Looking Forward with Hindsight


Six months ago you had trouble finding your keys and were late for work. At the time, you felt agitated and upset. Chances are, you don’t even remember the incident. Last year, at a business lunch, you spilled salad dressing on your shirt. You were so embarrassed when it happened but now you can just laugh at the whole episode.

Three years ago, you were on your way to the airport to leave for vacation. You got caught in a traffic jam and missed your plane. You were worried sick that your whole vacation would be ruined. However, when you finally arrived at the airport, the airline was able to get you and your family on a later flight. Your trip was wonderful and the traffic jam is a distant memory.

How often have you looked back on what seemed like misfortune at the time, and wondered how you could have been so aggravated? Has anyone ever said to you, “Remember when you were so upset about…” and you couldn’t recall the incident they were referring to? Did you ever have a fight with someone and later couldn’t remember what the conflict was about?

Undesirable or unpleasant circumstances and events are a part of living. Something breaks, you loose something, you’re late, you embarrass yourself, you forget to do something, someone laughs at you, someone doesn’t like you, you get into an argument, or your car breaks down.

Some circumstances you have control over, others you don’t. Many people constantly get tripped up by the small annoying aspects of life. They expend far more emotional energy on them then is warranted. As a result, their enthusiasm for good and positive things declines.

Most feelings fade with time. If they don’t disappear altogether, their intensity diminishes. The cliché that hindsight is 20/20 is recalled on a regular basis. So why not look forward with hindsight?

What exactly does this mean? You have already experienced the effect time has on your memory and feelings. In hindsight, you wonder why you were so upset. So view the present as if you were looking back on it from the future.

When faced with a stressful situation ask yourself, “How will I feel about this next week, next month, or next year?” Although your feelings may be very intense at the moment, will they last? Recall how time has soothed past events. Consider the big picture. In the overall scheme of things, will what you are confronting now matter as much in the future?

When faced with feelings of frustration, project yourself into the future. In the future, what you are currently facing is at best a faded memory. Next, reassess the significance of what you are now experiencing and put it into perspective.

Since memories and feelings are going to fade anyway, why not save yourself a lot of time and grief by not getting trapped initially? The main question to ask is “Will this matter to me later?” If the answer is no, why should you let it matter to you now?

That’s how to look forward with hindsight. You view the events of today as if they were already in the past. Emotions diminish and fade with the passage of time and life goes on. Don’t waste time on those things that won’t matter to you later. Spend time on what does matter.

© 2004 Bryan Golden