To Should or Not To Should?

This twist has very little to do with the classic “to be, or not to be” question. I wanted a good title to introduce my philosophy on “should.” And hopefully, I caught your attention.

The word should is the root (at least one of the roots) of anxiety, depression, frustration, anger, self-flagellation, and ‘the blahs’, in general.

Think about it.

How do you feel when you say to yourself, “I should _______.” Fill in the blank with anything like eat right, exercise, blog, clean the house, be nicer to my kids, not drink so much coffee, not binge watch zombie shows until 2 a.m., not spend so much money. You end up feeling crappy because you DON’T do what you should and you DO what you said you shouldn’t.

OR, what about when someone tells you what you should or shouldn’t do? How many times have you heard, “You know what you should do?” If you are like me, your reaction is to get this blank look on your face, agree with the person to shut them up and then NOT do what they said you should. Right?

OR, what about that friend that constantly complains about her job? You know what she should do. You say to her, “You should quit, tell that guy off, ask for a raise.” She says, “Yeah, you’re right.” She doesn’t do it and has the same complaint in a week. Right?

Should never motivated anyone to do anything other than the exact opposite. You SHOULD exercise but you scroll social media instead. You SHOULDN’T overspend your budget but you put that girls’ night out on your credit card anyway. Then you have the should-hangover. The regret. The feeling of not being disciplined enough, etc. Should-hangovers suck. And they are completely avoidable.

Really. How, you ask?

Exchange the word should with the word want. What?! It’s that simple?? No. But close. When you use the word want, you signal to your brain there is an opportunity to feel good. When you get or do what you want, the brain gets a shot of that good-feelin’ neurotransmitter serotonin. So, the bain loves to find a way to get you what you want.

Think about this for a second. You DO what you WANT. And that feels good.

Saying “I want to exercise” feels so much better. You have given yourself the opportunity of choice. Do you really want to exercise? The answer is usually yes. You are likely to do what you want because it doesn’t feel like a struggle. You will put on that exercise video or put the gym bag in your car. Before you know it, you’ve exercised and then feel great.

Caveat: The brain can’t be fooled. To say you want to clean the house may not work because not many of us really want to clean. So, go to the end result you seek and want that first. “I want a clean house before the week starts.” Then you can decide if you are willing to do the in-between step of cleaning to get that clean home.

If you choose not to clean the house, then you accept the results. But it is a choice. Not a mandate. You can accept your conscious choices and their consequences without the negative emotions like guilt, frustration, etc.

I challenge you to shift this one little (but very big, really) self-talk habit. Take a beat when you hear should in your mind. Ask yourself how you can change that to want instead. Then ask yourself if you REALLY want that. If not, what end result do you want? Do you want to do the task for the end-result?

I promise it feels so much better than shoulding all over yourself.

P.S. Should has close cousins that all have the same effect: Need to, Have to, Gotta, Ought to, Got to, Must. So, catch those, too, in your self-talk.



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