Whenever I do a seminar on stress management, I always get a majority of individuals who want to spend a lot of time discussing the past and how different their lives would have been if they had made better decisions. It’s all well and good to visit the past if it serves as a way to learn valuable lessons that make life more meaningful. Unfortunately most people act as if they are prisoners of their pasts.
Albert Ellis, a renowned expert in the field of cognitive behavioral therapy, coined a phrase I absolutely love. He calls getting stuck in what ifs’ “shoulding on yourself”. I should have gotten a different job, I should have married someone else, I should exercise more, eat better, and on and on.
If you can relax and stop “shoulding on yourself”, you’re going to enjoy life much more.
Here are some steps to help you live more in the here and now:
1. Whenever you get caught up in thinking about what you should have done, stop and think about what a waste of energy that is. You can’t go back and redo it, because that period of time has passed. As long as you’re still breathing, there’s a possibility that you can do it now. However, if you have no intention to follow through, give it up and move on.
2. Buy yourself a whip and keep it handy. Every time you start to drown yourself or others in “should” grab the whip and give yourself a good beating. You’re already self-flagellating, so why not do it as authentically as possible.
3. Keep a “should” journal. You’ll probably be shocked to discover how many times a day “shoulda, coulda, woulda, comes out of your mouth.
4. There are certain things that have to be done in life. Do them to the best of your ability and then forget about them.
5. Don’t allow “shoulding” to go on at home or at work. Ask people to express themselves in better ways. “Shoulding” is filled with judging and finding fault. As a result, our surroundings become a courtroom filled with prosecutors and attorneys.
Life is too precious to waste on what might have been. Get over it, get on with it and live “NOW”.