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.