Using Hindsight As Your Foresight


The same failures you might look back on as your biggest mistakes are also your future mistakes if you don’t make a change. It isn’t enough to just notice past failures, because that is avoidance of working through them. It is foolish to talk like you were a different person two years ago, when it is likely that you are very similar to the person you were when you made some error. It isn’t appealing to accept this, but it has to be done if you want to find ways to prevent a similar occurrence.

Money Example

Let’s say you made a huge error years ago that indirectly ended up costing you a lot of money. This could be a valid example for many folks. If this were the case, you would get no benefit in telling everyone about your failure to hold on to the money, or about how you lost it. On the other hand, you need to see what it was about you that caused the large loss of money. Maybe it came down to you being too shy to challenge someone when they left your assets in a precarious situation, or you were too afraid to fire an employee when your business was failing, and so you lost even larger sums in the process. Regardless of the situation, you need to see where your weakness was.

Relate Past Experiences To Today

Once you find out where you went wrong, look for similar examples in what you are doing today. This is more important than detailed reflection, because what you are doing today is what you will look back on soon enough. Maybe the same shyness is leading to you unable to maintain good relationships with your new customers, leading to you losing them. Possibly your lack of self-confidence based on your skill set is keeping you from trying a new opportunity, just like it did many years ago.

Take the failure of the past, and maneuver the new predicament the way you wanted the old failure to work out. In life, you get as many tries as it takes until you understand a concept. You can’t move past something, to the next step, until you understand the concept behind it. The goal of using the failure in this way is to open your mind up a bit more. Your hindsight is a source of mind-opening material. One other important part of this is to trust that you can outdo or work around the failure this time around. If you think you don’t have a chance, you might as well not take part in this, because when you think you can’t, you can’t.

Also, you have to avoid the scarcity mindset when you do this. If you feel like a past failure was your only real opportunity, then you’re not going to have any motivation to try again this time. Successful people never feel this way. Life makes sure you get tested with failures every so often, and the people with a scarcity mindset get weeded out along the way. On the other hand, if you feel like you have another shot, the failure can be overcome.

High School Example

Let’s say you were in high school, and remember not being able to socialize with others as you would have liked. If this means that you don’t have a chance to build a social group in college, work, in the public, or in some other fashion, then you are placing unnecessary limitations on your future. Obviously, you have a chance to turn the tables around. The social group you build now might be twice as good as the one you would have built up at that past time.

Neighbor Example

One other example that comes to mind is how you view your neighbors. Long ago, I had neighbors, which is normal, but I would do less than I desired, in order to not seem outlandish to them all. Now, with new neighbors, I realize the fleeting qualities of each set of neighbors, and how they can change in an instant. It makes no sense to hold back on doing something around your residence because of how it might make you look to a neighbor. This is a wasteful thought process to have. I use that hindsight to remind me of what to do these days.

There might be some folks that want you to give up when you fail in some way, as they hope that the failure keeps you down. These are the folks you might want to remember when you feel like giving up hope that you can do better the second time around.

Photo by Suburban Bloke

11 thoughts on “Using Hindsight As Your Foresight”

  1. I loved the neighbor example. That is something I’ve been thinking about lately and consciously allowing myself to care less. It’s relaxing and fun to be a little bit more of yourself even though people are watching ;-)

    1. Hey Henri.

      I sure felt like that example was relevant. I know it meant something to me, and usually the examples that mean something to me mean something to others too. I need to keep that in mind for future articles.

      It sure is relaxing to be that way. Others don’t have the intent to crush our spirit or anything like that.

  2. It is far easier to learn from failure than it is from success.

    I have something to say about the beginning of this article, though… there are two real parts of a person, their core nature and their traits that grow out of that nature. It’s very difficult, and slow, to change your core nature, but the traits that grow out of it, which are all that most other people will see, can change very quickly.

    So when you say that it’s unlikely that you’re much different than you were two years ago, I disagree with you. The core is likely to be the same, but much of the rest is likely to have changed over two years, especially if you made a big mistake… when you get bitten as the result of a decision, you’re likely to withdraw from that sort of thing in the future, which results in a considerable surface change.

    The real problem is when your surface traits start conflicting with your core nature… that’s when it really starts to make long-term impacts.

    I know I’m only responding to something that was a small part of the overall article, but it’s a big issue to me.

    I DO think that fear of failure is far more harmful than failure itself (as you imply in the article).

    1. Hey Jason.

      Good point there. Failure tells you what you did wrong pretty specifically, while success is not as obviously able to be broken down into components.

      That’s a good way to put it out about the core nature and traits. I feel similarly. We have our developed section, which is pretty unchanging, and then those experiences that we don’t forget, because they were tough, and we don’t want them to occur again.

      I’m glad you brought up that issue, and you described that part in a way I see as accurate.

      Thanks for your thoughts.

  3. Like Henri, I too really like the neighbour example. When I fail at something, and people think I should quit, I tend to use this as motivation to make me want to do better.

    1. Hi Roxy.

      I will remember to continue to include valid examples that are as realistic as I think of them in the first place. It is better for all that way.

      Good call about using the non-support from others as motivation. Some see that non-support and give up that attempt.

    1. Hey Amanda.

      This is true. Showing up is pretty good though. I usually figure out what I need to do if I show up, and on time. You are right though that we can’t just stop at showing up, or people will start to wonder what we are about.

      Thanks for your thoughts.

  4. Great examples Armen and great to see you posting here at Change this. Its been a long time favorite blog of mine so I was pleasantly surprised to see you as an author…

    Anyway this is a great topic and obviously lots to discuss. Its all in how we choose to respond to our past mistakes and whether we dwell on them continuously looking back or learn from it and look ahead. Not a real example but a life analogy I had today that relates to this. A pastor at my church spoke on the subject of moving forward into 2009 and how we choose to look at our past events and failures. The analogy of driving with a windshield and a small rear view mirror. Some people spend all their time looking in their rear view mirror and worrying about what is behind them and they fail to see the best route right in from of them to get where they want to go. Some even look back so much they don’t know where they are going. Scary thought when driving but when you think of that as people’s lives, its even scarier. I hope this article helps reach a few more to use their past in proportion to how they want to progress forwards on the windshield side of life!

    1. Hey Mike.

      Thanks about the examples and post. I sure like using fitting examples to make points as I see them in my head. It helps out a lot.

      That’s a cool and proper analogy there. A person staring at the rear view mirror doesn’t see forward. It is the exact same way with our days. When I think about what happened 5 years ago, for example, I can’t be thinking at the same time of what I want to accomplish right now. We can’t do both at the same time.

      Good point to bring up there that links in with the concepts of the article. You won’t catch me looking back~ (usually)

  5. As with most articles at this site, this one is again right on. Using your past as a teaching and learning tool is the best thing that you can do. As a social anxiety sufferer, I am someone who tends to dwell on his past mistakes, rather than learning from them. We are constantly growing and learning, and if we continue to grow from our mistakes, we will be amazed when are long down the road and looking back at where we used to be. The world cannot be changed overnight, but with a little patience and a lot of persistence, great change can occur…nice post!

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