"Could Have"

How often do you think about what could have been? Things that maybe you would have done differently, things that you could have done better, opportunities that should have been seized…..


“Could Have” can be a valuable phrase, but it needs to be put in the appropriate context. Often we use it as a way to express our disappointment in ourselves for something we failed at, and it is always PAST tense. This leads us to our first point:

“Could Have’s” will never change. They are done with. Whatever we did or didn’t do, it’s too late. It’s over and done with. Harboring negative emotions will do nothing to change it.

So what do we do with a situation like this, where we’ve put ourselves in a position of feeling like we shortchanged ourselves or came up short? First, glean lessons from it. Mistakes are great, albeit miserable, teachers. Once you’ve taken a minute to observe your actions and mistakes, chosen some ways to learn and grow from it, it’s time to move on. Forget about it. Don’t dwell on it. Those negative emotions when uncoupled from change only drag you down and sap energy you could be spending on things you actually have some control over, like the present and future.


The other “Could Have” that we hear often is the one used as a humble statement regarding success, such as “Sure those results are great, but imagine what I could have done if only I was better at x-y-z task”. Yes, even in success, the “Could Have” phrase will pop up and down play the good work you’ve actually done. This again leaves us focusing on what we feel is a failure, instead of realizing just how far we’ve come. Check out this post on perspective.

With all this talk of negativity, there still is an appropriate use of the “Could Have” phrasing. This brings us to our second point:

“Could Have’s” should only be utilized to point to the negativity that DIDN’T happen. This is a yardstick to realize the gravity of your success and celebrate the small changes that you have made into habits, that have in turn put you on a path to success.

An example of this would be “Imagine where I could have been if I didn’t train twice a week for the last 6 months! Instead of losing 2” off my waist, I could have been sitting on the couch eating cheese puffs and GAINING 2” on my waist instead! That would have left me with a waist 4” bigger than I actually have today!” What a difference a little perspective can make!

This week as you go about your business, remember that perfection is not attainable. You’ll always feel like you left a little on the table, and that’s ok. Look back to learn, but make sure to stay away from the trap of “Could Have”, and instead look ahead to what is possible.

Celebrate the small victories this week! They’re not as little as you think!

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