Years ago when we were younger and able to survive playing games until 2AM, only to get up at 6 that morning and work all day, we spent many evenings playing Rook with friends. This was not a digital game we played on our hand-held devices. This was an honest-to-goodness, face-to-face, conversational game played with real cards and real people (Gasp!).

We always split the teams into guys against girls. I suppose we thought it would be better to split up a marriage than a friendship over a competitive game of cards. Sometimes we (the girls) won, but more often they (the guys) were the declared winners. They were great winners. High-fives, fist bumps, victory laps and end-zone celebrations. But when they lost – somewhat frequently – it was a much different story.

While we were doing our seated victory dance, the guys immediately began their own game of ‘what would’ve been.’ “Wait, wait! Let’s see what would’ve been!”

Would’ve been consisted of a vain attempt to recreate the last hand to analyze and rearrange the order of play, not only to figure out how it was possible that they lost to the girls, but to understand how, if they had played differently, they would’ve won.

“If you had played your black 10 on her green 11, we would’ve won that hand. And if I had saved the rook until she played her red 15…why didn’t you signal you had the rook?” and so the conversation went until they figured out how if things would’ve been different, they would’ve won!

But things weren’t different. They still lost occasionally. The final score card did not change based on would’ve been. It did not change what was in the past.

In life, as in business, we spend much time trying to figure out what would’ve been.

  • Things would’ve been different if I had had more money.
  • Things would’ve been different if I had married someone else.
  • Things would’ve been different if I had started my business sooner.
  • Things would’ve been different if I had gone to college.
  • Things would’ve been better if I had stayed where I was; if I had moved someplace else; if I had said yes when I said no; if I had not…

We can get caught up in the cycle of would’ve, should’ve, could’ve, or wish I had.

I cringe when I hear someone say, “Well, it is what it is. There’s nothing I can do about it.” My answer is “What it is, is not permanent. There is always something you can do about it!”

I am equally saddened when I hear someone lament over what would’ve been or could’ve been or should’ve been.

I’m quite sure we have made decisions or taken actions we regret; situations where clearer thought, a better perspective or more research would’ve brought about better or more successful results. But remember you’ve made some good decisions, too. Build on those!