‘Should’ is a dangerous word.
We dig holes for ourselves with ‘should’.
‘Should’ is the bus we throw ourselves under.
‘Should’ is the beginning of our argument with reality. By definition, what we ‘should’ be doing is something that we’re currently not doing.
‘Should’ is a word we use to bully ourselves. Since we’re not doing that thing we ‘should’ be doing, we’re not measuring up in some way.
“I should…” is often the beginning of a sentence that makes us feel bad.
I should be working out.
I should be nicer.
I should have more money.
I should be more successful.
I should be happier.
I should be working harder.
I should be doing more.
I should be a better friend, wife or husband.
I should reach out more.
I should be a better mother or father.
I should volunteer more, and spend less money.
I should be better at my job.
I should be more present with my family.
I should be grateful.
In a way, ‘shoulds’ are very reliable.
There’s a never-ending supply. They will always be there when you call on them. Ready to make you feel bad about something you ‘should’ be doing – but aren’t.
I’m sure there are a few things on that list that you’ve told yourself you ‘should’ do. How does it feel to read through it?
Just writing them makes me feel like I’m made of lead.
Allow me to introduce the anti-’should’.
The one thing that shuts down a ‘should’ before the sentence is done.
And, ironically, is WAY more productive.
Wanting to do something is much different than thinking you ‘should’ do it.
With that one word, you take control.
First, you acknowledge what you truly want to do.
We tell ourselves that we ‘should’ do things that we don’t really want to do. Even worse, we accept other people telling us we ‘should’ do things that we don’t want to do.
So we sit with that guilt of thinking we ‘should’ do something, but never do it.
Knowing what you truly want to do is powerful.
Second, by changing that one word, the whole tone of the sentence changes.
It gets lighter. The scolding is gone.
It changes from a beat down to something you can get behind.
‘I should work out.’
Has a very different feel than:
‘I want to work out.’
Third, when you think about something you truly want to do and you say it in a way that feels good to you, things get done.
It’s a simple as that.
When you have a positive feeling around something that you truly want to do, you do it. Often times before you even realize it’s done.
It’s a completely downstream process.
And isn’t that what you were after in the first place?
So the next time you tell yourself “I should eat that salad without any dressing”, ask yourself if that’s what you really want to do.
Whether it is or it isn’t, leave the ‘should’ out of it.
I want to try eating that salad without dressing.
I want to eat it with dressing.
But hold on a second – if all we do is what we want to do, won’t that lead to never doing anything productive?
If you let yourself eat salad with dressing because you want to, won’t that lead to drenching your lettuce in full-fat buttermilk ranch with extra cheese on top?
Don’t worry – I won’t leave you hanging.
Next week I’ll talk about the potential food anarchy that ensues when we drop the ‘should’ and realize we really are free to do what we want.
I understand that fear first hand, so I’ll give you a hint: You will be fine.
Better than fine, in fact.
Until then, do yourself a favor for just one week: drop the ‘should’, and ask yourself what you want to do instead.
You might be amazed at what happens.