Originally published by Orange Leaf Consulting on August 16, 2019

Today, we’re going to talk about opportunities. Specifically, missed ones.

Blown chances, dropped balls, easy misses. Chokes, miscues, and yes, even the occasional and dreaded “Epic Fail.”

We’ve all had them, and no matter how many helpful blogs you read during your professional career, you’ll continue to have them. It’s just an irrefutable fact of life, sometimes you’re going to make the wrong call.

But I’m not here to tell you how to avoid that—I want to talk about how to deal with it.

Because as sure as summer follows spring, a missed chance is followed by that old familiar refrain of regret—“I coulda, I shoulda, I woulda.”

Well, sure. You coulda done a lot of things. Maybe you shoulda done some things differently. And you woulda fixed it, given a chance for a do-over.  But sorry—there are no mulligans in life, only golf.

So instead of tormenting yourself in the face of failure, think each of these through.

– – –

You coulda? Well, sure. For every course of action taken, there are roughly 60 billion other choices you could have selected. So how do you maximize your chances of success and minimize your odds of “coulda?”

For starters, with planning. Everything good that happens in life starts with a plan, either yours or someone else’s. Plan for the opportunities, plan a course of action and plan a back-up strategy if the first one fizzles.

And that all starts with thinking it through. Take time to stop and think through your options, and then build a plan around the best ones.  And do this sooner, and not later—retrospective planning for next time is a good strategy, but doesn’t help the FIRST time.

You offered the wrong product before you had a complete understanding of what your potential customer wanted? A step by step plan coulda solved that.

– – –

You shoulda? A lot of times, the things you shoulda done are really things you couldadone, with just a little more attention to one little detail: listening.

When you get so caught up in your battle plan that you tune out your target’s thoughts wants, needs, and feedback, your chances of veering off-course grow exponentially. Listening closely and expanding your understanding of the situation can greatly reduce the “shoulda syndrome” later.

Maybe you missed that comment from your catering client that his CEO is a vegan. You shoulda thought about that before you suggested replacing steak with chicken.

– – –

You woulda? Well….you didn’t. So don’t rationalize your failure endlessly, or exhaust your imagination finding someone else to blame.

Know what part of the process was within your power to affect, and what wasn’t—and be honest with yourself.  You’ll get another chance, probably sooner than later, so convert that “woulda list” into an action plan for next time.

You woulda closed that sale, except that your phone rang just as you were reaching the climax of your pitch? Yeah, you woulda. So next time, TURN IT OFF.

– – –

So try replacing the Coulda-Shoulda-Woulda triplet with three other thoughts that might prove infinitely more helpful:

  • Learn from yesterday…
  • Plan for tomorrow…
  • Live in TODAY.

And, here’s one more….grow big or go home!


Check out Dr. Cynthia McGovern’s latest book, Every Job is a Sales Job: How to Use the Art of Selling to Win at Work, an essential roadmap to achieving professional and personal success―from the “First Lady of Sales.”


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Dr. Cynthia McGovern has dedicated her career to helping a wide variety of organizations and individuals achieve dramatic results in the areas of sales, leadership, and change management. Her vast experience working with organizations to create the changes they need to be more successful and her breadth of current knowledge in a wide variety of industries helps leaders strategize for growth, plan for change, get buy-in from employees and implement the new behaviors needed to succeed.  This work gave birth to the Orange Leaf Consulting process. Holding her masters in communication and her doctorate degree in Organizational Communication, Cynthia has spent the last 14 years working with companies to create organizational change, so that they can continue to grow their business and build lasting relationships with their clients.

Posted by Editorial Staff

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