Scheduling classes? Crazy. Professors? Crazy. Midterms? Don’t even get me started. COLLEGE. IS. CRAZY.
But you know what else is crazy that we seem to overlook every time? Life.
I can now look back at my childhood and say, “I guess my parents weren’t THAT crazy for making me eat those vegetables after all,” but in the moment, I honestly believed that the practice of eating vegetables was a conspiracy every parent in the world was in on, I thought there was no way something that tasted so nasty could be healthy for me. In retrospect, it just seems as though we’re never quite adjusted to everything that is going on in our lives. This is a commonality I think everyone shares even if they don’t realize it (or aren’t willing to admit it) at times.
Hindsight and foresight are unique skills that only humans truly have (at least at the extent that we use them to regularly). This isn’t meant to be a depressing narrative at all, though! I’m not implying that, despite these traits, there’s no satisfaction or fulfillment to look forward to, but I think it’s safe to say hindsight and foresight can act as double-edged swords on a daily basis.
Most would argue that foresight, our ability to plan or act based on mentally constructed “what if” situations, solely exists to aid our survival.
Example: “WHAT would happen IF I were to sneak into the pantry late at night and eat all of my mom’s dark chocolate that she saves for rainy days?”
Luckily, my foresight informed me that I would likely meet a swift demise if I were to take such a course of action, and having not tempted such a fate, I am still around today. Foresight: key to survival? Certainly, but our ability to imagine a hypothetical future does more than incite action or prevent stupidity, it also allows for the feeling of hope. “Sure, right now school sucks, but if I stick it out all the way through graduation I’ll end up in the place I want to.”
Hindsight works in a similar way, where we can form mental hypotheticals, but instead for actions we DIDN’T take. The same example works here too: “If I HAD eaten mom’s chocolate chips, either A: I wouldn’t be here today or B: I would have suffered a great deal because of it, and I could never enjoy chocolate chips again because of the association with traumatic experience.” This reflection is important not only because we affirm to ourselves that we made the right choice, but because we can use that experience to further aid our use of foresight.
Although comedic and seemingly insignificant at times, both foresight and hindsight are very necessary for experiencing satisfaction and fulfillment. However, like most things in life, they are also tools we can use to our own detriment. Using foresight to plan our life stories all at once can lead to a lot of self-conflict and stress just in figuring out exactly what our plan should be; worse yet, plans don’t always come to fruition, and it’s times like these that we can fall into a state of self-declared failure. Hindsight only makes this negative state worse because we dwell on those actions we regret, and it can supersede any thoughts of hope or forward thinking that actually leads to progress or response.
Like anything else in life, managing hindsight and foresight to ensure they’re acting as tools of benefit in your life rather than working against you is a matter of finding a happy medium between moderation and excess. When you find yourself stressing too much about the future and what could happen, or you can’t stop dwelling on what you could have done better in the past, just re-center yourself and remember, foresight and hindsight are tools to be used in the present. If what you’re reflecting on can’t help you determine an action now, push it to the side and move on.