Shoulda, Coulda, Woulda: Live in the Present, Find Your Future

Shoulda, Coulda, Woulda: Live in the Present, Find Your Future

by Les Parrott III

ISBN: 9780310224600

Publisher Zondervan

Published in Christian Books & Bibles/Christian Living, Self-Help/Personal Transformation, Health, Mind & Body/Psychology & Counseling

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Book Description

If only...I should have...What if...

Don't punish yourself with regret. It only poisons your daily life and robs you of the peace you long for. Instead, transform past pain into a powerful force that propels you toward a better tomorrow.

Dr. Les Parrott, a leading relationships expert, gives you encouragement and direction to redeem your past and live fully in the present. He shows you how to cope with regret and guilt, replace shame with self-respect, learn how to forgive yourself, and keep new regrets from piling up. Dr. Parrott also gives you solid guidelines for making better decisions in the future.

Find out how to look at your past in a way that brings healing and growth, not regret, guilt, or shame. You can pack away your if-onlys, give perfectionism the boot, and rejoice in who and where you are today.


Sample Chapter

Chapter One


Don't let yesterday use up too much of today. Will Rogers

After years of listening to people share their own "shouldas, couldas, and wouldas," I decided I'd regret it if I didn't write this book. Not that I didn't already harbor my own compunctions. There are plenty of conversations I'd love to do over, irreplaceable moments where I wish I could go back in time, doors of opportunities I never opened and wished I would have. If I could alter decisions I've made about finances or friendships, I certainly would. Who wouldn't?

This fact-that every honest human has regrets-is what compelled me to give this topic serious study. And also because I've seen some people poison their daily lives with regret and guilt while others have used it to propel them to a better way of living. The former spend their lives punishing themselves for something they didn't do or feel they should have done differently. "If only I'd taken my education more seriously," they say. "If only I would have talked to my dad before he died." "If only I would have taken that job in Phoenix." "If only ..." Whether it's over the road not taken or the one taken too long, if-onlys can hound a person to death. Literally.

Which leads me to an extremely important question: At the end of your life, will you look back over time and be content with how you spent your days, or will you wrestle with regrets? Let me pose the same question this way: Will you survey your days, your months, your years, and find comfort and grace, or will you battle a nagging conscience for bemoaning what could have been?

Confronting this crucial question can be pivotal to your life. For how you will eventually answer it is determined by whether or not you-right now-are learning from your past to free yourself for your future. Once you give this question serious consideration, the truth of its message stares you in the face: Either your past is serving as a springboard to a better tomorrow, or it is the proverbial albatross keeping you from moving forward today.

Years ago a thunderstorm came through southern Kentucky and wreaked havoc on the old Claypool farm. A pear tree, which had stood for six generations, had blown over. Mr. Claypool deeply grieved the loss of this tree where he had climbed as a boy and whose fruit he had eaten all his life.

"I'm so sorry to see your pear tree blown down," a neighbor tried to console.

"I'm sorry too," Mr. Claypool responded. "It was a real part of my past."

The neighbor asked, "What are you going to do?"

Mr. Claypool paused for a long moment before answering, "I'm going to pick the fruit and burn what's left."

His response may have been literal, but I can't help thinking the astute farmer meant it figuratively as well. We all need to pick the fruit from our past and burn what's left. We need to learn whatever lessons the past has to teach us and move forward with more wisdom under our belts and more optimism in our spirits. Otherwise, we would be like another farmer in Mr. Claypool's situation who drags the fallen tree into his barn or house, in a vain attempt to hold onto the glory years of his beloved tree. Over time, of course, the tree's fruit would spoil and turn rancid and the timber would draw insects of all kinds. It would become a terrible obstacle in his daily life on the farm. Yet the farmer would refuse to change the absurd decision because he is holding onto the "good old days" with a vise grip.

It is no accident that I begin a book about regrets with a chapter titled "Your Future Is Brighter Than You Think" because, no matter what your should-haves, what-ifs, and if-onlys are, you can make the same kind of decision Mr. Claypool made. You can glean whatever you can from your past and decide to move forward. You can take hold of tomorrow, starting today. This book will show you how.

In this chapter, we begin by taking an honest look at your regrets. I want to help you hunt them down and smoke them out. I want to help you survey your past and pinpoint every significant nag on your conscience that may be keeping you from living fully in the present. I follow this up with a few thoughts on why letting go of regret is so tough. The better we understand this "why," the more quickly we can get to the "how." I conclude the chapter with a revelation of exactly what the forward-moving process outlined in this book will do for you. And I believe it is more than you imagine. For moving beyond your past will bring you to who you were truly meant to be.

To avoid any potential confusion, allow me to clarify and define our topic of regret. Regret is a feeling of disappointment, distress, or heartache over an unfulfilled desire or an action performed or not performed. Regret has a broad range of applications, from a mere frustration in not being able to do something to a painful sense of loss or longing. It applies to things we have done or left undone. It applies to actions we initiate as well as to actions that happen to us. It is for this reason that all of us have regrets.

Assessing Your Regret Quotient

The following self-test will help you inventory every shoulda, coulda, and woulda that may be interfering with your current life. It is not meant to make you dredge up painful aspects of your past; it is only to help you articulate what might be holding you down. The better you identify the detractors from your past, the better you will be able to move beyond them in the present. So take as much time as you need to honestly answer the following questions by circling one of the numbers (0-7) under each item.

