Ask anyone to look back on their life and think about how it’s gone and they’ll be able to do so – Hindsight is always 20/20.
What does this mean? Well it’s a popular quote which suggests that looking back you always see things clearer than you do when you’re ‘in the moment’. Hindsight means to ‘look back’ and 20/20 refers to the scale which opticians use to grade your sight and how well you can see things.
Ask someone how their life has gone.. They’ll normally be able to say exactly when and where they went wrong or right, and why. They’ll be able to say things like ‘If I hadn’t done that, things would be different’ or ‘I’m so glad I met so and so’. These things seem so very clear when we look back on them, in our minds eye, right?
So why can’t we see with this much clarity when we’re right up there, in the present. Why can’t we always see with this clarity and logical analysis? The reason could be one of many, but it’s mainly because we are distracted, confused and ‘caught up’ in whatever it is we’re doing. We are often taken over by feelings, emotions, and sometimes even just ‘go along with the crowd’.
The illusion of control and choice
Looking back it’s easy to say how something could have been done differently.. How if you could go back in time, you’d do it differently and get a different outcome.. So why don’t people do this first time around? It’s because of the illusion of control.
In every day life we use mental shortcuts and pre-programmed blueprints for how we think the world should behave. We use these shortcuts to work out anything from what to wear to whether or not the person next to you is a threat and how close you should get to them. These shortcuts are detailed so I won’t go into them here, but if you’re so inclined, this book is brilliant for this.
So we use these mental shortcuts when we’re ‘in the moment’ to save time, save energy and ultimately (we hope) be more effective as human beings. The problem is these can be influenced and manipulated by people, emotions and situations.
People just aren’t that aware of what’s going on around them
Read the Wiki definition of ‘hindsight bias’ and you’ll read something along the lines of: ‘People can always look back on things as having been predictable, they look back once something’s already happened and see where or when they WOULD HAVE predicted and seen it coming’.
So why don’t we?
Well, it’s because people just aren’t that aware of themselves on a regular basis. There’s too much else going on around them, that most people are trapped in their mind.. Thinking deeply about what to make for dinner, the argument they’ve just had with their spouse or what that weird person on the train was wearing that they almost always miss things that otherwise would have allowed them to predict things ahead of time.
A prison for your mind
We’re trapped in our minds. Derren brown actually opened his latest live tour; Infamous with almost those exact words. Attention is a fascinating subject in psychology and the way human minds work. In fact, watch this video; don’t worry, I’ll wait.
We’re often so focused on what’s going on in our heads or on what we’re paying attention to that we seemingly forget everything else! It’s easy to get caught up in the moment and then look back with 20/20 vision after the event has happened. It’s not all doom and gloom though, and although we’re spent the entire post up to this point thinking about how useless our brains can be, let’s move onto more positive topics.
You can always learn from any failures
People make mistakes. It happens all the time, all around the world. I made a mistake the other month, but it’s the act of looking back that made me grow.
It’s nothing to worry about, aside from reminding you that you should try to be more aware. Hindsight is always 20/20 but because of that you’re able to look at things that have happened with a sense of logic and analysis that allows you to LEARN!
It’s so very important to not only look back on your life but to learn from your mistakes. If you don’t do this then you’re silly and you’ll end up with the same results all the way through your life. Whenever you get knocked down if you just take a step back (so to speak) and look at what’s happened you’ll discover not only why it happened but how to avoid it happening in the future.
People have the idea that successful people fail less.. No, quite the opposite they actually fail far more. People who are successful routinely fail and fail again. The difference is they do it FAST and they keep moving forward learning from their mistakes. They don’t fail once and then just stop trying. Hindsight allows you to become successful. You can look back and think ‘how can I do this better next time’.
If I hear about someone who has failed their driving test 20 times before passing I don’t think ‘what a failure’ I think ‘wow, this is someone who’s clearly found the test difficult yet they’ve kept going and kept trying until they made it’.
Hindsight is always 20/20, so don’t worry too much
So when looking back on life, and how things have gone for you, don’t be too harsh on yourself. Remember that as long as you look back and think about what’s happened you’ll always be able to learn from it and do better next time. Thanks for reading.