Have you ever heard “I woulda won the final round of Jeopardy!” or Marlin Brando’s “I coulda been a contender” from On the Waterfront, or from a mid-level manager complaining “I’m not as successful as I shoulda been.”
Do the woulda Coulda Shouldas plague you? Then do something about it!
My husband and I were at dinner with a number of pilots and I discovered how they would often hide what they did for a living when out of town at a bar. Instead of saying they flew an airliner or freight planes, they would say they “drove a bus” (passenger flights) or “drove an eighteen wheeler for UPS" (flying freight) because they got tired of hearing “I always wanted to learn how to fly” from total strangers who would then attach themselves to the pilot as if they were now best friends.
My husband (a general aviation pilot) said he counters the “I always wanted to fly” claims with “No you didn’t, or you would have.”
I will confess I met my husband back when I too thought I wanted to learn to fly. My mother suggested I talk with him since he was a pilot and could give me advice. I’ve enjoyed almost forty years of flying with him because I kept the pilot and ditched the idea of learning to fly.
But I didn’t give up on learning how to fly until I tried it. I went through ground school and passed the written exam, then took several flying lessons. While I discovered I loved flying I also found I didn’t want the responsibility of flying myself. So no “I always wanted to learn to fly” regrets for me.
The conversation about learning to fly reminded me of the number of times non-writers tell me how they always wanted to write a novel. My pat answer is “Then why don’t you?” Of course I then get to hear a litany of excuses as to why they haven’t or more likely can’t write a novel.
Yet the biggest complaint people express when they are old and near death is the regrets they have for the things they didn’t do. I call this the Woulda, Coulda, Shoulda syndrome.
My challenge to you is at least make a real effort tackling one of your Woulda Coulda Shouldas. Maybe you have written a novel, or twenty, but you always wanted to try your hand at a western, or historical, or fill in the blank. Do it! You may discover it wasn’t as fulfilling as you’d imagined and you can take it off both your regret list and your Woulda Coulda Shoulda list. Or maybe you discover a whole new genre you want to write in. It’s never too late to discover a new passion, a new opportunity to replace a Woulda Coulda Shoulda with an “I did it!”
But don't stop there. Now that you know you can do something you've always wanted to do, look around and discover a new challenge, a new frontier to explore. Who knows, maybe you'll learn to fly and write a book about it!
So, do you have any Woulda Coulda Shouldas you want to tackle?