1. I recall things I said to my mother or father that I wish I could take back.

0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Never Often

2. I made a mistake when I chose my career path.

0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 No Yes

3. I recall sexual activity I wish I had never done.

0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Never Often

4. I still recall a situation where I wish I had done more to help a friend in need.

0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Never Often

5. I have unfinished business with a loved one who has now passed away.

0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 No Yes

6. I have missed irreplaceable moments (e.g., with a child) I deeply regret.

0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 No Yes

7. I have grown too old to do some of the things I've always wanted to do.

0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 No Yes

8. I should have taken my education more seriously.

0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 No Yes

9. I think about poor financial decisions I have made.

0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Never Often

10. I wish I had gotten help for a problem I have/had.

0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 No Yes

11. The choices I have made in my love life trouble me to this very day.

0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Never Often

12. I regret not having a child (or another child).

0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Never Often

13. Relatively inconsequential regrets (not leaving enough tip for a pizza delivery) haunt me.

0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Never Often

14. I think about how my life would be better if I had taken an opportunity I passed up.

0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Never Often

15. I wish I had worked at being more assertive.

0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Never Often

16. I wasted years of my life with destructive behavior such as drugs or alcohol.

0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 No Yes

17. I have focused too much on my career and not enough on my relationships.

0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 No Yes

18. I can think of a specific opportunity I didn't take because it seemed too risky and now I wish I had taken it.

0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Never Often

19. The hurtful words I said to someone still haunt me.

0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Never Often

20. I never learned to do a certain activity (e.g., play the piano, swim, speak French, etc.), and I still think about it.

0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Never Often


To find your test score, add the numbers you have circled (be sure that you have answered each item). A total score of 140 is possible, and the scale that follows will help you interpret your results.

0-35 Count your blessings. Relative to most other people, you have very few, if any regrets. On second thought, this also raises a caution flag. Perhaps you are so determined to live your life without regrets that you have ignored any potential for feeling compunction. If so, this could lead to a major regret down the line since it has required you to discount other people's feelings and perceptions. For this reason, if you are scoring especially low (in the single digits), you may want to retake the test after doing a bit more soul searching.

36-70 You know what it's like to be troubled by a few regrets, but you're certainly not in the worst of situations. You probably have a few miscellaneous areas where you wish you had done something different or you may have one area in particular that is troublesome on occasion. You can still benefit from a few pointers for getting a grip on regret.

71-105 You have your work cut out for you. You have several areas in your life that are weighing heavy with regrets. At times you even feel ashamed. Perhaps you have made poor choices that won't let you go or maybe you neglected opportunities that could have afforded a better life. Whatever the source, you have kicked yourself too often for something you did or didn't do and it is time to move on. In the chapters that follow, you will gain a new game plan for becoming released from your past and creating a better future.

106-140 Unfortunately, you are up against a full-throttle, no-holds-barred bundle of regrets that are weighing you down in countless ways. You are plagued by if-onlys. Your past is dictating your future. Your regrets have lingered far too long and have evolved into guilt over not only what you have done but who you have become. Your shroud of shame envelopes your personality, and it is time you break free from the cocoon you have made of your emotions. Consider this book your roadmap for doing just this.

Why the Rut of Regret Keeps Us Stuck So Long

Imagine a colony of grubs living on the bottom of a swamp. Every once in a while, one of these grubs is inclined to climb a leaf stem to the surface. Then he disappears above the surface and never returns. All the grubs wonder why this is so and what it must be like up there, so they counsel among themselves and agree that the next one who goes up will come back and tell the others.

Not long after that, one of the grubs feels the urge and climbs that leaf stem and goes out above the surface onto a lily pad. And there in the warmth of the sun, he falls asleep. While he sleeps, the carapace of the tiny creature breaks open, and out of the grub comes a magnificent dragonfly with beautiful, wide, rainbow-hued, iridescent wings. He spreads those wings and flies, soaring out over those waters. But then he remembers the commitment he has made to those behind, yet now he knows he cannot return. They would not recognize him if he did, and beyond that, he could not live again in the place where he started.

Like the lowly grub, each of us fears what is beyond our current circumstances. There is comfort in knowing what to expect, even if it is not as good as we think it could be. The power of this innate desire to hold on to what we know can compel a mistreated or abused person to put up with misery in order to have the payoff of knowing what's coming. So it stands to reason that, when we wallow in regret, we fear what would happen if we were to let it go. That's why so many of us hold on to regret for so long.

When I was in college, I had a friend who tried out for the basketball team during his freshman year. It was his dream to play ball on the very court where both his father and older brother had played. Unfortunately, all his training and disciplined practice didn't pay off. He didn't make the team and was devastated and embarrassed. His sophomore year, he tried again and made the junior varsity team where he did pretty well in nearly everyone's eyes but his own. In fact, the next season the coach gave him a space on the varsity team. But he turned it down, arguing that he would rather have more court time by staying on the junior varsity team. Truth is, he feared becoming a varsity benchwarmer, so he passed up his dream opportunity to play in the big leagues.


Excerpted from "Shoulda, Coulda, Woulda: Live in the Present, Find Your Future" by Les Parrott III. Copyright © 2004 by Les Parrott III. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. Excerpts are provided solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
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