Don't SHOULD All Over Yourself

How many times have you caught yourself saying, “I really should….”? This one small word has more power than we think — it causes stress, feeling “less than,” and places more importance on the outside world than on our internal needs and desires.

This one small word can also be used as a great excuse — excusing ourselves from not doing something we really don’t want to do and excusing ourselves from mustering up the motivation or courage to do the things we want to do.

Next time you find yourself "should-ing” all over yourself, take the time to honestly answer a couple of simple questions.

Head in Hands

Probably some of my most commonly used phrases are, “I really should go to yoga today” or “I should call my parents” or “I supposed I should do something different with my life.” It seems natural to say these words. They slip out of my mouth as if almost by magic. The word just sneaks its way into my vocabulary simply to taunt me.

When I find myself using “should” I have an immediate reaction that can range somewhere between self-loathing and complete self-denial.

As I became more aware of my self and what this one little word does to me, I started asking why I was even using it. And what might happen when I replaced that word with something else.

Here’s what I discovered. The word “should” typically does one of two things.

It either serves as a placeholder for doing something that I have absolutely no interest in doing and only feel an obligation to do based on something in the external world or an internal judgment.

Or it serves as a placeholder for doing something that I really want to do but am lacking the motivation or courage to commit.

Either way, this one little word causes unnecessary stress as it weighs us down and casts doubt on our desires and priorities.

Whether we use “should” as an excuse not to do something we don’t muster up the motivation to do or as a way to hold ourselves hostage to the obligations of others and unrealistic expectations of ourselves, we can all free ourselves by authentically answering these two questions and removing the word “should” from our vocabulary.

Is this something that I truly want to do and aligns with my values?

If yes, replace the “should” with a “want” or a “will” and make a commitment to do it. If no, continue to the next question.

Is it simply an unnecessary external or internal obligation that I have established?

If yes, free yourself from the obligation and remove this from your mental or physical to-do list.

Once we determine which bucket these “should’s” fall into, then it’s time to put systems or processes in place to make the “want’s” and “will’s” happen.

Instead of wasting energy “should-ing” all over ourselves, we can put that energy towards shaping our future through the choices we make in each moment without any of the unnecessary self-loathing or regret.

It is so empowering to know that we are in control of determining our values and actions. Ridding our vocabulary of the word “should” is one of the first steps to having a clearer sense of what we want and don’t want. And it creates space for having more energy to put into fulfilling our value-based commitments with ourselves.

What is one “should” you can either remove from your to-do list or change to a “will”? Join the conversation by leaving a comment.