Dealing with ‘The Shoulds’

How many things are there in your life that you really should be doing? If you made a list of them, how long would it be? Let’s talk about the “shoulds” in your life.

If you made a list of all the things you think you should be doing, how long would your list be? It could look like, “I should lose weight. I should be nicer to my brother. I should find myself a better job. I should read a lot more. I should mow the lawn and pull weeds,” and on and on.

Here’s an idea: Why don’t you try making such a list? And when you’re done, for each item on the list, ask yourself the question, “Why should I?” The answers you come up with will tell you something very important about the beliefs you hold. You may have answers like, “Because everybody has to. Because so and so wouldn’t like it if I didn’t.” If you look at all of your “reasons,” you may find they sound more like excuses.

Now, what if you took every “should” on your list and changed the language to substitute the words, “If I really wanted to, I could . . .” For example, “I should lose weight” would change to, “If I really wanted to, I could lose weight.” Notice how when you do this, things suddenly start to seem much more possible.

You may find that you really don’t want to do some of them and you may need to confront your fears when it comes to doing others. Using “could” instead of “should” immediately takes the pressure off, too. It helps you take accountability and control. “Should” is a below-the-surface “have to” and we naturally push back against the “have to’s” in our lives.

Also, notice the subtle change when you add the words, “If I really wanted to…” When we “want to” do something, we pull together all the creativity and energy to accomplish whatever we have chosen. And, it also helps you avoid the subconscious rebellion that goes on whenever you hear the words, “I should.”