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How To Use Hindsight To Improve Your Future

How can you use hindsight to improve your future?  The most common reply sounds something like this: “Next time, I will not make the same mistake and avoid the problem.”  This seems like a sensible reply and plan of action, doesn’t it?  But what if, the bad outcome was not caused by your poor choice alone?  Are there components other than yourself to consider?  Just how accurate is hindsight, anyway?

Hindsight is 20/20 is a proverb that means it is easy to understand something after it has already happened.

This article is a closer look at the larger picture. Which means we will exam more than just your role in past results. When it comes to hindsight, the truth is you will not have access to the realities of some contributing factors. Hindsight is rarely crystal clear, nor is it easy to understand all of the influences that have a say in outcomes.

But, you can get a better idea of what might happen, by better understanding: 1. How you actually contribute to outcomes 2. The way to look at hindsight that can help shape your future.


Continue reading to learn about these points relative to hindsight: 

  • Hindsight and the Future; developing Insight and Foresight
  • Interaction Behaviors; how they contribute to Outcomes
  • The relation between Hindsight and Interaction
  • The one part of Interactions you do have influence over
  • How much you control you have over Outcomes
  • Using Hindsight to your benefit
  • How Hindsight, Insight, and Foresight combine as a team
  • Interactions: What they are, and their relation to change


Hindsight is:  Recognition of the realities, possibilities, significance, requirements, or nature of an event, situation, decision, etc., after it has happened. Hindsight involves your review of past interactions, influences, and outcomes. -Google dictionary

Social Interactions are: The way people talk and act with each other. It may include interactions in a team, family, or bureaucracy, and include any relationship between two or more individuals. These interactions are a source of socialization and characterizes all types of social relationships. -Lumen Learning; Boundless Sociology

When you dissect and examine an event that has already taken place in order to get a clearer view of what went wrong (or right), relying on hindsight of only your actions may seem the natural thing to focus on. But is it as simple as the assumption, “If I had made different choices, things would turn out differently.”?

The answer is no, it’s not that simple

And here’s why: 20/20 hindsight might be more accurately labeled “20/40 sight” (half as clearly seen as 20/20, which is perfect vision). 

Let’s lay a foundation of understanding for why factors other than yourself make hindsight 20/40, by comparing hindsight to a tangible example: Newton’s Third Law of Motion. (Newton’s Law may be easier to visualize, while still conveying the same principle we need to understand.)

Newton’s Third Law of Motion states:  “For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.”  The simplified definition of how this physical law works is:  When two objects interact, each applies a push or pull against the other.  Meaning, change happens with interaction.

Interactions create change, easy enough understood. But there is also another factor we need to add, as this comparison is to understand the action of hindsight, which is not a physical object. This second factor affecting outcome is outside influences.  These influences include the ones that prompt the actions of others.

By taking into account all of the elements and what influences them, you will see that everything and everyone related to a situation has an effect on the outcome.

Understanding the idea beind Newton’s Law (for every interaction, a change is created) is a way to help you grasp these facts:
  • All parts of a situation impact each other
  • Every interaction, and all elements that have bearing on a situation, create some form of change, or influence the actions that will create change
  • These variables are facts, whether or not they are known to everyone involved.


Now pause for a moment and think about what you just read:   Everyone, every action, and all elements that interact in a situation result in a change to some degree. Considering that you have control only over yourself (no other people, places or things), how could change, made only your part, guarantee different results?


To reiterate, it is important to realize that beyond your actions, and what you recognize as being involved in a situation, there is still more that impacts an outcome. All of the things you are aware of have other outside influences guiding them too, just as you do. These many unknowns also indirectly contribute to outcomes.

Think of these unknowns as having a domino effect; all contributing to the results you will experience.

Hindsight Is: A Data Gathering Tool, Not a Crystal Ball 

As long as you remain flexible, and open to adjusting for new factors, viewing hindsight as data gathering can be very beneficial. It’s an excellent tool to provide learning material for future educated-guesses as to your best choices.

What Hindsight Is Not

Hindsight is not a peek into a concrete future. If you consider hindsight to be a completely accurate reflection of things to come, you set yourself up for assumptions and expectations.  Why this is a problem can be summed up by a quote from my November 2018 post, How To Keep Expectations from Ruining Positivity

“Expectations:  They kill fun, period. Whether too high or too low, they rob you of experiencing joy, humor and new opportunities.”

If you’re not familiar with expectations, and how to curb them, taking a look at this article! http://


Using hindsight to look closely at all things involved, including yourself, does indeed provide a clearer picture of what transpired, and why it did, in that specific situation.  While future situations, have different factors involved and will not be identical, you still gain information about a certain combination of factors from hindsight.  This information can provide a more accurate indication of potential outcomes. Recognizing similar patterns in the future can provide clues to what decisions are best.

