When hindsight swaps places with foresight: What would you tell your younger self?

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Steve Preston columnist

Steve Preston, founder and managing director of Heat Recruitment

It is said that hindsight is a wonderful thing. And it is. It is also a word more often than not used during those ‘Doh!’ moments of regret over actions and decisions made that led to very different outcomes than what had originally been hoped.

But rather than contextualise hindsight in a negative form, it makes better sense to draw positives from previous experiences. By recognising the lessons learned and sharing them with peers and colleagues, we can help others to make better informed decisions when facing similar situations in their own lives.

One of the great parts of my job is that I get to meet and speak with a rich mix of people from different backgrounds, professions and sectors. Yet while there are many differences in what they do on a day to basis, the challenges they have and continue to face are often similar.

So, over the last few weeks, I have asked a number of clients and contacts the same question: What would you say to your younger self, if you have the opportunity to do so? the responses make for fascinating reading.

For Alex Sullivan, Managing Partner and CEO of IFA Magazine, one of the soundest pieces of advice he would impart is to seek out good advice from others. He said: “Don’t be afraid to accept that you don’t know everything – there are plenty of people who have specialities who can help.”

This, Alex argues, could be invaluable: “Being an entrepreneur is risky, hard work and nothing like what programmes like Dragons Den make it out to be. There are tough, tough times.” So, calling upon other business leaders and seeking their advice can prove invaluable before taking a leap into the unknown.

Moreover, he said, chances are these leaders will have an enviable contacts book and they can “put you in touch with others and give you a big step up very quickly.” Citing The Lion King (and why not?), Alex said “don’t be afraid to make mistakes, and definitely don’t regret them. Just learn from them.”

Anna Pepler, Managing Director at Key Solutions Mortgages, agrees. She believes in living each day without regrets, saying that “every situation shapes us and provides a learning opportunity.”

It’s a matter of framing – the perspective of how they look at a situation. As Anna explains, your “mind-set and mental strength is such a powerful tool. You are only constrained by your own beliefs.” Echoing the famous quote from Henry Ford, Anna truly believes that “if you think you can’t do something, you won’t! If you believe you can, and want it enough, you will!”

But sometimes, we all need to take a step back and assess the situation – something that Michelle Carvill, Digital Marketing Consultant, strongly advocates.

She suggests that while activity obviously generates results, “when we’re going all out all the time, it’s impossible to see the woods for the trees. It’s important to sometimes step back and do absolutely nothing! Reflect, watch, observe.”

But in today’s ‘always-on’ and ultra-competitive business environment, surely such an approach would be counterproductive? Michelle argues to the contrary. She said: “We often feel guilty when taking the foot off the pedal – and there’s so much advice advising us to constantly push and knock ourselves out daily. But it’s so important to sometimes do nothing and just watch what comes up.”

Julian Unthank, HR Consultant at Unthank HR Consulting, suggests that the best advice he could impart on his younger self is to “always ensure you delete your internet browsing history daily.” Joking apart, Julian warns of the need to truly know oneself.

He said that when we are young, we tend to think we know everything and it is only later in life “when you look back that you realise what a journey of learning that a career is.” One of the greatest lessons he has learned is to never ne afraid to make a decision – no matter how hard that may be.

“Facing a tough decision, whether it be a career decision or life event, is best tackled head on,” he said. “I’ve always found that as soon as you make the decision – no matter how difficult the options; it’s like a weight lifted from your mind and the decision is normally proven to be the right one, and a far better option, than procrastination or not making a decision at all.”

I recently listened to a podcast by Tony Robbins. In it he talked about the one key factor that separates people who are successful in life and in business, and those who are not. That difference is action.

We have all courted the expertise, insight and guidance of others when we have needed it. Many more of us have been the ones providing that advice. But this is only ever effective when the individual doing the asking responds in the form of tangible actions.

If no action is taken, then all they have is opinion and invariably, at some point further down the line, that word ‘hindsight’ will begin to come into play…”If only I had taken on board what so and so said.”

These are the thoughts of four people, but what advice would you pass on to your younger self? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments box below.

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