We are more likely to develop hindsight after we have made a mistake that has probably costed us something expensive. We are also likely to be hyper focused on moving on from a mistake, so much that we fail to make proper use of hindsight. Popular sayings have a way of making it seem like looking back, which is what hindsight means, is such a bad thing to do when it is the most common sense thing to do after things go wrong or even right.
Have you wondered why looking back is given such a bad reputation? In my observation, linear and rigid thinking is the root of such ideology. The human life is not a straight highway without curves or bends; even highways have those. The human life revolves in a cyclical way and that means that without care or caution, lightening will most likely strike the same place twice! This just means that if we don’t actively try to clear out the things in our paths that cause us to fall and topple over, then we are likely to trip and fall again when we arrive at that same spot.
The human journey is not a race to reach a destination. It is more of going around in one big circle over and again until we become familiar with the route, become skilled at overcoming the hurdles on our path, become more accepting of the struggles on those paths, and/or find (healthy) ways to cope with our pains and disappointments as we we continue to go around the cycles of our lives repetitively. This is why it is important for each individual to learn how to look back at past, recurrent, or immediate past events in their lives, and use the soft skills of asking questions and problem solving to make for a better life experience.
Without a proper hindsight, foresight is flawed, especially because of the cyclical nature of life. A lot of times, we feel that stopping for even a brief moment to re-evaluate incidences in our lives is a waste of time. If raised with certain doctrines where we were taught that looking back led to a negative outcome, then we are even more afraid to look back, because we have subconsciously internalized the lesson that something goes irreversibly wrong when we look back. Part of the fears that we have about looking back stems from our unwillingness to put in the required work into righting something that we did wrongly. In it’s worse case, we don’t even want to see that we could have been wrong in the first place. Being wrong, or knowledge of being wrong, can cause a lot of mental distress in some of us, so we would rather avoid such information.
But the difference between one person who records marked excellence in their field of expertise, and another in that same field of expertise who is average, is that the excellent one is constantly reviewing past performances to see what can be improved upon, what can eliminated, and what can be introduced to make for a better performance next time. This is one of the many ways that practice makes perfect. Being able to quickly and effectively evaluate past performances in a time-guided manner proves to be one of the strongest elements of practice that leads to perfection.
If you think that hindsight can go wrong, you are correct; hindsight can go terribly wrong for overthinkers who tend to ruminate over past events using the skewed lenses of hyper-criticism. Rumination keeps the mind stuck in a state to keep experiencing the sensations and distress that accompanied a past event without being able to break free from the feelings and develop insights on what can be done to stop a bad incidence from recurring, or minimize the damage that may come from that incidence. Rumination may have a role in why people develop posttraumatic stress disorder. When we ruminate, we are disregarding the element of time, which doesn’t stand still for anyone.
Here are a few ways to cultivate healthy hindsight skills:
1. When regarding past events, bear in mind that time is of essence. Apportion a set time to go over it, and whe that time is past, move on.
2. During the evaluation process, remember that thinking is what solves problems, and overthinking only creates more problems.
3. Use equal portions of compassion for self & other people involved, but also make sure not to minimize criticism for self & other people, or over-amplify it either.
4. Instead of questioning your self-worth, intellect, or capabilities when you find out what you did wrongly, ask questions about how to get it right next time. Asking questions elicits critical thinking & ups problem solving skills; questioning self creates more problems.
5. The importance of forgiveness during the exercise of developing hindsight cannot be over stressed. Take loads of forgiveness along for yourself, and for other people who may be involved. You will be better for it.
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