What if we stopped using the word should?
Here’s the deal… Should rarely leaves us feeling good. Should makes us feel like we are coming up short. Should creates a perception of failing—of not doing what is expected.
Let me ask you this… When you say things like
- I should lose weight.
- I should call my mother more.
- I should clean out that closet.
- My children should be better behaved.
- Yada, yada, yada…
Where is that should coming from?
Is it coming from a place of expectation, guilt, or shame? And when you “should yourself,” aren’t you only creating more guilt and shame? Really, it is usually a form of negative thinking. Literally, we are thinking about the negative, because what we don’t usually say after our “I should be,” but inevitably follows in our thinking is, “but, I’m not.” When you think you should do something, that thought is happening when you are not doing it. All using the word should has created for you is the illusion of failure.
Listen… if you want to clean out the closet (for example,) that’s fine. If you don’t want to clean it, that’s also fine. There doesn’t need to be a should before the idea of cleaning out the closet. What if, instead of using “should,” we asked ourselves a question and we were curious instead?
If I cleaned out that closet, how would I feel?
Do I want a clean closet to be a priority today?
Now, let’s use that same curiosity when we “should” ourselves. Here are some other examples. Instead of shaming yourself with something like, “I shouldn’t feel so angry right now,” what if you admitted the reality of your feelings and then got curious? “I am feeling angry right now. I wonder why I feel so angry?” “I am thinking my co-worker is ____. Interesting. What is really creating that thought?”
Once you start getting curious about your feelings and thoughts instead of thinking shaming, negative, or condemning thoughts, a world of possibility opens up to you. You free yourself from the should and open up a new path of thinking that allows you to feel positive about creating the life you’ve always wanted instead of feeling negative about what you should be, but aren’t, doing.
If all those curious questions sound like too much work, but you still want to eliminate the word should, simply try replacing it with could or would like to. “I could clean out the closet” or “I would like to clean out the closet.” Feel the freedom in that? No shame.
Here’s a challenge for you. Spend the next week noticing all the times you think or say the word should, then start replacing it with thoughts of curiosity and possibility and see how you feel. Or at least substitute could for should. I guarantee you will feel freer and lighter. Give it a try!
If you like this article, check out “How to Decide When You Can’t Decide.”