“If you have built castles in the air, your work is not lost; now you just have to lay the foundation underneath,” wrote Henry David Thoreau. Unfortunately, few people are able to find the exact combination of inspiration and perseverance. Many nurture big dreams, but do not take the necessary steps to make them materialize. And others let themselves be carried away by circumstances, like leaves moved by the wind, without a clear strategy, so they end up wasting their time and energy.
In life, dreams do not materialize without a strategy. But having a strategy is not a guarantee of success either. We must take consistent steps to achieve our goals, knowing how to interpret and take advantage of the changes that occur in our environment. For this reason, it is important to understand the difference between strategy and tactics, as well as the role that both should play in our lives.
What is the difference between strategy and tactics?
Tactics are concrete actions aimed at solving specific problems and achieving an immediate objective. They generally involve taking advantage of circumstances to our advantage. On the other hand, strategy requires long-term planning since it focuses on achieving more ambitious goals.
In general sense, the 3 most important differences between strategy and tactics are:
1. Temporal scope: strategies are long-term plans that can take months or even years to achieve while tactics are quick actions limited in time.
2. Level of concreteness: strategy usually involves more abstract objectives while tactics are characterized by their level of pragmatism. A strategy usually implies a broader vision and a comprehensive approach. On the other hand, tactics are concrete actions that seek to solve more specific problems. In fact, while a strategy contains different tactics to achieve various objectives, tactics focus on achieving a single goal.
3. Results: strategies, due to their great scope, usually provide results over time, so it is necessary to be perseverant and not give up along the way, while tactics offer more immediate results, although their scope is also more limited.
Why do we need both strategy and tactics?
In a society increasingly accustomed to satisfying its desires quickly, tactical behaviors take precedence over establishing strategies. The search for immediate results is prioritized, taking advantage of the direction that circumstances have taken – whatever it may be.
When this mentality extends to all levels, chaos and uncertainty begin to prevail since there is no clear direction. The lack of objectives and a long-term strategy to achieve them means that decisions and behaviors change depending on the direction of the wind.
However, focusing only on short-term achievements causes us to lose the broader perspective, precisely the one that gives meaning to our lives and allows us to achieve our most ambitious dreams. In that context, it is not difficult for the feeling of absurdity and illogicality to take hold. When we cannot find a common thread in life and in the world around us, sense and meaning (essential to feeling safe and calm) become inaccessible.
Simply using tactics as the wind blows, without a clear strategy, can take the earth away from under our feet. It generates a state of unrest, anxiety and anguish because we cannot understand the direction in which we should move. In those cases, it is not difficult to lose the meaning of life.
The right balance between strategy and tactics to go in the direction we want
When we limit ourselves to responding tactically by taking advantage of changes in the environment, we can obtain short-term benefits, but if these do not respond to a broader strategy, it is likely that we will lurch through life, wasting our time and energy, without achieving what we truly want.
Many people believe that taking advantage of circumstances is a sign of intelligence or even knowing how to flow, but the truth is that without a greater plan that gives us meaning and guidance, it becomes only vain opportunism. If you are not clear about your direction and just follow the flow, you are likely to end up in the waters of a port where you do not feel comfortable.
Likewise, having big dreams without a tactical plan to fulfill them leads to permanent frustration. To achieve something in life we need to take small steps. If we are not able to capture the signals from the environment and take advantage of the opportunities that arise, it will be difficult for us to move in the desired direction.
Therefore, in life we must make sure to find the right balance between strategy and tactics. We must dream, but also make plans. And each of these goals must be supported by concrete actions.
That way, we will know when the current is favorable. We will wait patiently when it is not. And we will build the necessary conditions to achieve our long-term objectives to reach the port we want, not simply the one where the current has dragged us. And that is a change that is worth it.