Doing away with woulda, coulda, shoulda

I experienced a new level of freedom when I began to learn to shake off thoughts of woulda, coulda, and shoulda.

What are these anyway? I’ve come to the conclusion that they are expectations.  Expectations that may never have been valid in the first place, but even if they were, are not at all likely to be valid today.

A lot of my woulda, coulda, shoulda thoughts include: education, career decisions, and financial decisions.  Why this emphasis?  Probably because for us men, they are areas of identity and security (or insecurity).  Why?  Could it be that our culture and society have helped set these expectations for us?

Has our culture suggested that a higher education, a respectable career, and financial stability are paramount?  Few would argue that they are not important.  But are they paramount?  Are they the most important?

Do education, career, and financial wealth equate to quality of life?  Is there a linear relationship between these three and our true value in society?

Is the world lacking for highly-educated, well-employed, and wealthy people?  Or is it lacking for people who are wise, compassionate, loyal, industrious, prudent, creative, and honest?

Are our governments who wage wars, betray our own people, and mismanage our public purses not populated mainly with highly-educated, well-employed, wealthy people?  Is Wall Street, including during the 2008 scandals, not populated with the same?

What if out of one of the worlds oceans, emerged two brand new continents.  One populated with well-educated, well-employed, wealthy people, and the other with wise, compassionate, loyal, industrious, prudent, creative, and honest people.  Which continent would likely enjoy the better quality of life?  Which continent would the other continents of the world line up to emigrate to?  Which would we want our children to be raised in?

If there is one thing my crash and burn taught me, it’s the value of the things in life that money can’t buy.  In fact, the journey of having gone through a financial setback years ago has helped me see what true wealth is and on what basis it is built.

Prior to crash, I was playing society’s game.  I was living by society’s woulds, coulds, and shoulds.  If I continued to win at their game, I may never have known about the deeper, more meaningful values in life.  And I mean know them in a way that only having had to live them can teach you.

How do I know that I am not exactly where I am supposed to be this very minute?  How do I know that what I thought was pain, wasn’t life’s refining fire to allow me to be someone far more valuable to the people in my life, including myself, than I could ever have been had I continued to play society’s game?

Today, I rarely ever get caught up in my old game of woulda, coulda, shoulda.  Why?  Because today, I am grateful for everything I’ve learned, everything I HAD TO learn, every blessing in my life, every attribute of my character that I can use to bless others, work hard, think wisely & clearly, act compassionately, listen attentively (especially to my wife and children), laugh genuinely, live healthily, and serve faithfully.  Back when I was chasing society’s woulds, shoulds, and coulds, I was missing most of these attributes.

So why would I ever want to hold onto these wouldas, couldas, and shouldas?   I don’t.  I am doing away with them.




About Chaz

Husband, father, brother, son, friend. Sober member of AA. Grateful for the life God gave me and for the happy struggle of recovery.
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10 Responses to Doing away with woulda, coulda, shoulda

  1. eremophila says:

    Great thoughtful post again Chaz. Societal conditioning is insidious and powerful – not easy to break away from unless, like you and I, we are forced into by a situation. Even apart from personal gain-getting, the woulda, shoulda, coulda, can apply to personal interactions and can be just as damaging when it leads to feelings of guilt and of not being ‘good enough’. So yes, let’s get rid of their use!

  2. Chaz says:

    Hey E….

    Thanks for popping by. Yes… personal gain-getting was just my context-de-jour. Same rules apply to any area of life. Personal interactions are a huge one. We can coulda, woulda, shoulda things that might have been, thinks we might have said, people we could have met or been involved with etc.

    The fact that we didn’t isn’t necessarily a mistake. We just don’t know that NOT doing whatever it is our coulda-woulda is telling us we shoulda done was not what made us who we are today? (if that logic isn’t to backward with the double negative).

    Good to hear from ya.



  3. Heidi says:

    Love the wisdom here! I’m adding your site to my links for AA blogs, OK? Thanks for the post. I need to be reminded of this.

  4. Chaz says:

    Hi Heidi…. by all means add away. Thanks for the comments and for stopping by.

  5. Awesome post! I find myself guilty of the shoulda’s most! However, I am slowly learning to accept that things happen for a reason, and to not be too hard on myself. I appreciate the insight and thought! Keep it up, and glad I found your blog! Thanks

  6. Chaz says:

    Hi ESW….. thanks for stopping by and your comments.

    The shouldas probably carry the most guilt because they suggest that we missed an obligation or duty. Yet who is to say what should be? Usually the should suggestions and twists of guilt are coming from our unrecovered thinking…. a source I am sure we would all agree is unreliable at best.

    Ignoring the voice of our unrecovere thinking is a skill that takes practice, but does become easier in time. Retraining ourselves to listen to healthier thinking can feel like passing a kidney stone at first. It can be that painful and that awkward. Yet once we begin practicing new habits of thought, we often quickly see a better result and are encouraged to recover more.

    There are so many alternatives to woulda, coulda, shoulda. Lets not be fooled by our unrecovered thinking that we have to dwell in these prisons of futile thinking. A wonderful life and world awaits us outside of their grip.



  7. Debby says:

    I’d say you are definitely where you’re suppose to be. You are a person of far more value now than the false value in your earlier life. Thanks for sharing that.

    • Chaz says:

      Thanks Debby…. I do know that my relationships have improved dramatically…. so hopefully that is an indicator there is now more to relate to. And to imagine that I used to think that others could relate to the false value I used to offer. Wow, blind.



  8. notaconvert says:

    You pose some great questions on the church… I have some thoughts on this and I am going to reread this when kids are in bed and shoot you some reflections.

    Have a great Halloween!

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