A Common Mistake:  Outcome Bias

Outcome bias is when no import is placed on past outcomes. This is just as bad, if not worse, than assuming hindsight is a guarantee. At best, it’s foolhardy to ignore evidence of already proven bad choices, or bypass what has already been proven to work.  You won’t find a lot of change in repeating obvious errors!

Hindsight Summary

3 highlights to remember about hindsight:

  1. The only certain information hindsight can provide is about your actions and what your interpretation of the outcome was. The only ‘whole story’ you can really know is the one about you.
  2. If you assume that changing an error in your judgement, choice, or action will guarantee an outcome, you are turning a blind eye to the fact that you are not the only variable that may change.
  3. Frequently practicing hindsight builds your insight, leading to foresight. Using hindsight to gather as much information as you can about what transpired in the past, hones your ability to better predict potential future outcomes. Since there are no absolutes for ‘next time’, the more experiences to compare, the better your odds of interacting in a way that benefits you.


With a better understanding now of how hindsight is used to review interactions, and that the only part of interactions you can change is your part, ensure you understand what interactions actually are. Keep reading for descriptions and suggestions to consider, regarding how you are interpreted by others when you interact. Learning the ways in which others perceive you is important. It is important because how you present yourself is where an opportuinity lies for you to make new choices. This can increase how much influence you have over final outcomes.



  • Interactions


  • Mindfulness
  • Self-awareness
  • Hindsight
  • Insight
  • Foresight


Read about the skills you need to build and use. Then for each type interaction, try inserting a memory of your own that closely fits the description. I know this helps me retain new information; try it and see if this works for you too.


Mindfulness and Self-Awareness

Developing the practice of mindfulness is an effective method I use to increase my self-awareness (the ability to recognize and identify your thoughts and actions). Self-awareness plays a large roll in successful interactions, and strengthens your ability to make better decisions and choices. [For how to develop mindfulness, see this Life with Holley article: http://5 Mindfulness Details You Don’t Want To Miss-Acceptance Part 4 ]

Hindsight and Insight

Taking a look at past behaviors through hindsight [3] can help protect you from making future mistakes, if you pay attention to the insight[3] you gain. Insight is the ability to discern what actual transpired in the past, and understand why it happened. The most accurate insight comes from the recognition your own interaction behaviors, and understanding how these behaviors may be interpreted by others.

How Hindsight, Insight and Foresight Work Together

Foresight as I’m referring to it means:  Being better prepared for future potential outcome(s), based on your analysis of past results. [3] 

Having gained insight, through knowledge gathered in hindsight, foresight begins to develop.  When you develop and utilize foresight, don’t be surprised if your self-perception becomes more positive. Changing your choices and behavior allows you to see yourself in a different way. This can set you on a path to changing your future for the better. Being more aware of likely results from interactions is the first step in shaping your futre outcomes.

Non-Verbal Interactions

The way you are perceived non-verbally can have an even larger impact than what comes out of your mouth.

When you review “what went wrong” in hindsight, understanding the less intentional ways of communicating is important. Unclear communication can be a significant factor in any outcome.

Following are some specifics to take at look, and think in hindsight how you have portrayed yourself. It is not suggested that when interacting you try and fit anyone’s mold, or be untrue to how you feel most comfortable, or how you intentionally relay what you stand for. Rather, the point is to be aware that the way you dress, stand, and even the physical proximity you feel at ease standing next to someone, plays a part in how your intentions are viewed in a situation. Others do gather and assess non-verbal information from you, whether you realize it or not.

Be Aware

Being aware of what you may have said loudly, without words, will help you better determine what your part, if any, was involved in a poor outcome.


[Some interactions listed below may not seem to involve you directly. Though the fact is, if you live in an organized society, they can greatly affect your day to day life. In the case of Society Conflict (involving politics), exercising voting rights is an example of being involved with this interaction, in an indirect way.]

The more information, the better

While we are only touching on three types of interaction, all eight catagories are quoted from Lumen Learning*. If you are not already familiar with what social interactions entail, more detailed descriptions can be found by visiting: Lumen Learning; Boundless Sociology course site at

*Lumen is an OER (Open Educational Resource) that collaborates with and instructs educators worldwide to improve teaching curriculum.  The information you will find at the link above is easy to read and very informational.

Types of Interactions


Research has suggested that between 60 and 70 percent of all meaning is derived from non-verbal behavior.  Being mindful of how you represent yourself non-verbally is something you do have choice in, many times; make your choices wisely.  Become very familiar with these behaviors, and keep an eye out for them in your actions. Make sure you know what you are saying to others, without uttering a word.

