Conventional wisdom tells us hindsight is 20/20 and suggests that valuable insight comes from looking backward, aka being a “Monday-morning quarterback.” Although we can’t change the initial outcome, the idea is that we can make better decisions in the future based on analyzing past action or performance.
Makes sense, which is why it’s considered conventional wisdom. However, since I am anything but conventional, I started to wonder… is hindsight really revelatory? Are our retro glances even accurate?
Certainly if you’ve ever reminisced with someone about a shared past occurrence, you’ve experienced a variation in how an event is remembered. Sometimes the memories are so different, you might have wondered if that other person was actually there.
So let’s take an event that’s been captured on camera, or videotape, such as a sports event. Surely, that’s an accurate account of what happened, right? Well, why does it take a panel of judges or referees a seemingly ridiculous length of time to review a play via the replays on camera? Very often, a decision made based on the view of the event from one camera is challenged after a review of the same play from a different camera.
Ah, being married to a photographer, I learned how the lens can lie. And, if a specific event can vary in the viewpoints of impartial cameras, it’s not too hard to imagine that our physical lenses (eyes) don’t always reflect truth either.
So much for hindsight being 20/20, in my opinion anyway. And since it can’t be relied on as accurate, and since you can’t change the past no matter how many times you replay it with a better outcome, why waste the precious time you have (the present moment) on looking back?
Is looking ahead, then, a valuable use of our time? Can we see the future?
Here’s the thing about vision and manifesting a future you want. There’s the Hollywood version, and then there’s how it happens in real life.
In literature and film, we have The Christmas Carol (or Scrooged, the more modern and entertaining version) for how to see into the future and make changes, if necessary, based on that that predictive view. Another classic for this time of year, It’s a Wonderful Life, shares a similar storyline.
In these stories, a character gets a wake-up call from a spirit or angel and is shown an undesirable future that is likely if said character stays on the current path. The vision is powerful enough to initiate immediate and revolutionary change by the character.
Drama is what makes good storytelling and viewing. So films and literature spice it up. I get it. I wrote books, too. We could use these stories as metaphors for making changes in our own lives, I suppose. But do we? Have you ever changed your mind or course of action based on what happened in a movie or even to someone else in real life? Yeah, neither have I.
But after a lifetime of watching TV, movies, and reading literature, we are conditioned to expect these messages will come via big events. So when we fail to have a dream or angel show up with surround sound and Technicolor to show us the future, we dismiss the possibility that we are indeed being tapped on the shoulder at all. If it’s not showing up as a motion-picture-worthy event, then we can’t see it.
Same thing for hearing true guidance. We expect to hear the voice of God as Moses did in The Ten Commandments. Now maybe some of us do, but for the rest of us, all we hear is crickets or worse if we live near an expressway.
Yet simply because we don’t experience divine guidance in life as a Spielberg-sized production doesn’t mean we’re not on the receiving end. We are being given signs and getting soul whispers all the time. We just haven’t been taught what to look for in real life, so when we are prompted with gentle guidance, we tend to ignore, dismiss, or deny its significance.
The “in the moment” or “being present” aspect of vision is subtle and easy to overlook, but if we truly want to see, hear, or feel the presence of a guiding force, we can learn to do it. Meditation or just plain quiet, alone time can show us the way.
So what about the future? Can we “see” ahead with accuracy?
I believe we can. We certainly can decide what we want and take steps to create it. Maybe it won’t show up exactly as you pictured it, but would you accept 20/40 as an accurate-enough or acceptable vision measurement?
The reason why real-life viewing is better than the movie version is that things rarely happen in mega ways for a good reason: Gradual transition to a new path lets us tweak our journey along the way.
The saying “Be careful what you wish for” comes to mind. Consider the woodcutter in the folk tale “The Three Wishes” who ends up with a string of sausages affixed to the end of his nose. In some versions of the story, it’s the wife who suffers the unfortunate result, but the moral of the story is the same: Think before you wish.
So fret not if what you want seems a distant possibility. Anything you can imagine already exists in the realm of potential. Trust the Universe to do its job. If what you want shows up quickly, Yay! If not, it means you may not be ready or possibly not everything that’s needed is in place yet.
Foresight is 20/20 in my opinion because the future is always ahead of us, giving us the option of adjusting our course. In 2008 Joe and I were living in Waynesville, NC, in a “temporary” furnished rental. We had anticipated moving our stored possessions from Florida to Asheville, but circumstances changed and we got stuck where we were for a while.
Never liking the feeling of "stuckness," we looked for a silver lining. I read about a couple who were traveling the country in an RV and working on the road with laptops and cell phones. Perfect timing and solution for us. Just about everything we owned was in storage, so let’s do it, we said.
Until we priced out the cost of an RV. The choices were not as abundant as they are today, and the upfront cost of purchasing and long-term operation expenses made it impractical. (Gas alone was pushing $4/gallon, so the economic prospects of traveling in a vehicle that got about 6-8 gal/mile were not favorable.)
The dream didn’t die, though it sputtered. Over the years, we continued to investigate possibilities and looked into various avenues for living a life on the road, but it remained a back-burner dream. Until around 2015 when we lost a number of good friends in a short amount of time. Suddenly we changed our tune from “When we can” to “If not now, when?”
Once we decided we were doing it and we’d find a way we could afford, everything fell into place. We learned each of our three children were in the family way and three new grandchildren would be arriving within a six-month period in three different states. We realized that alone would have us on the road for much of the time. Indeed, the time was now.
Joe had “discovered” housesitting as option some years before but at the time, the resources supporting the industry were not yet well established and we had discounted it. However, by 2016 things had changed considerably and suddenly we had a low-cost, no-initial-outlay way to turn our dream into reality.
From May 2017 to March 2020, Joe and I traveled by car across and around the country as house/pet sitters, visiting family, friends, and “seeing faces that we’d never see again” and loved every minute of it. It was not the exact vision of what I saw in 2008—it was better.
• • •
Circumstances facing us today both personally and globally are forcing new perspectives. I don’t believe it’s an accident or bad timing that I’m here now. Or you. Or any of us. I believe it’s a giant wake-up call in the mega proportions of Spielberg, Lucas, and DeMille. But in real life, the vision of what’s ahead if we don’t change is so big and so universal that it requires more than just one little Ebenezer Scrooge or George Bailey to alter course.
It requires all of us to contribute to a brighter future. It doesn't have to be a huge change for any of us. A tiny positive shift in perspective multiplied by the number of people on Earth would create change for the better in seismic proportions.
It's nice to contribute to the good of the collective and that's a goal I know my readers share with me. It's worthy, altruistic, and desperately needed.
But don't overlook the huge benefits that a positive outlook brings to you and your loved ones. It's not selfish to desire better health, well-being, or finances for yourself. It's self-care, another important aspect of life that we tend to overlook or dismiss in this culture to our own detriment.
As we head full blast into the holiday season and approach a new year, you surely will have an opportunity to watch one of the aforementioned classics shown at this time of year. Even if you choose not to watch again, remember the "before and after" message and picture something wonderful for yourself.
Stock Image, Deposit Photos.
Text ©Shelley Lieber
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