Prospective Hindsight Helped Me Be a Better Dad

Prospective hindsight is the act of placing yourself in the future and looking back. Such activity opens a new perspective and is believed to help us improve our current decisions. I learned about this in a book by Annie Duke, How to Decide. Some people refer to this as a “Pre-Mortem”.

Regardless of what you want to call it, I put it in practice in a specific way with my daughter…and one year later I am so glad I did it!

The Choice I Made One Year Ago

My daughter is great. But like all kids, they do things that drive parents nuts. Let’s just put it this way, my daughter’s interpretation of a clean room was much different from mine (or any other sane individual). And everywhere she went, she turned on the lights and never turned them off. Apparently she has a strong aversion to turning off lights. These are little things. But as we know, sometimes the little things in life become big issues. It doesn’t need to be a big thing to ruin a big relationship.

I used to make my displeasure known about the mess and lights constantly being on. This was exacerbated with the lockdown as the kids were now home all of the time. I don’t know why, but one day I said to myself, “You know, one day you are going to miss the mess and not turning off those lights.” That one statement changed how I went about this. I no longer said anything about the mess or the lights.

I would still turn off the lights and as I walked by her bedroom, I would shut the door. Anytime I would get a little upset by it, I remembered that at some point in the future I will miss that.

What Was & Could Have Been

We had a good year last year. We had many good discussions, laughs etc… I can’t say it was “the best” because I don’t know what I would compare it to. But I know, with complete certainty, it would have been much worse if I had continued to nag her about the lights and her room.

Pick your battles. Instead of my battle being my daughter’s small behaviors I didn’t like, I made the battle about me. Making sure I battled the natural instinct to say something. The great thing about this kind of battle is that there is no loser. It is a win-win.

The Day Has Come

My daughter is now off to college. Here we are a year later and I can’t say I miss the mess or the lights being on, but as I walked by her room that first day, I looked inside, at how bare and clean it was, and cried.

I am glad she is off to college, but not because I couldn’t wait for her to leave. I am glad because it is the right thing for her and I am excited for her to continue to grow.

Now that I am at this future spot looking back, where I could only imagine a year ago, I can state with great confidence that the decision to “let it go” was the single best decision I made this last year. All thanks to a small practice of prospective hindsight.

Multiple Applications

Prospective hindsight, or performing a pre-mortem, is often discussed in reference to making business decisions. It is also a great practice when evaluating investment opportunities. It can help you identify potential pitfalls and get out of the current mindset. It changes your perspective.

And as you can see, it can also be immensely helpful with the things that matter most.


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