How-to-Escape from the Land of Shoulda Woulda Coulda

It’s the rare person who doesn’t want things to be better: better job, better career, better income, better everything.

Is the glass half empty or half full? The pess...

And if only things were better then that person – maybe you, maybe me – would finally have the life that they deserve.

Life, it seems, seldom works that way.

The reality is that you are you, and it’s what you do with yourself that makes all the difference in the world.

Beverly Knight notes in her song Shoulda Would Coulda that “Shoulda woulda coulda” are the last words of a fool.” In “On the Waterfront” actor Marlon Brando laments the bad hand that fate – and collusion – has dealt him by claiming “I could have been a contender.

It turns out that when your wishes do become dreams, like many millionaire lottery winners, that people always haven’t had lives that turned out so well.

Better to be optimistic, suggests Daniel Kahneman, and figure out what to do with work, career or life that has left you with perceived shortcomings.

Nobel prize winner Kanenhman in Thinking, Fast and Slow, notes the following about optimists:

Optimistic individuals play a disproportionate role in shaping our lives. Their decisions make a difference; they are inventors the entrepreneurs, the political and military leaders – not average people. They got to where they are by seeking challenges and taking risks. They are talented and they have been lucky, almost certainly luckier than they acknowledge.”

So they next time you start reaching for the “Should Would Coulda” button, trying being optimistic and figure out a way for things to get better. Then do it.

Here’s Kahneman’s take on why prospect theory, something that Amos Tversky and he developed, was so well embraced:

“Prospect theory was accepted by many scholars not because it was “true” but because the concepts it added to utility theory, . . they yielded new predictions that turned out to be true. We were lucky.”

 Want some luck? Be optimistic. Go find it.

Life Back West is an occasional set of writings focused on ways people, teams and organizations can be both more effective (doing the right thing) and more efficient (doing the right thing well). More about executive, career and team / leadership coaching services can be found at the “About J. Mike Smith and Back West, Inc.” sidebar or the “Hire Me” tab above. You can also read an online interview with me at WhoHub, as well as participate in my learning community courtesy of KnowledgeCrush. 

Photo credit: Wikipedia

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