The Benefit of Hindsight

May 11th 2020

If I Only Knew Then What I Know Now...


I bet you have said this too, or words to the same effect – and those words normally come with a feeling of regret, “If only I had known then what I know now, I would have done things differently.”

The reality is though, that you didn’t!  You made the best decision, took the best route available to you AT THAT TIME when the knowledge you now have, wasn’t available to you.

So hindsight provides two opportunities:

When you look back you see the past from the position you are in now.  And in that new position you have new knowledge gained by having gone further along the road.

Imagine being asked if you want to watch a film.  If you have never seen that film before, you have no idea if you are going to enjoy it or not.  However, if you have seen that film, you reflect back and remember you enjoyed it and hence, are enthusiastic about seeing it again.  Or of course, the opposite may also be true!

Because you have had the experience, you can make a decision that will give a lower risk outcome than having not had that experience.

And once you have had that experience, you can never ‘unhave it’ and thus your perspective on things change.  The experience may have led to a new level of confidence, a new skill set or habit.  It will have changed you in some way.  And even if you decide not to use it, it will always be there and accessible.

I am sure before lockdown started, many of us have gone down the road of, “If I had known it was coming I would have…bought loads of paint/compost/toilet rolls….” but most of us carried on life as normal based on the information we had at that moment.

Now that we have all experienced lockdown, we can never forget what it has been like and the learnings we have made will remain with us.

But the real value of hindsight is supporting foresight

Having had the experience of lockdown, this becomes the hindsight that we will look back and see from tomorrow, next week, next year.

And so the only real negative around hindsight is not using it!

It can support future decisions that may suggest that working from home provide a more balanced life.  Or calling family more regularly has improved relationships.

Time to stop looking back and start looking forward

I work with a lot of clients who are struggling with being caught in the past.  It is like they are driving along with only the image in the wing mirror to guide them.  And it prevents them from being able to plan a route forward.

However, when you use those mirrors just to glimpse in every now and again, you remember what you learned and this provides the best knowledge you have access to in that moment to plan your onward journey. True, there may be more bumps in the road ahead, and the learning you have gained from your past, will make you better at coping with them.

If you are struggling with your current situation, could it be that you are stuck looking in your wing mirrors?  Can you stop and notice what learning you have made in the journey since then?

And when you do that, you may find that the future becomes more accessible to you and you can start to plan your route forward with more confidence knowing that yesterday’s hindsight will help you tomorrow.

What has been your greatest learning from lockdown?  Please share your experiences with me in the comments box below.

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