The Hidden Power Of Hindsight & What It Can Teach You

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Hindsight is often referred to as 20/20 vision or Monday morning quarter-backing. So typical… it’s already late in the week.

Hindsight is foresight late on the scene. It is wisdom that has arrived late to the game. It is an appreciation of events after they have taken place.

Hindsight is frequently associated with regret, of hopes deferred, opportunities lost, and griefs borne.

The voice of hindsight is often says:

  • “I wish I had had thought of that
  • I wish I knew then what I know now.
  • Woulda. Coulda. Shoulda.

English actor Daniel Day-Lewis learned from it. He said,

When I was younger, I made some decisions that I shouldn’t have. And, in hindsight, I’ve almost always been wrong when I haven’t listened to myself.

I think we would all be wiser to do so.

What does hindsight teach you?

What does hindsight teach you?

Hindsight is the ability to gain clarity by looking back in retrospect. If you had this kind of clarity beforehand, it would be foresight, a type of wisdom that would prevent you from making mistakes in the first place. But not all mistakes are detrimental. Some mistakes actually serve as stepping stones to greater success.

The Benefits of Hindsight

If you’ve taken the time to reflect, through hindsight, about what needs to change, what can be done to be better, you will
realize some of these benefits:

  • allows you to take internal inventory in every area of your life
  • avoid costly future mistakes
  • causes you to consider what you would have done differently
  • learn vicariously from your life experience and that of others
  • permits you to question what other options you have at your disposal for future

Hindsight cannot tell you what to do now. Yes, you may learn a thing or two looking back, but what happens when you experience something for the very first time? You don’t have the benefit of hindsight to help you. You simply need to weigh your options, press forward and hope for the best possible outcome. Once you have the experience, reflective hindsight will inform you.

Hypothetical Hindsight

Where do you see yourself a few years from now? What are you doing? Who are you with?
Since, you’re there in your mind’s eye (because you’re planning your future anyway) ask yourself,

What can I learn from this? What wise counsel would I give myself?

What if you could travel to the future and post your younger self a letter? What wise counsel would you send?

The Hidden Power of Hindsight

Herein lies the hidden power of hindsight. You don’t have to wait for something to happen before learning from a possible outcome. Foresight is proactive thinking. It allows for the recognition of realities, possibilities or requirements of a situation, event, decision, etc. before its occurrence. It also takes the valuable lessons and experience of hindsight into consideration by understanding and remembering what is important to pay attention to. This realization and recognition allows one to use these insights to be better prepared to handle matters.

You can learn as much from this as exercise as you can learn vicariously from the mistakes of others. But, in this case, you don’t make the mistakes. It is by using foresight — predicting future potential problems — that you prepare yourself with contingency plans for greater success.

This allows you to perhaps make a different decision than you would have otherwise.

Hindsight is an exact science. It is looking through the retrospective lens, that these experiences inform our intellect of the need for change, and the lessons that are invaluable because they pave the way for greater improvements.

Though the landscape of life may be silhouetted with errors, there is always hope because every one of us has room for such improvement. But that same retrospective lens provides us with the knowledge of errors avoided, the wisdom of making proper choices in the moment that, in hindsight, would otherwise have been harmful.

Looking through the lens further out, historical hindsight comes into view.

Historical Hindsight

In May, 2011, Queen Elizabeth II gave an Irish State banquet speech in Dublin castle,
offering sympathy for those dead and injured as a result of their troubled past. She said, in part,

To all those who have suffered as a consequence of our troubled past I extend my sincere thoughts
and deep sympathy. With the benefit of historical hindsight we can all see things which we would
wish had been done differently or not at all.

This kind of hindsight serves as a memorial in the peace process, but is also instructive. Of course, this is only one example. I sometimes wonder if humanity will ever learn its lessons.

Hindsight is good for testing the truth of what you think you know.

Hindsight is also the name of the rear sight of a firearm. So think about where you have your sights set, and where
you’re aiming at in life. It just may steer the course of your actions.

Over to You Now… Have Your Say!

What are the greatest lessons that you’ve been able to learn in hindsight?
What would you like others to know to save them the pain of what you went through?

Please share your wisdom here.

It is truly appreciated! Thank you so much!

