Hindsight Bias: How to Be More Objective In the Moment
“Before, you are wise; after, you are wise. In between you are otherwise.” — David Zindell
What were you thinking?
The truth is, you were too wrapped up in the struggle. Foresight is clouded with emotion and countless cognitive biases. Hindsight brings clarity.
With hindsight comes an overly critical evaluation of yourself.
- Oh no. I did it again!
- I should have seen that coming.
- How could I have been so stupid?
“It’s so difficult, isn’t it? To see what’s going on when you’re in the absolute middle of something? It’s only with hindsight we can see things for what they are.” — S.J. Watson
We all get caught up in the moment sometimes and make questionable decisions. It is part of the human condition known as “hindsight bias.”
There is no cure, but you can approximate hindsight in the present moment.
Carefully observe people you trust when making important decisions. When everyone is sending warning signals, they are seeing something you are not. Find out what it is. Use their objectivity to gain clarity in the moment.
Study any available data. What does it tell you? Are you taking a calculated risk or just being destructive by succumbing to current desires? Getting analytical tends to lessen the fog of emotion.
Plan for for negative outcomes. Premeditatio malorum. What could go wrong if you continue on your current path? Being faced with the consequences of your actions is like a cold bucket of water to the face. The resulting buzzkill may save you from a world of grief.
In the wise words of Friedrich Von Schlegel, “the historian is a prophet looking backwards.” Nothing you do will bring the full objectivity of a diligent historian. Even hindsight will suffer from anger and disappointment.
Above all else, don’t beat yourself up. You are human… imperfect and prone to irrational behavior from time to time. The best thing you can do is gain wisdom from your mistakes. Learn how to read yourself and others to approximate hindsight and limit future mishaps.