deficit. The Howard Government had significant issues to navigate around; introducing significant spending cuts in their first year, dealt with the water front dispute, war in East Timor and the war on Terror, asylum seeker and boarder control issues, in 2002 the ASX took a tumble with the Tech bubbly bursting which followed the Asian financial crisis of 1997-1998, not to leave out Howards legacy policy with the introduction of gun control after the Port Arthur massacre.

Although economically the introduction of the GST in 2000 was the single biggest taxation reform of the Howard era. For Australia to get back to significant wage growth the Australian economy needs to be at a position of low unemployment. Therefore the Australian voting public need to consider policies that may personally seem to produce short term pain but will deliver long term gains for all Australians.

Lining up the two potentially opposing agendas is all but imposable although in the words of Anthony Albanese, ‘Short-term thinking is the greatest enemy of good government’. Donald Trump is the most popular politician in the world presently. He represents a new error where the voting public want their leaders to stand for something, to be strong, and to go against the norm. 


He typifies the thinking behind Paris Hilton’s comment, ‘The only rule is don't be boring and dress cute wherever you go. Life is too short to blend in’. The test for the Coalition will be the May budget. Will this be boring or will it dress cute and stand out. Will our politicians stand for something that will be in the long term the best for all Australians and can Prime Minister Turnbull and Treasure Morrison lead the people to visualise the end game and accept the short term pain for the long term gain?

Looking past the short term narcissistic position on a policy and visualising the positive outcome for ourselves and the country is not easy but necessary. Policies and the promoters of them need to be clear and succinct as to the intended outcomes and timeframes of their policies. For this to be achieved a policy needs to be intrinsically considered and understood and not just a mind bubble. Additionally, 101 of any change management process require the management to plan out the journey and bring the participants and stakeholders with you. Most do not like change and it takes time to consider and understand the proposals before getting onboard.

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About the Author

Mark Passfield has an MBA Accounting and Finance and an Academic Medal.

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