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“I Knew This Was Going to Happen!” No, You Didn’t

Rafael Baxa is a budding writer who likes to write about psychology, social behaviour and everything weird.

How often do you come across people saying this? Aimed at you or someone else. People just love to point out when they are right, even if they weren’t. You make a choice it turns out to be the wrong one. Now, it’s their turn to point their fingers at you and go “I knew this was going to happen! You should’ve listened to me”, making you feel worse than you already do for your poor decisions. But did they really know how it was going to turn out? They think they did, but they didn’t.

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Whenever you need to take a decision, how many options do you have? Tens? Hundreds? Thousands? Let’s just say, a lot. How many ways could it end up? Not much, right? When it comes to the results of your decisions, there are only two - success and failure. There is the little grey area between these two, but let’s just ignore that for now. It either turns out exactly like you expected it to and you thank the Gods and go on your way, or it turns out to be a complete failure and all those who suggested you not to do what you did, take this as an opportunity to rub it in your face. “I knew this was going to happen, that’s why I told you not to do it”.

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It might even feel like you too knew this was how it was going to end up, and that you made the call knowing this. You made the wrong decision, and that decision alone is responsible for the failure, and that if you had made the right choice at that time you could have avoided this. But that’s just the pessimist in you speaking, waking up from deep inside and taking up all the space in your mind, spreading like poison, chanting ‘You were wrong. You were wrong. You didn’t listen and you failed. You were wrong...’ But is that really possible? Could you have really known how it would end up? No. No one could have. Even a fortune teller with her shiny crystal ball couldn’t correctly predict how things would end up.

When you look back, it does seem like it was the only way things could have ended up, and that you were a fool for not seeing it. Why? Because that’s how everything seems in hindsight. Things seem simpler, and make much more sense when you look back. It’s because it’s already happened. It’s over. Looking back you have a straight line of every single incident and check points you have passed to reach where you are now. Look at the immediate future and you see millions of paths branching, and all it takes is a single decision to go through one of them. Now, look a little bit further into the future and there’s nothing there. No way to tell what the future holds. You are not a character in a game with definite checks point to reach, and a final end point. You are a kid let loose in a play area, and you can do whatever you want. You don’t know what’s going to happen in the future, and someone who has gone through the exact same thing that you are about to go through doesn’t necessarily know that it’s going to happen to you too. Their experience can only guide you.

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Now think what would’ve happened if you had made a choice and it turned out to be the right decision. Would you think about all the other things that could have happened. Would you remind yourself of all the other options you had and what path they could have lead to? Hardly. The people who like to point their fingers at us at the time of failure would either be nowhere to be found, or they would just completely forget suggesting you to take that other option. The pessimist inside you would lie back and go to sleep, with the optimist shining bright over it. You have succeeded, and so there’s no point in looking back. Now, did you really know this was exactly how you thought it was going to turn out. How sure were you?

If our choices and outcomes were as predetermined and easy to predict as people tend to think they are, we would be living our life in a loop. Almost everyone will be taking the right decision every single time and living a happy life. Our life would be nothing but a simulation with predefined storylines and characters to pick. But that’s not how it is. Each and everyone is living a separate life, and no one knows what’s going to happen and when. A choice that turned out to be good for you may turn out to be hell for another. Your experience may only serve as a book for him, and his experience may be a whole other story. The road would be the same, but it may lead to a different destination every single time. Until you make a choice and live with it, you won’t know how it will turn out. No one can. ‘What could have been’ may not actually be how it would have turned out. It’s either fiction, or just another man’s life story, not yours. Take a decision and live with it. You can go forward from there. There’s no point regretting poor choices and missed opportunities.

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