Melissa and I had some returns to do at IKEA. It’s about an hour’s drive from our house, so not a quick trip. We arrive, do our returns, and then look at each other.
“Is there anything we need here?” I say to Melissa.
“Not that I can think of,” she says.
“Well, we drove all this way. Do you think we should at least look around?”
“We could,” Melissa says.
We both just stand there not sure what to do.
“This is ridiculous,” I say. “Just because we had to drive a bit to get here doesn’t mean we should waste time looking around and likely end up buying something we don’t need. Let’s just go.”
This is just one example of how easy it can be to let “shoulds” rule our lives.
We “should” look around since we drove so far.
I “should” go to the barbecue even though I don’t want to.
I “should” go to the gym.
Or the time when Melissa and I were on vacation and we decided to leave our bed and breakfast three nights early because the area was nothing like we had hoped. Instead, we headed to our next destination and stayed there longer.
Did we eat the cost of those three nights of lodging? Sure, but sometimes it’s better to forfeit financially to gain joy. And in fact, the rest of the trip was so much more than we could have imagined. A vacation that started out with fears of regret became the trip of a lifetime! I’m sure glad we didn’t let the “should” monster keep us there.
The word “should” in and of itself can be clutter, stopping you from taking action to make the changes you want in your life. It can become yet another obstacle on your journey.
So how do you know when it’s clutter and how do you clear it?
- Start by recognizing when you fall victim to the “shoulds”. How often do you use the word? Do you let it drive your decisions? Or demotivate you from taking any action at all?
- Think back to when you learned about this particular “should.” Who taught you that this is something you should or shouldn’t do? The pressure that comes with the word likely originated from someone else. Spend some time with your journal recalling stories and examples of when this conditioned response has played out in your life. It’s unlikely you’ll use the word about something with which you are completely aligned so it’s no wonder you rarely feel motivated by it. Take the “should” a step further and ask yourself why. For example, if you say “I really should exercise,” connect with your “why.””I really should exercise because I want to feel better.”
And why do you want to feel better?
“Because I’m over these aches and pains and I want to feel strong.”
Why do you want to feel strong?
“Because then I feel more confident which makes me more likely to make big moves.”
And so on….
Connecting with your intention behind a should is a great way to gain clarity and reclaim power.
- Another tactic is to replace “should” with “could” and see how different you feel. “Could” shifts things from feeling like a command to feeling like a choice, and as a result reclaims your power. Check in with your body as you read the following statements: I should be writing right now.
I could be writing right now. Did you feel your muscles relax a bit? Maybe you found yourself being curious instead of reactive.Pretty powerful, right?
The word “should” often feels as if someone outside of you is telling you what to do and you’re simply to obey the order. As such, your resistance is going to rebel and you’ll find yourself stuck in this place trying to decide if you should or shouldn’t and ultimately making no move at all.
The language you use matters. You use it to give yourself permission or an excuse, and you rob yourself of the choice. So when the Should Monster rears its head, stop, check in, and do a word swap. Then you’ll know what you really want to do.