Woulda, Shoulda, Coulda-Three High Impact Words


“Accept everything about yourself–I mean everything. You are you and that is the beginning and the end–no apologies, no regrets.”

-Henry Kissinger

Three words that have the potential to carry a destructive and “soul defeating” internal message.  Three small words that we bring out when we want to emphasize the possibilities that we passed up, those we might have accomplished or better yet, those that would have defined us in a much better light.

The woulda, shoulda, coulda (WSC’s) set up residence in the place where doubt rules, regrets ruminate and lost opportunity becomes the moniker that we judge our current status by. Carrying around unrealized past potential is a heavy load to carry.  The baggage, in the internal storage unit of the WSC’s, is mostly unproductive, creates obstacles and acts to diminish the value of current opportunity and success.

Amazing and sad to think that past decisions based on time, place and circumstance are given such a prominent place in our lives.  They  become the way in which we judge our accomplishments in the present.  WSC’s are often used as a measure, filtering present circumstance against accomplishments that never happened.  We use them to define our real time success or failure. My questions for you today are:

  • How does keeping the WSC’s in play work for you?
  • What would be possible if the WSC’s weren’t part of your internal dialogue?
  • Dumped WSC’s allow for new space for self evolution.  How do you imagine you could fill  that extra space?
  • Are you ready to clear out your WSC storage unit?

When I think of my own WSC storage locker, I can relate a story about a missed opportunity from my past.  Upon completion of my first degree  I was offered a great scholarship opportunity at University of California Berkeley.  An unbelievable gift that offered a chance to complete my Masters and PhD without the burden of worrying about money.  Time, place and circumstance?  I turned it down and instead took a job in northern Alberta, Canada as a Child Welfare Worker in the investigation unit.

It has taken years for me to understand the significance of this decision.  For many years I held it up as some kind of self righteous banner as in, “I coulda been living the perfect academic life in sunny southern California but instead I chose to work for kids who didn’t have a voice”

Later,  I used it to define regret ” I shoulda taken that scholarship.  What was I thinking? Unbelievable mistake-wow!”  This was quickly followed by ” I woulda been in a great position right now had I been confident enough to take on the challenge of the scholarship”  Time, place and circumstance.

The reality check.  If I had taken that path I wouldn’t have the life I have right now and even though this life path has some challenges, I quite like the outcome of the decisions I made all those years ago.  Yes, Berkeley would have been great but time place and circumstance took me in a different direction and I have to admit that I’ve enjoyed a great deal of success as a result.

Truth is, that any decision that we make, is quite naturally based on current knowledge and situation.  Hindsight, in contrast, has the advantage of living in the world of fantasy and is the realm of the WSC’s.  We are masters of taking current knowledge and using it to embellish past events and decisions.  We make judgements about our past decisions from the more informed place of current reality and knowledge.

The advantage for the WSC’s is that they haven’t had to stand the test of time but rather stand in the place of the untested and untried.  Isn’t it ironic, that the decisions that got us to our current reality, also give us the ability to review untested historical potential through rose colored glasses.    It’s impossible for past decision, viewed through the lens of current knowledge and experience, to be a realistic measurements through which we judge our real time lives.

  • What do you have in your past that you use to judge yourself?
  • Can you take back the power over that decision or does that decision continue to hold power over you?
  • What steps can you take to get out from under the judgement and regret and re-route  that energy for present challenges and discovery?
  • Do you really think that that other life would have been more successful, better and more  everything?  If you do then what is the cost of this belief in your  real time life?  Is the cost to expensive?
  • Are you ready to take up that challenge of letting go and moving forward?  What do imagine it’s going to feel like when you do?

Decisions based in real time, based on facts that are occurring in real time, are the best decisions we can make.  Aren’t they?

Perhaps it’s time to make room, de-clutter the WSC storage unit and create space for the greatness that is presented to us everyday by real time opportunity and challenges.  Just sayin’!