Monday, April 6, 2015

#15 on the Top 10 List of Life Thieves - "Woulda, Shoulda, Coulda"

Doesn't make sense does it - #15 on a list of the top ten things that steal your life. Actually, it's pretty simple. I keep finding more and more things that steal our lives. Remember, we can directly relate our lives, a priceless commodity, to time, another priceless commodity. It's my opinion that life and time are almost one and the same.

I'm going to count down from #15, although I may insert some additional life thieves as they occur to me or as you and others contribute ideas on life thieves.

Woulda, Shoulda, Coulda

How much time have you wasted contemplating things you would have done, should have done or could have done . . . if only? If you're honest, you're going to admit there has been any number of times you've spent time with these contemplations. These are life thieves.

I don't know a single person I've ever met who hasn't wasted time on this kind of retro living. Let's face it, even the best of us have some kind of regrets over missed opportunities in our occupational, relationship, hobby, financial, medical, physical, health, fitness, spiritual, etc. lives. The reality is that none of us can take advantage of all the opportunities that have and will continue to pass through our lives.

Life is nothing if not an ongoing series of choices and decisions. If we attempted to take advantage of every one of the opportunities passing our way we'd never accomplish and achieve anything. We'd go crazy attempting to do it all. It's impossible. We each made the correct decision, as we saw it, at the time. Yes! Maybe in hindsight it wasn't the best or right decision. But, remember, to be a successful professional baseball player and win the batting title for a given year only requires as few as 3.3 hits for every 10 times at bat. That means the champion batter made bad choices in swinging or not swinging the bat as many as 6.7 times at bat.

My sister often says to me how her life would be different if our father hadn't died at 42 when she was a few months over 10 years old. I, of course, agree with her. But, then I add, of course all three of our lives (we were three siblings) would have been different. But, would they have been better or worse than they turned out? The reality, is that each of the three of us have made thousands of choices during our lives since our father's death. We would have made those thousands of choices even if he had lived. Would we have made the same choices? Possibly, but it's not likely all of them would have been the same. There is no way of knowing if our lives would have turned out better or worse had he lived? So, it's a waste of time and our precious life contemplating something that can't be known.


Contemplating what you would have done or what would have happened if only you had made a different choice is a fruitless waste of your life. It's unknowable what path your life would have taken if you would have done something different.

If the baseball player who didn't win the batting title for a specific year would have swung a few more times he might have won the title. But, that's unknowable. Perhaps, he may have been walked onto base several of the times he didn't swing and positioned his team with the winning run for that game. Perhaps, if had swung a few more times he might have struck out and his team would have lost the game.

The best plan is not to focus on what would have happened if you had made a different choice. The reality is what you actually chose is now history. Focusing on what you learned from that choice can hopefully help you make a different and better choice in the future should a similar circumstance present itself.

Perhaps, you made a really great choice. Again, that choice is now history. You've benefited from the choice. Will you use the success from that choice to make another similar choice today or tomorrow?

There is no percentage in concerning yourself with what would have been. It's history and carved in the annuls of time. Now, is when you are living. Now, is the only time that really counts. Stop wasting your life on the "Wouldas" you can't change.


How many times has someone told you that you should have done something? How much time have you spent time contemplating the things you now know you should have done yesterday, last week, last month, thirty years ago when you met the person who became your spouse, when you accepted a job that wasn't really what you wanted, but you chose to do it for the money?

Yes! We all should have done many things differently. We should have said 'No' to someone when we said 'Yes' knowing it was the wrong choice. We should have gotten to know the person better that we said yes to or proposed to who became our spouse. We should have completed high school, the college degree, the graduate degree, become a doctor, lawyer, engineer, clergy, professional athlete, etc. But, we didn't and now we're obsessing over what we should have done and how different our lives would have been.

Again, the outcome of what you should have done if you followed that path is unknowable. Again, your life is now history and carved in the annuls of time. There is no time machine allowing you to go back and do what you now believe you should have done. This is a waste of your precious present life.

How about focusing on all the positive things that actually have happened in your life because of the choices you made. Believe me, there are far more than you may realize because you are retro focused and living in the past. If you've never watch a movie titled "Mr. Holland's Opus" starring Richard Dreyfus, perhaps you should. This could give you a positive perspective or spin on your life. You may not realize how many lives you've touched in a positive way because of the path you've trod. Richard Dreyfus's character, Mr. Holland, thought he had missed out on life and the dream he had for himself. I won't give away the end of the movie, but I will only say his eyes were opened.


Yes! We all could have done many things differently during our lives. It doesn't matter how old you currently are, there are things you could have done. But, once again, there is no percentage in wasting your present precious life focusing on what you could have done. This kind of thinking is often associated with guilt over something. Perhaps you did something to hurt someone physically, mentally or emotionally. Maybe you said 'No' when you now feel you could have said 'Yes."

None of this matters. Time never goes backward, it only marches on. Perhaps you need to tell all the people in your life that you appreciate them for who they are and what they mean to you. Maybe there are people you need to sincerely say, "I love you," to. Perhaps someone did a favor for you and you neglected to thank them appropriately. Are you carrying a grudge, maybe for years, against someone who wronged you (or so you felt) at some time in the past and you've never forgiven them.

Yes! You could have done all these things back then including apologizing or forgiving someone. But, once again, it's a waste of your present precious life to think about, focus on or obsess over any of these things when you can simply take immediate action to change it all. Maybe they have passed away and left this Earth. Contact their offspring or siblings and take the action with them.

Yes! You could have made a different career choice or accepted a different job, or sky dived, or scuba dived or skied or taken up acting or sang solo, in a group or with a choir, written a book, painted YOUR masterpiece, led a group of people on a hike up a mountain, etc. So, why are you obsessing about it now? I know people of all ages who are doing these things. Yes! They could have done them a long time ago, but they aren't focusing or obsessing on what they could have done, they are doing these things NOW, in the present.

I have a friend and former author of mine who played in a rock and roll band when he was in high school and college and loved music. But, he chose to become a professional salesman for a major Fortune 500 corporation. He became so successful (after a near fatal bout with cancer while in his mid 20's) that he became an international sales trainer. He had a very successful career.

Then one day, 9/11 happened. This changed the dynamics of his seminar business. And then in 2008 the Big Recession knocked him out of the game again. He was in his 50's. So, he got together with a group of friends and formed a rock and roll band. Yes! He could have done music back when he was young, but that wasn't his focus. Today he isn't thinking about what he could have done. He's doing it and having the time of his life.

Bury the Past and All Your Woulda, Shoulda, Couldas

Your life equates to time. They are the two most priceless things we have. We were born wealthier than most of us ever fully realize. Don't waste your life thinking about, focusing on and obsessing over what your woulda, shoulda or coulda done. The past is the past. It's unchangeable. But, NOW is here. I commend you to review, if you've already read them before, or read, if you haven't already, my "12 Steps for Living Free." You'll find a link to the right of this post under the "Pages" listing. There are lots of ideas there to help you get started.

As the Nike Shoes slogan says, "Just Do It!"


Anonymous said...

Thank you so much Ed.This couldn't have come at a better time!!! I truly needed the reminder.

Ed Helvey - Location Independent Traveler said...

Glad to provide the reminder and food for thought. Keep on keeping' on.