11 February, 2009

Shoulda, Coulda, Woulda...

I have done a lot of crazy things in my life. From the time I was very young until about thirty minutes ago when I was at the gas station, I've done things that have the potential to make other people feel ashamed or even worried. Not ashamed of me, of course. I'm not that outrageous, but I do take risks that many people would consider foolish. The difference between me and them is that some people will take the same risks, but they walk away feeling ashamed and foolish... beating themselves up and crying over spilled milk.

The three words I chose for the title of this blog are perhaps three of the most useless words in the English language. Should. Could. Would. Think about what each of them means, what they really mean, and while you're thinking I will use each one in a really silly sentence.

1. I should have passed on that cheesecake.

2. I could have volunteered for the fundraiser, but I didn't.

3. I would have doublechecked the answers if I'd had more time.

Whether you've come up with your own examples, or you've read over mine, you can clearly see the error in each sentence. Yeah, maybe you SHOULD have passed on the cheesecake, but the fact of the matter is, you didn't. You can't take it back now, so why are you crying about it? I'm sure the people you could have volunteered for were really happy to hear about what you could have done (but didn't...) for them. And obviously, whether you would have doublechecked your answers or not, the simple fact of the matter is you didn't.

Those three words are the types of things we utter whenever we have remorse or regret. Unfortunately, so many of us are walking around everywhere we go, all day long experiencing regret and remorse over everything we do. The foods we choose, the people we talk to, the words we say, the choices we make in the grocery store and the money we spend. If I had a nickel for every time I said, "I shouldn't have bought that (insert object here)," I would be a millionaire.

The thing is, I've spent a great deal of time in the last ten years trying to rid those three words from my vocabulary entirely. Believe it or not, there are ways you can do it. There are two methods I employ in my own life and they work very well. The first one is that I decided a long time ago that as far as I know, I've only got this one life to live... Even if science and spirituality one day discover that reincarnation is a fact, in another life I am not the same person I am in this life. When I do things, no matter if they are stupid or brilliant, the last thing I want to do afterward is waste time thinking about how I could, should or would have done them better. I decided a long time ago to live my life without regret, which cuts back on the amount of time I spend moping over decisions made and executed. The second thing is boils down to responsibility. When you take responsibility for everything you do, no matter how brilliant or foolish, there's no need to reevaluate what "should, could or would" have been done better or differently.

Dr. Wayne Dyer once talked about using should, could, would on children. Children automatically see the error in those words because they operate on that mindframe. They inherently know that you can't go back in time to fix what you should, could or even would have done differently.

So the next time you're about to say, "Oh, I should have...could have...would have... done things this way," stop before it even leaves your mouth and think about those words. If you can still change the outcome, just do it. If it's said and done, let it go. There's nothing you can do to change it.

Now before you say, "But what about learning from our mistakes? By saying, could, should or would, I can think about the next time and change my reaction..." Let's face it. There isn't going to be a next time. The next time you're thinking about is going to be a completely different experience than the one you just had. If you already know your error, you'll correct it without dwelling on what might have been. Like I said above, we get to live THIS life just once. Why not own all of our choices, even the ones we're not so proud of. Instead of ending this blog post with the words, "I should be editing my novel," I'm just going to go and do it!



Morgan Mandel said...

Great advice. You can never go back in time. I also have regrets, but who doesn't after they've lived a while? The best thing to do is try and be the best person and make the right decisions in whatever circumstances present themselves. Now about that cheesecake - I'm afraid I would eat it.

Morgan Mandel

Susan said...

More great food for thought, Jenny! The key message I got was that even in failing to choose--we are choosing--and need recognize that fact.


Jenny Beans said...

Exactly, Susan. What's done is done, regardless of how much thought and execution we put into it. Choosing not to choose is definitely a choice. When we own the choices we make, we take responsibility and there's no need for regret.

Morgan, the cheesecake cannot be avoided. I eat it every time!

Nicole Ireland said...

You are spot on once again, Jenny. We do waste too much time worrying about the could haves, would haves and should haves. I'm guilty of it. I'll admit it. More so when I was a teenager though. I try not to live my life with regrets now. I accept the choices I've made with my life. Yeah, some could have been done differently, but they're over and done with. What's worrying about it going to change? Nothing. I can change how I react to it though. I've chosen to not let those things rule my life. Sometimes, I slip up and find myself thinking those thoughts, but I usually catch myself. If I don't, you and my friend Jackie do. You guys help me push through and live my life for today, not for yesterday. Thanks!