Shoulda Woulda Coulda
How many times do you say to others or yourself, “I could have done that better, in fact, I should have done that better. In fact, if only I would do things better, I would be a lot better off". For me this happens more times than I would like to admit. Except, this time I am admitting it. To cap if off, if only I didn’t get caught up in all this internal chatter, things would probably be better.
This week my chattering voice is saying:
- If only I could be sure I was booked up for the next six months
- I should prepare more for that workshop
- I would be ok if I only had more time
There is an old, but very true cliché saying I learnt many years ago:
“The past is history; the future is a mystery and today is a gift that is why they call it the present. “
Even though this is common wisdom, and we intuitively know it, we seem to regularly forget it. How do I get into that elusive present? We all know we can’t change history, but hopefully we can learn from it. We also all know we can’t predict, or more importantly control the future, but we seem to spend a lot of our time thinking about just that. In fact, we spend so much of our time having thoughts for relitigating the past and fixing what is to come there seems no time at all to be in the present.
The trouble with all this thinking is that creates struggle and even suffering in our lives, without affecting any outcomes. The struggle is created in the space between our resisting what is happening with how we think the world should be. Or in other words our minds have created a story about how things should be, and we have bought into it. The more we hold onto those thoughts the more we struggle. We suffer from the sheer weight of thinking.
So, what can we do about it?
In simple terms, we have forgotten how we create our reality through our thoughts in the moment. These thoughts come from our conditioning over many years, they are the stories we have bought into about how the world should be. By the very fact they are based on the past or the future they are creating an illusion about the now. They weigh us down, so we have no time to think, let alone see things clearly.
Let me explain with my own example.
I have thoughts that I should be better at many things, I have had these thoughts for many many years, probably going back to when I was having trouble fitting in at school. My mind, trying to be helpful, has me on high alert for any similar situations. This week I am facilitating a workshop and finding new clients. In its innocent way my mind is trying to protect me along the lines of “remember you must get it right because you know what happens when you get it wrong”. In a low mood or when I am less aware, I buy into these thoughts and think they are real. I start to figure out why this is happening to me what should or could I do differently. Sadly, it doesn’t make me feel better, in fact the more I try to figure it out the worse I feel. The situation gets me down and I start to lose hope that the world will ever be the way I want it to be, or if I ever will be good enough.
But then I remember that my thoughts are the illusion made up in my mind. There are no answers in an illusion. The struggle I am feeling is my wisdom asking me to come back to the gift of the present moment. I remember there is nothing to resist, as it was all made up in my mind in the first place. Then the thoughts lessen their grip, or more accurately, I think less about them, seeing they offer me nothing new. I get rid of the dead weight; I see they are no use to me at all. We have a natural buoyancy, an internal wisdom, that allows us to see things as we are. We don’t have to change our thoughts, we just don’t take seriously the ones that are not useful. In this space I am seeing things more clearly, whether it is remembering I am making it all up or realising the pointless waste of time going over the past or worrying about the future. Whatever it is, I see more possibility, I am kinder to myself and how I have innocently got caught up in my thinking. I remember it’s all ok in this space, the present, and that things will take care of themselves. When I am in the present, I will know exactly what to do when the need arises. Practically today, that is to get on with working on my business development plan, schedule enough time to prepare for the workshop, know that I care for and have done my very best for my client.
To be honest the coulda, shoulda, woulda thoughts are still there the back of my mind, coming in and out of my consciousness, and I doubt they will ever fully go. But though at times I get caught up and then it still feels like a struggle, I have the confidence I will remember to see what the struggle feeling is really pointing to and come back to the present moment, where it’s all ok.