Shoulda-Coulda Thinking

Here’s another championship I could have won in my prime. Happily, I’m less of a contender these days. If I were stuck in traffic: “I should have gone another way. I should have left earlier. I should have left later.” After a less-than stellar performance: “I should have practiced more. I should have never attempted that. I should have known I’d be too nervous to execute that properly.”

The questions we’ve been using don’t seem to work completely with this one, but let’s see what happens when we try.

1) What’s the evidence? You might have had a bad creative session or a not-great athletic performance and you think it’s obvious that you SHOULD have: practiced harder, held on to the ball, blocked the puck, hit the right notes, remembered the dialogue, written every morning, etc., etc.)

OK, so maybe there IS evidence that you need to improve something.
But what is the evidence that telling yourself you “should” do something actually helps you improve that thing?
If you are like most humans, “shoulding all over yourself” (as the Saturday Night Live character Stuart Smiley put it) engenders regret and discouragement, not motivation. It also can also foment rebellion. “I should eat well before competition” could lead to, “The heck with that–I’m gonna do what I WANT to do, not what I SHOULD do.”
2) Is this thought useful? I think we’ve established that it’s not useful. What do you think?

So, instead of “shoulding,” try asking yourself, “What can I learn from this?” It may seem like semantics, but simply changing the words you say to yourself can lead you to positive change for the future instead of being mired in the past. “If I practice more my form will improve and I’ll do better next time,” sets the stage for progress, whereas, “I should have made that shot,” keeps you stuck in the disappointing past.