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Shoulda, Woulda, and Couldas Don't Count...or Do They?

“Shoulda, Woulda and Couldas don’t count!” Those were the words that my dad would tell me every time I messed up and tried to explain myself as a child. Most of my explanations would include: “Well...I guess I coulda…”, “I shoulda done ….” or even “I woulda done ___, if only…” But he would tell me they don’t count. What happened…happened, and I couldn’t go back to change it.

Perhaps his intention was to help me to own up to the failure or to not live in regret. Sadly, it had the opposite effect; it made me mad. It didn’t allow me to process it and move on. In my mind, he was saying, “Sorry no take backs. No Do-Overs. NO EXCUSES!” which just made me sit in that land longer, lamenting over the result of what happened, not knowing how to get out and move passed it.

Do you live in the land of “woulda, shoulda and coulda”?

This can be a land of great excuses and blame.
A land full of regret and shame.
A land where we look back and wallow in the if onlys…

I would have done xyz, if only I didn’t have these obstacles…
I should have done xyz… If only I did that instead…
I could have done xyz, if only… (list your excuses: I had more time, resources, this person did/didn’t do _______ to me, etc.)

Only when I became a coach did I realize there is a different way to approach this pattern of thinking to be more productive and not stay on it like a desert island. In the land of coaching, we explore those areas, but in ways that let you move on and not wallow. Owning up to disappointments is important, but not where we stay. Isn’t that the way life should be all the time...learning and moving on?

I really wish I could remember my dad following up with, “So now what? What did you learn?”

Failures are unmet expectations that we can learn from, defined by ourselves or someone else. Failures are VALUABLE. They tell us so much information. They tell us how we respond to situations; they illuminate our obstacles; they show us things what we need to consider for future trials and decisions. Our answers to what we Coulda, Woulda and Shoulda done can tell us how to proceed in the future. Although, we shouldn’t live in the land of “‘ouldas”, we should definitely use these answers to guide us.
"Failure is not the opposite of success…It is a part of success.” --FB meme
Think about it…this makes our life decisions and results more like scientific experiments. The factors in our decision makings are, in scientific terms, variables; the expectation of the outcome--the hypothesis. Our expectations place a value on the outcome. Expectations are good; they give us goals and order in life. But when we fall short, many of us with beat ourselves up for the gap, rather than applauding our attempt and surmising how to make it better. (This is especially if we did not include God in the situation.)

When we review our situation, we can learn a lot about how to change variables in the future. So many variables really can change as well as our reaction to the variables. In life, sometimes it is hard for us to see the variables, but when we step back to look objectively, will see them.

In coaching, I love asking things like:
“What did you learn?”
“What would you have done differently?”
“With what you know now, how could you proceed in the future?” and
“So, what do you think you should do now?”

But sometimes the reason we live in the 'oulda land is because of something big that we cannot redo...maybe a marriage/relationship we "shouldn't" have committed to, a job we "woulda" gotten if we didn't drink too much or have a temper, or a baby we "coulda" saved if we didn't listen to others. Sometimes there are situations where effects are permanent and will not present themselves again. Hindsight is 20/20, isn't it? If only we could go back and have a redo... If this is you, give yourself grace for there are so many factors that go into our actions...and bring it to God.

Speaking of God, where does He fit into this equation?

First of all, when you include God in the endeavor and you "fail", there is a safety net of knowing that God allowed that outcome. This shifts your thoughts from blaming YOURSELF to TRUSTING that God will work out the outcome for his good (Romans 8:28).

Second, when we "fail", God promises you that there is not condemnation (forever damming you for your mishaps/sins) in Christ (Romans 8:1-2). The Holy Spirit's job is to convict you (making you aware of your mishaps/sins), in order for you to change your ways. God is all about second chances (See Jonah).

Third, God expects us to make mistakes. He made a way for us BECAUSE He expects us to sin and fall short of perfection (See Deuteronomy 31:16,21, Romans 5:8) and that is why He made a plan for us through various sacrifices in the Old Testament and the ultimate sacrifice of Jesus in the New Testament. God uses our mistakes to illuminate our humanness and to bring us closer to Him.

The LORD's goal is for us to see our need for Him. He uses these experiences to help us realize we did wrong so we can change our ways. "Failures" tell us it is time to change something. We are to learn from them and ask God to help us not do it again, change our course, and give us wisdom. There is a real supernatural element that cannot be denied in this process. Identifying Shoulda, Woulda, and Couldas illuminates better ways and from there we can ask the LORD to help us next time. Including God in the process makes us richer in wisdom than processing it on our own (James 1:5). God knows variables we cannot imagine. And He WANTS to help us! After all...His definition of success is what matters most in the end. (Micah 6:8, Deuteronomy 10:12, Joshua 22:5, Mark 12:30)

So...in some ways, my dad was right: Shouldas, Wouldas, and Couldas don't count if you are looking back for excuses or sitting in the land of regret. You can't change the past. Don't let yourself stay there. If you struggle to let go of what you should have done, then you may need help to let that go so God can work out what happened to glorify Him. God brings beauty from ashes. How He works it out is His job. Your job is to keep your eyes on Him and learn from your past mistakes...and we do this morning by morning. When using the 'oudas to move on and improve, they really DO count!

Holy Father, Thank You that You do not waste anything in our lives. Help us to see ourselves the way You see us. Help us to turn our thoughts around to honor You with our circumstances, even in the hard situations that do not feel like blessings or we do not use our resources well. Free us of the excuses and help us to get unstuck so that we are free to do the things You designed us to do. You never put guilt and shame upon us, your convictions are never condemnations. Help us to use these convictions of the Holy Spirit to put us right with You and on the right path for ourselves as You desire. We pray this in Jesus’ Name so that you will have all the glory, forever. Amen.
Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death. Romans 8:1-2
If you're stuck in this land of "ould'as" and are having a hard time getting out, schedule an appointment with me. Let’s learn from your experience so that you can fully become person God intended you to be and live with Christ in the land of freedom and progress!

Written by Katina Wilkins, Life Coach, March 2022

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