Duke University has a behavioral economics lab called The Center for Advanced Hindsight, an affiliate of the Social Science Research Institute. The website says the purpose is to investigate “how and why people make a wide range of decisions, and how certain forces influence our thoughts and behavior.” The central goal of the Center is to develop insights into a diverse set of problems through the lens of behavioral economics. Researchers seek to unveil how people make decisions in the real world – all kinds of decisions, from what inspires us to work those extra hours, to how much we are willing to spend on black pearls, to what we choose to eat for lunch.
Serendipity is good, but the substantial majority of life is based on decisions . . . choices made either purposefully, consciously, whimsically, incidentally. Sometimes our decisions produce beneficial results for self and others; sometimes not. From those decisions – and their consequences – that end up on the deleterious side of the fence comes the adage, “hindsight is always 20/20.” One of the keys to improving the chances of experiencing life on the good side of the fence is making one’s choices with great care. “Advanced hindsight” means looking ahead to the probable outcome of the options at hand and committing to the one that is sagaciously judged to likely produce the overall best result.
Some youth are fed up with school when they complete twelfth grade. So one might take a job digging ditches or waitressing, thinking, “I can always get more education later if I need it.” All to easily one can end up twenty years later struggling financially with a minimum wage job still working with a shovel or serving tables. This is not to demean manual labor. And if a person is satisfied spending a career doing such until retirement, well and good. But too often 60-year-olds end up being Walmart greeters simply because they did not look ahead. Advanced hindsight.
Mistakes will always be made and uncontrollable circumstances will always rear their ugly heads. But a good share of the time we can determine much of our future by making decisions based on ardent research and astute judgment.