Don’t Overlook Oversight
If we have a sudden lapse of attention while we’re engaged in an activity, we’re apt to make an oversight. An oversight is a mistake we make when we’re not paying full attention. Just because it’s an innocent mistake doesn’t mean there aren’t serious consequences. An oversight by an airplane pilot, for example, can lead to a deadly crash. This children’s rhyme is a clear reminder that oversights can result in disaster:
For Want of a Nail
For want of a nail the shoe was lost.
For want of a shoe the horse was lost.
For want of a horse the rider was lost.
For want of a rider the message was lost.
For want of a message the battle was lost.
For want of a battle the kingdom was lost.
And all for the want of a horseshoe nail.
People have been hit by a car and killed, simply because they were texting, checking their email, or watching a video on their smart phone while crossing the street. It isn’t the fault of technology, but of the choices we make. We can choose to check our email in a safe environment. We can choose to focus on what is important at that moment.
Regarding this subject, Ralph Waldo Emerson(1803~1882) made a good analogy:“As the gardener, by severe pruning, forces the sap of the tree into one or two vigorous limbs, so should you stop off your miscellaneous activity and concentrate your force on one or a few points.”
Well, then, what should we do to avoid making oversights? A helpful solution is to develop hindsight, foresight, and insight.
Look Behind for Hindsight
Because of human nature it isn’t possible to live a full life without making mistakes. But we can learn valuable lessons from them. These lessons are called hindsight because we look behind at our past mistakes in order to learn from them. The lessons we learn are called foresight because we are looking forward, at the future, applying what we learned to avoid further mishaps.
We can learn from the mistakes of others just as well as our own. That is, their hindsight can become our foresight; their hindsight can clearly reveal what could have been easily avoided by a little more foresight.
It is worthwhile making a commitment to develop hindsight; after all, by monitoring our experience, roadblocks, disappointments, accomplishments, problems, and mistakes, we’ll be able to adjust our course of action. By preparing for the worse, we lay the groundwork to receive the best.
Three Steps You Can Take to Develop Hindsight
1. Review your past actions and decisions. What did you do wrong? What should you have done? What lesson do you want to take away? What will you do differently? After deciding on the best course of action, how can you improve it further?
2. Every evening review your day.Ask yourself questions such as the following. What did I accomplish today? Whatchoices did I make?What could I have done differently? What can I learn from today’s events? Whatopportunities did I encounter? Did I rationally respond or emotionally react to stressful situations? Howshould I change to make further progress? How do I feel about today? Are by feelings based on reality or false assumptions? What should I do differently or what can I improve on tomorrow?
3. Keep a journal. As you do so, you will develop hindsight and foresight while gaining insight. Some of the better journaling software programs include The Journal, Smart Diary Suite, and iDailyDiary.
Look Forward for Foresight
Hindsight explains why things went wrong and foresight prevents it from happening again. Foresight can significantly improve our lives, for it enables us to forecast future dangers, opportunities, pitfalls, and challenges. Being prepared greatly improves our chances of overcoming future difficulties.
As we grow in foresight, we start making better decisions, learn to embrace alternative courses of action, and take advantage of our inner resources.
Three Steps You Can Take to Develop Foresight
1. Start assessing potential future threats, trends, and troubles.
2. There are consequences for everything we do. Maintain a healthy respect for possible negative results. Are you prepared for the unexpected? Can what you are doing now have unintended negative outcomes? If so, how will you handle them and what is your backup plan?
3. Don’t wait for problems to erupt before tackling them. The best way to keep trouble away is to see it ahead of time. And as soon as you recognize a threat, act quickly, while the opportunity still exists. Remember, there is never a better time to repair the roof than when the sun is still shining. Those who lack foresight are shortsighted, so don’t join them.
Look in for Insight
With hindsight and foresight comes insight. When reviewing your day and contemplating the possibilities, you may experience a sudden “aha!” moment. That is, you may grasp an important truth that liberates you from serious obstacles.
Insight, as the word suggests, comes from within. Unlike hindsight and foresight that are arrived at by logical thinking, deduction, and analysis, insight flows from our intuition. It allows us to get a sense of the big picture and see the situation clearly.
Insight has many benefits. It facilitates ingenuity, innovation, and vision, and cultivates our ability to think critically. Also, it opens the way for an accurate understanding of people, places, and predicaments. It increases our observation skills and improves our understanding of our environment and relationships. In a nutshell, it helps us to be aware of the true nature of the situation we are in.
Insights are eye-openers. They help us see life in a new way. They empower us. For example, in the sales industry, a marketing genius had the insight that “People don’t want quarter-inch drills. They want quarter-inch holes.” In other words, people are not interested in the product, but in what the product can do for them. This insight turned marketing on its head, and from that day forward, salespeople focused on selling the benefits instead of the features of their product. The result? Sales soared.
Other examples of valuable insights include the following:
Change before you have to.
Look for solutions, not problems.
Our greatest insight often comes from our greatest failure.
A person who never made a mistake never tried anything new.
There is no such thing as failure; there are just learning experiences.
Efficiency is doing things right; effectiveness is doing the right things.
Discipline is not what you do to yourself; it is what you do for yourself.
No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it.
Three Steps You Can Take to Develop Insight
1. Get into the habit of being inquisitive. Ignite the flames of curiosity. Dissect the object of your study and try putting it together in a new way. And while you’re looking in, look out. Look out for fresh opportunities. Constantly ask yourself, “What if?”
2. Pay attention to patterns and trends. Study relationships between thoughts, feelings, and actions. Investigate the world around you with the intention of gaining new knowledge and understanding.
3. Ask yourself empowering questions. Here are some examples. Why do I actas I do? What is the significance of what I am doing? Am I spending my time in the best way? What do I want from life? Am I getting it? If not, what’s preventing me from getting it? Now that I know, what will I do about it? When will I begin?
Three Concluding Thoughts
1. “Reason does not work instinctively, but requires trial, practice, and instruction in order to gradually progress from one level of insight to another.” (Immanuel Kant, 1724~1804) So, be patient in your development of hindsight, foresight, and insight.
2. “The worst pain a man can suffer: to have insight into much and power over nothing.” Herodotus, 485~425 BC) The moral is, beside cultivating insight, we need to develop personal power.
3. “Nothing is more terrible than activity without insight.” Thomas Carlyle (1795~1881) Why? Because activity without insight is almost wasted effort.
As the Irish say, “May you have the hindsight to know where you’ve been, the foresight to know where you are going, and the insight to know when you have gone too far.”
Books by Edward De Bono, “Guru” on thinking and author of at least 57 books.
Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman
Thinking by Gary R. Kirby and Jeffrey R. Goodpaster
The 5 Elements of Effective Thinkingby Edward B. Burger and Michael Starbird