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About Bill Butler
William A. Butler is a John C.Maxwell certified coach. He loves to add value to others and aspiring to be a great humanitarian, lives by four words: BE LOVE TO OTHERS. William often goes by "Bill" and is a poet, a songwriter and has an upcoming novel.

17 thoughts on “The Hidden Power Of Hindsight & What It Can Teach You

  1. Hi Bill,

    I learnt about Hindsight like never before and therefore, THANK YOU 🙂

    In a hindsight, I think one of the biggest lessons if I can talk to you about, will be the one I recently shared on my blog with respect to making great first impression. If I would have known those techniques beforehand, my experiences would have been different and perhaps I wouldn’t have lost he opportunities I did because I didn’t know how to be proactive about it at the time.

    Thank you for such a wonderful post today! have a great Thursday and res of this week 🙂

    Regards,
    Kumar
    Kumar Gauraw recently posted…Guest Blogging – Before You Nail The Coffin Shut, Read This!My Profile

    • Good day Kumar,
      Thank you for sharing the valuable lesson you learned. If lost opportunities were $100 a piece, there would be trillions of dollars
      to be earned in hindsight.

      Kind Regards,
      Bill

  2. Bidur Adhikari says:

    Hindsight is insight born of experience, and it can be turned into foresight for any future endeavor. Along with insight, farsight and foresight, hindsight – properly documented with lessons learnt, can make one wiser.

    For example, in retrospect, i’ve been following Bill for last two years: first i knew him as a top commentator at John Maxwell’s A Minute With Maxwell daily video coaching; then as the author of “Be Love To Others” blogsite. I lost the treasury of Jim Rohn quotes he/you provided. Copied and shared his Daily Gratitude Journal some months back with my friends. But did not keep track of ideas and experiences myself. Am trying to come up with a collection of thoughts, a sort of journal, and also a publishable booklet etc. Write one must, if one wants to fight amnesia, in the rush against time. This is my hindsight from 2013’s experience.

    • Greetings Bidur,
      Thank you for your wonderful insights on hindsight. Please check you Email shortly for a copy of the Jim Rohn’s Treasury of Quotations.
      I am very grateful for your loyalty these past couple of years.I look forward to seeing a collection of your thoughts and reflections.
      Thank you so much for stopping by. Have a great weekend and week ahead!
      Bill

  3. […] Hindsight is the benefit of education we receive from past experience with the understanding of how changes for the better may be implemented improving now.  […]

  4. Hey Bill,

    Personally I think that most of the people in the world (including me) are not using hindsight effectively….we are just regretting the mistakes we made in the past…and think about what ifs instead of taking action (And think about how we can use it to avoid similar mistakes in the future).

    I mean, look at us, as a species. We are still struggling over a lot of problems we face 50 or 100 years ago?

    Still making those same mistakes (I suppose History classes are not doing a good job of explaining our history, and the mistakes our ancestors made!).

    As for me, well, I am trying to use hindsight. Right now, I don’t regret my mistakes…they made me who I am…if I could change it (and if I chose to do it), I might end up changing how I am (and I might not like who I would be..in such a situation).

    So, I am happy with the mistakes I have made in the past, even though they have cost me a lot of things 😀

    Anyways, thank you for this wonderful post, Bill 🙂 Do appreciate that!

    Hope you have a great weekend!

    • Hello Jeevan,
      Thank you for sharing your thoughts on hindsight. I think you’re right, history does seem to repeat itself where the human condition is concerned, but the more people who make conscious choices, who improve intentionally, are those less likely to live under the weight of regrets. In hindsight, I am happy for the lessons my mistakes have taught me, although I would not care to go back and re-live them.

      You’re very welcome. If you have anything you would like to see me write about in future posts that can help you, please let me know.
      Thanks for the weekend wishes. We spent a few hours today walking into town and back, enjoying the sunshine. 🙂

      Best Regards
      Bill

      • Jeevan Jacob John says:

        Yes, indeed (but, I think the process itself is not fast enough for us, as a species).

        Of course 🙂 Seems like the weather is nice there 😀

        Not so much here…We had snow yesterday – just an inch, but it caused a lot of problems. My 1 1/2 hr bus ride took almost 10 hours..and I still didn’t get home. Had to call my dad and tell him to pick me up. Many people are still stuck in roads – including many students.

