I learned about the concept of “Hindsight Bias” in a Social Psychology class that I took in college. When my professor was giving examples of situations that applied to this concept, I couldn’t stop laughing and nodding my head in agreement. To this day, I still can’t help but whip out this term whenever I catch myself doing it. It reassures me that the thousands of dollars I spent on college haven’t gone to waste.
In a nutshell, the concept of “Hindsight Bias” is defined as looking back at a past event and convincing yourself that you already knew how the situation was going to end. Essentially, you say to yourself, “Well I knew this wasn’t going to work out anyways”, when in reality, you had no idea what was going to happen. However, given the information you know in the present, it comforts you to know that you were in control all along. This saves yourself from owning up to your own poor judgement. It’s a defense mechanism.
I do this a lot to protect myself and keep myself happy.
I had a lot of time to myself after running the Big Sur Marathon in California last Sunday. I took this entire past week off of work because I needed to recuperate and I was also in desperate need of a vacation. I spent half of the week remaining in Monterey while the rest of my co-workers went back to the East Coast to return to work.
During this time, I reflected a lot on my marathon, my life, my friends, my future, growing up, etc. I definitely needed this time to collect myself and my thoughts.
When I looked back on running the marathon, part of me still couldn’t even believe that I had done it. The other part of me wished that I had tried harder. I kept tracing back to every mile and trying to figure out why I didn’t go any faster. After I finished the marathon, I found out that me and my co-workers all finished within only several minutes of each other. I kept telling myself, “If only I stayed with one of them, I could have easily ran under 4 hours. If I only knew that they were so close, I would have gone faster”
Of course, there’s nothing I can do about it now. But now, I’m even more determined to run another marathon with a significantly faster time
I keep going over in my head about the things that have affected my training and the lack of miles that I logged. It saddens me that I can’t just be satisfied with saying that I completed my first marathon in the time I ran, on one of the toughest courses in America. Instead, I’m beating myself up for the “should haves” and “could haves”
I don’t want to do that anymore though.
I got back to New York City around 10:30PM on Wednesday night. I didn’t get to my apartment until about midnight. Fortunately, I had the next two days off of work, so I didn’t have to worry about waking up early.
I continued a lot of my heavy thinking. I thought more about where I want to be in 5 years and what I really out of my life (all the normal things that people in their mid-20’s worry about)
It’s funny that the moment I got back to New York City, I just wanted to be back in California again, yet when I was in California, I couldn’t wait to go back home. It’s the ‘grass is always greener’ mentality.
I started saying to myself, “My life would be so much better and more relaxing if I just lived in California”, but then I realized something: If I keep on chasing things and places and am never satisfied with what I have or where I am, then will I ever be truly happy?
This past weekend, I spent a lot of time with my friends and had the time of my life.
I realized that what I need to learn is how to be happy with where I am. As Jon Kabat-Zinn said, “Where ever you go, there you are”
No matter where I go or how far I run away from home, I’m still myself and if I’m not happy where I currently am, I won’t be happy anywhere I go.
Hindsight bias (although sometimes necessary) can be dangerous. Look back on a situation if need be, but move on. Be happy with yourself. Be happy where you are. Be happy as much as you can be.