From Should Have to Could Have
Keith Wagner, writing for his “kind of a climbing blog” Chasing Hawks:
There’s no such thing as being lost, you’re just on a different route than the one you intended. And “should have.” Can we talk about that concept? To say you should have done something implies that there was some kind of obligation, some kind of right or wrong. It’s a thing we say to shame ourselves, to express our regret for not having done something different. It’s the mournful cry of hindsight. I feel that “could have” is a much better way of framing things.
I should have stayed in bed today becomes I could have gotten more sleep. I never should have come here becomes I could have saved myself some heartache had I made a different decision. I should have left well enough alone becomes I could have walked away. See, by reframing should have to could have you release yourself from the guilt of having picked the wrong way. Could have implies several options. Should have implies either or. And from that perspective all choices are learning experiences.
As someone who’s wracked by guilt on a daily basis for the actions I did and did not take, this hit hard. I’m not sure reframing “should have” to “could have” alleviates all that guilt, but it does make it feel like there were and are more doors to choose to go through. And we can all choose to make different decisions next time.