        (Our city was not prepared to take something like this…hopefully everything will go back to normal by tomorrow).

        • Hi Jeevan,
          Yes, I hear you. May of us want patience, and we want it yesterday 😉

          Yes, we are fortunate to have milder weather here and the scenery to enjoy. I empathize with how much time it took you to get home. That’s more than a full work day for some people. Hope the rest of your week is much better.

          I appreciate you, my friend. All the best!
          Bill

  5. Hey Bill,

    I’m going off of what Jeevan said about how a lot of don’t use hindsight as effectively as we should to improve who we are and our skillset.

    I can use my past experience as an example. I created a blog post the second week of January talking about my epiphanies. If you recall, I basically talked about how I was taught repetitively to be successful with my home business. Although I was going through the experiences, I never really learned from those experiences even though I was looking back at them.

    Just looking back isn’t enough. You do have to take a different action in order to get different results. This is where people fail to do. It gets to the point to where the old saying “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again” starts to catch up with us.

    I do believe we should embrace the mistakes we did make, and even the future mistakes, because in the end we would be more valuable when done so. Why? because we’ll be able to relate a lot better with people who are making the same mistakes. Plus, it’s a gift when you also focus on learning from those mistakes, causing those great epiphanies that tend to shed light on our journey.

    Thanks for sharing Bill!

    • Hello Sherman,
      You’re absolutely right on that, my friend. If I recall, it’s an Einstein quote that reminds us that one cannot expect different results from doing the same things. Therefore, changes must be made and implemented. Hindsight is useful when we reflect upon major decisions too. When I look back, I’m glad I made the choice I did to leave the Police Dept. after nearly 32 years. It has opened the door for us to live the life we now enjoy.

      Every successful person I know has made mistakes, and will make more. The only thing wrong with mistakes are the lessons we don’t learn from them.

      Wishing you a happy weekend!
      Bill

  6. Hi Bill

    I love how you have explained hindsight and foresight here. I do evaluate my mistakes or things that did not work out and ask myself what I would do again. I do not sit in regret but look for what I have learned and how I can use it.

    My greatest lesson in hindsight is over the loss of a business and all that went with that. My husband and I had a business where we promoted “tax advantaged” investments. The government in Australia changed the laws retrospectively and that had severe consequences. I could write a book about it but I have been procrastinating on it for 13 years now.

    In hindsight we should not have invested all we owned into the business and we should not have expected the government to play it our way. There are many other lessons there too. The next question you asked is what we would like others to know to save this.. that is why I should write my book. I have been hesitant to tell the story as I do not want to revisit it but there is a little voice that tells me I should.

    A great topic Bill.

    Sue
    Sue Price recently posted…Is Mindset or Skillset More Important?My Profile

    • Hi Sue,
      I trust you are well. Thank you for sharing your greatest lesson in hindsight. I won’t urge you to write that book. I DARE YOU! 🙂
      I think for the lessons you’ve learned that you can share, to have others learn vicariously from your mistakes, assumptions, etc. will be a great service to others. I know from experience, writing is a catharsis for getting beyond the emotional pain of certain experiences. It’s pain that others will be able to resonate with. Thank you so much for sharing from your heart.

      Blessings!
      Bill

  7. Hello Bill,

    I have learned a lot via hindsight; many opportunities have past me by, many chances of greatness vanished into thin air.

    But as you wisely counselled, I always learn the lessons and move on…and believe me, such initial failures, always provide room for greater achievements! This achievements make the initial failures complete child’s play!

    Always,
    Terungwa

  8. Hi, Bill!

    I learned many things from hindsight in life. One of them is always to think in any situation, would I really do that in this way? I believe, that it is very important to know your dreams and goals, then it’s much easier to use wisdom from the past and even to avoid mistakes in present. Even the situation is new and you might be inexperienced in that area, it’s always easier to make a decision when you have your dreams and goals in it’s places.

    • Hi Aistis,
      Presence of mind and heightened awareness are certainly great gifts to have. 🙂 Unfortunately, many people are bewildered by certain experiences, especially if the experience is new and they don’t know how to handle it. It is interesting to use foresight to play out certain scenarios. It may just provide as much insight as hindsight.

      All the best!
      Bill

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