We often hear the expression “hindsight is 20/20” in the discussion of mistakes or choices we may have made during our life. The belief is that we can always see clearly when we look back over our experiences compared to plowing along throughout our journey of life without knowing exactly how things may turn out or how specific events may unfold.
Volumes of academic research, world renown behaviorists, and the occasional kitchen table psychologist in our homes would agree that there is a fundamental choice we make as individuals when we look back into our past and that choice drives an incredibly consistent and predictable outcome in our future.
As we continue on our journey to build and strengthen our character, an important question we need to answer around this generally accepted belief that we have 20/20 or perfect vision looking backward is, what do we choose to see?
First off, if we are being open and honest, none of us had a “perfect” past nor could we all agree on what a “perfect” past would look like. In addition, getting stuck on comparing each of our pasts is not productive. We all had some bumps in the road in our life experience. For example, parents may have parented out of their own pain or lack of understanding, we may have encountered harmful life experiences that were completely out of our control, and people may have come into our lives without the most admirable of intentions.
All of these events in the past have an impact on each one of us. When we look back on these events, what do we choose to see?
Do we see consistent reminders of our own shortcomings and a reinforcement of the darker side of our nature? Does what we see cause us to hold onto bitterness and regret?
Do we see some difficult experiences where we persevered, learned and grew? Do we see opportunity where we can leverage those painful experiences to be stronger going forward and use those experiences to be an encouragement to others journeying on a similar path?
The choice is ours to make.
A good counselor and 100s of hours of counseling many times will be very helpful to our journey to overcome some pains in our past, but in the end, we have to make the choice. Not our psychologist, pastor, or life-coach. You and me need to take it all in and make the choice on what we see in our past.
This stuff is not easy. However, the choice we make drives such a consistent outcome in our future that we need to make the most effective choice we can.
As we look to reach our full potential and be an encouragement to those close to us, we need to choose to learn and grow from our past instead of using the clarity of hindsight as steady reminders of our perceived limitations and shortcomings. As we guide our thoughts about our past by principles such as understanding, courage, and compassion, we build and strengthen our character and Character Creates Opportunity to build hope for the future for ourselves and those close to us.