Ways We Communicate Non-verbally

  • Gestures
  • Touch
  • body language
  • posture
  • facial expressions
  • eye contact
  • clothing and hair style
  • speech patterns (voice quality, pace, pitch, volume, rhythm, and intonation)

Keep at the front of your mind that interpretation of non-verbal behaviors varies vastly among communities, cultures and countries. If what you convey does not match what you intend, there can be more at risk than a mildly unfavorable outcome. Misunderstandings about interactions which evoke high emotion, such as flirting, insults, and anger, can even escalate quickly into unintended consequences.


Personal space is the amount of area around an individual which they consider “theirs”.

There are many variations of what is considered comfortable with this interaction. Two things to consider about respecting personal space when interacting with others: 1. The amount of distance kept between people is often seen by others as an indicator of how personal a relationship is. 2.  The result of entering someone’s personal space uninvited can lead to feelings of discomfort, anger, anxiety and even fear.

Make sure your decisions and actions about how much distance to keep are appropriate for the specific situation, and who you are interacting in. This is a huge hot button in some cultures, and can create negative impressions quickly, or misrepresent your intentions.

On the other side of the coin; should you feel infringed on, but no additional signs of hostility are given, perhaps you should try giving the benefit of the doubt to the encroaching party? It is possible they many not even realize you take exception.

3 STEREOTYPES (As Heurestics)

The interaction of stereotyping usually carries a negative connotation. This is due in the main, to the fact stereotyping can be a springboard for predjudice (sorting people into catagories and labeling everyone in the catagory as the same).

The interesting thing is,

stereotyping is actually a cognative function with a purpose: To speed up the process of pre-sorting huge amounts of information that come at us daily, so more can be taken in. (A cognative technique known as heurestics.)

Before you turn your back on this natural pre-sorting, know that gathering as much new information as possible, plays an important roll in problem solving, learning, discovery, and personal growth for you.

Where adjustment should be made is: Don’t abuse stereotyping. Rather than leave the pre-sorted information in one big lump, take the time to assess individual people and situations, based on thier own merit.

Social Exchange
Social Conflict
Eye Contact

The understandings you should come away with after reading this article and giving it thought:

  • In any situation you’re involved with, there are innumerable variables involved in producing an end outcome.
  • Hindsight of an entire situation can help you identify if there are different choices you can make in the future to avoid or lessen unwanted outcomes.
  • The control you do have, and are responsible for, is in the decisions you make and actions you take.
  • Look for opportunities where there are choices to be made in how you interact. Change these behaviors as necessary to improve your future.

[3] http://


Life with Holley
“Anti-challenge Reframing © 2018” was created from an idea, and partial
terminology, derived from a comment made on my June 25, 2018 Instagram
spoof-post: “International Anti-Selfie Day”.  Thank you to Vaughan
(@vaughan.knight  Instagram) for your insightful, witty words: “You could offer
a ‘reframing’ service; new opportunities from old!  Start a new
anti-challenge whenever life doesn’t live up to expectation; therein lies
something not to be found in the successful events.


“ROCK LOUNGING” – Situated along the California Pacific Coastline, is Monterey. It has always been a fun destination for me, as so many happy, laid-back memories have been made there. This particular image was taken in the summer of 2018, during a visit to celebrate a milestone accomplishment of a loved one.

I admit, I was a bit excited to catch this shot. I’d tried several times in the past to shoot this monument, to no avail. My repeated experience the previous four times photographing was a non-stop parade of meandering tourists, entering and exiting the frame. Finally, fifth time was the charm!

Beyond fond memories

Beyond fond memories, one of the top reasons Monterey draws me is knowing how close I am to an amazing assortment of deep sea ocean life! This bay is unique, in that an ocean canyon shelf is located very close to shore. With an incredible underwater depth of 2+ miles, this canyon is comparible to the the GrandCanyon! Being so close to shore, it is a biologist’s dream; affording study of deep sea creatures within a stones throw of the monument pictured above.

I finally figured out 2 reasons I’m drawn

Using hindsight, I’ve deduced two primary reasons I return to this area, again and again. 1) I can’t resist being so close to the energy of this mysterious stretch of sea, and 2) I am intrigued by the peculiar feeling of nostalgia when walking Cannery Row and the nearby streets.

Though unseen and unheard, a lingering impression of the 1930’s Great Depression bustle that once was, wafts through this oceanfront town; I feel it every time I’m there. Yes, I may be surrounded by touristy shops and eateries that chill your salad fork, but I could swear, when the ocean breeze hits just right, I can feel history in the air. Small wonder this place has a magical affect on me!

(I think it’s time to look at the calander and pencil in another mini-vacation.)

Image: “Rock Lounging” 
iPhone X
PS Express App  
July, 2018

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