“Should”ing On Yourself

When I think about the concepts I teach my clients, I find that they are often most accessible when I apply them to myself first. This is especially clear when we’re thinking about the use of the word “should”.  It seems like such a small addition to a sentence, but, I promise you, it has an enormous impact.

should (verb)

  1. used to indicate obligation, duty, or correctness, typically when criticizing someone’s actions.
  2. used to indicate what is probable.

Take a moment to look at that first definition.  I don’t know about you, but I tend to push back against things like obligation, duty, and even correctness.  Just thinking of something as an obligation almost immediately makes my brain shift its focus to something else I’d rather be doing.

When I think of the feeling I get in my body when I’m doing something from a place of obligation or duty, it feels heavy.  It’s almost like I’m carrying this extra weight around with me while I accomplish the task.  I may complete it, but it felt like it was more difficult than it needed to be or even like it was accomplished against my will.

On the other hand, when I think of the feeling that I get in my body when I’m doing something from a place of desire, it’s entirely different.  I tend to feel light, motivated, and even eager to get to the task at hand.

Let me share a little secret with you.  It’s not the task that wants to be done that creates the feelings I’ve just described.  It’s how we THINK about doing that task.  Let’s try a little experiment.

Think of something you should do.  It could be a specific task that you’ve been putting off or something more general like eating better or getting more sleep.

Now I want you to take a moment and ask yourself WHY is this something you “should” do?

Sometimes the answer is simple.  I should write this blog.  Why?  If I don’t write it, then there won’t be anything on my website on the day the blog was due to publish.

Sometimes the answer is a little more vague.  I should eat healthier food.  I should work more. I should go back to school.  I should get married or start a family.  Why? Because it would be better for me.  Why do you think that?  Why is that important to you?  Is it really important to YOU or is it something that has been offered to you by those around you as important or worthy?  What do you think of a person who hasn’t done that thing?

I encourage you to take some time to explore your thoughts about your “should”.  If it’s helpful, write about it.  Taking 5-10 minutes to explore your thoughts about something you’re feeling obligation to do in your life can be incredibly enlightening.

Ok.  Now comes the big question.  Is this something you WANT to do?  Why?

Again, sometimes this is straightforward.  I want to write this blog because I want there to be content on my website and also because I love sharing this work with you.

Sometimes this is a little double-sided.  There is a larger goal that you desire.  I want to eat healthier because I want to lose weight.  I want to work more so I can buy a house.  I want to get married or start a family because the idea of sharing my life with others fills me with joy. These larger goals are the things we want, but they often require actions to attain them that we may not want to do in the moment. That’s where we “should” ourselves into feeling overwhelmed by obligation and quitting.

The beautiful thing is that the solution to this predicament is quite simple. 

If you went through this exercise and realized that the “should” you were thinking about is something you actually DON’T want to do, then you just let it go.  Release that obligation back into the wild.  Let someone who desires that outcome pick it up and lovingly accomplish it.

If you went through this exercise and realized that the “should” you were thinking about is something you actually WANT to do, then it is no longer a “should”.  Every time you find yourself thinking about this thing you change the “should” in your thoughts to a different word.  Some of my favorites are:

  • I’m choosing to…
  • I desire to…
  • I want to…
  • I’m excited to… because this will help me achieve…

Just that simple substitution can take you from trying to accomplish your goals from a place of obligation to accomplishing them from a place of enthusiasm.  It can make the hard things much easier.

If you’d like to learn more about how to do this, I’d love to teach you.  Sign up for my free course How To Feel Better On Your Next Shift. Then when you’re ready to learn more, email me at hello@unicorndoctor.com.