‘I knew it was going to happen;’ ‘I did not expect it;’ I knew we were wasting our time.’ We come across these kinds of retorts more often than not, and they are symptomatic of the presence or absence of one crucial factor: Foresight. There are two components in making judgments leading to decision: Analytical look at facts and foresight. And in this blog, I will try to take a look only at foresight as I already dealt with the former in the blog titled, “What is the most difficult thing in life?”
Ability is the sum total of doable and potentially doable possessions that are naturally present in a person while capability is the set of skills that one acquires as she/he courses through life. We say “differently-abled person,” not differently-capable person. Right? This clarifies natural nature of ability and acquired origin of capability. Basic intelligence, talents, and wisdom come under abilities while skills, knowledge and experience are capabilities. Capabilities sharpen abilities. Foresight is the ability to see now every relevant factors from future, which will have a definite bearing on one’s capability to make judgments. The operative word here is ‘relevant.’ How do we develop foresight? There are two prerequisites to foresight: common sense and peripheral awareness.
It is difficult to explain what common sense is. Let me explain it with an example. Why do teachers, while examining answer sheets, use pens that have ink whose color is different from the ink color used by students? It is because, though not meritoriously relevant, same color ink will make teachers’ notes and markings visibly irrelevant. Thus, in order to make their markings and notes visibly relevant on answer sheets, teachers choose pens with different ink color. So we can say that common sense is the ability to differentiate relevance from irrelevance in order to choose relevance.
Analytical look is reasonably filtering through facts available in the immediate arena of a subject on which decision has to be taken. And you need a bridge from facts to reach foresight, and that connecting link is peripheral awareness. Peripheral awareness is the ability to comprehend the extended reach of facts-of-the-matter without losing focus on the facts itself. It largely depends on the faculties of decision-maker to conjure up that reach. Let me bring in the game of cricket to illustrate what peripheral awareness is meant by in decision making.
The Time Magazine, while featuring the cricketing legend, Sachin Tendulkar, on its cover page titled “Cover Drive,” mentioned ‘Peripheral Awareness’ as one of the qualities which enabled Sachin to emerge as the most successful cricket player that the contemporary times had seen. The magazine further explained that while batting, including while facing the toughest ball from the fiercest bowler, Sachin had the entire ground, especially positioning of fielders, on his frame of mind so as to adjust his batting to find gaps and score though he did not look around frequently. In an abstract, peripheral awareness, as also explained by the magazine, is the ability to factor in facts from all the possible extended reach without overreaching.
Subtle clues — that can be verbal and/or non-verbal — which we usually fail to notice during social and interpersonal interactions are the food for foresight. Noticing and deciphering them reveal general contour and portends of things to come. There are people who have the ability to see the appropriateness or inappropriateness; and relevance or irrelevance of these subtle clues as they flash before them although present utility value of these clues is negligible or naught. As a corollary, they visualize and judge the future ramifications of these subtleties, filter out irrelevant things, arrive at educated inferences and keep them on a ready-to-use mode as and when required. It is to be noted that you can not catapult yourself to this deliberate sight-in-advance from facts but have to cross the bridge of peripheral awareness to reach there because you also need the help of the extended reach of facts to decipher subtle clues.
A piece on foresight is incomplete without touching on hindsight and farsightedness. Hindsight is post-mortem analysis to understand something after it happened. Foresight is an intangible asset with future value while hindsight does not qualify to call itself as an asset though it may offer a few pointers for future.
Farsightedness is a medical condition in which one can see distant objects clearly but nearby objects blurry. So figuratively, farsightedness also means ability to see distant physical objects. Furthermore, farsightedness is a synonym of foresight, and both can be used interchangeably barring one context. Let me explain this usage difference with an example. A good driver is said to have long and much-beyond visibility, making the drive as careful as he/she otherwise does even when there is good distance between the driver and the vehicle just ahead. In this case, we can say that driver has farsightedness, not foresight. Barring this exception, farsightedness and foresight are interchangeably used.
Analyse facts, build a bridge of the extended reach of the facts called peripheral awareness, cross it and bring home relevant insights from subtle clues. And thus allow foresight to add value to correctness in decisions you take in life.