Many people spend a great deal of time and energy on the phrase "coulda, woulda, shoulda." The missed opportunities, jobs lost or not taken, friends you lost touch with or didn't meet, that list of things that would have changed your life, if only.
Some people rail against where they are in life, professionally or personally, and think not of where they are but where they "should be." They argue about how life is not how it should be for them. They should have better jobs, older/younger children, bigger houses, better cars, fancier careers. Oh, how life would improve, if only they were where they "should be."
I am going to argue that wherever you are is exactly where you should be at this moment in time. If life is a path we follow and each step is represented by the millions of decisions we have made in our personal history, then your footsteps have brought you here, make the best of it. You can have no effect on your history, it is what it is and no amount of wailing will change it. It is immutable, cast in stone, done and over with. Don't waste your here and now, and therefore your potential future by the "couldas and wouldas."
Examine your history, own your history, acknowledge where choices might have been done differently. That is all good for making sure that the couldas and the wouldas of the here and now are approached with an eye to the future. Use the regrets in your past to make your future because if the past is already set, the future is still so fluid and open.
As I look back on my life I could drown in all the things I would have done differently- worked harder in high school, insisted on college right away, build our house sooner, start a family sooner, the list is truly endless. Yet if I were able to go back and change even one of those choices I would no longer be here, in this place, in this time, living the life I have. Are there lessons I am taking forward to make my future closer to what I dream of? You bet, but I am not wasting this glorious gift of life by bellyaching over what I can't change.
My promise to myself is that each time I find myself wishing something in the here and now were different I will remind myself of all the things I wouldn't trade for all the tea in China. I bet that list will remind me of how lucky I am and how much I have to fight for. Then I will try to be sure that the choices I make today are the best I can make for my future. Each day, I will remind myself that I am exactly where I "should be" and if I don't like it, only I control my couldas and wouldas.
I will own my history, live my present, and dream for my future. I will do everything in my power to make the world a little better for my having been in it. At the end of my days I don't want to worry about the coulda, woulda, shoulda.