Shed the 'Shoulds' in Your Life

How well do you set boundaries and say “no” to others and yourself without feeling guilty? The word 'should' commonly surfaces in many conversations. For example, “I should get that promotion” or “I should be married by now.” Truly listen to your own language during your conversations with others. Question if the 'shoulds' are helpful or a hinder.

As a career coach, I am human too, and I am no stranger to the prison and power the word ‘should’ has over me. There has been an item on my to-do list since September 2017. This was a goal and I needed to complete the piece of writing within six months. This was not a difficult task and can be done within one month, however, I kept procrastinating and my heart wasn't in it. I finally evaluated my thoughts by writing things down. The first line on my notebook was "I should complete this task because ...". 

After about half an hour, I re-read what I wrote and I noticed that I used the word 'should' about 11 times!

This task was not a need nor a want and I finally had the courage to cut out this 'should' and remove it from my to-do list. This task was on my to-do list because I was seeking approval from others. I was afraid of disappointing other people and what they would think of me if I decided not to complete what I had set out to do. I overlooked my own desires. I finally realized that completing this task does not move me closer to my overall goals as they had changed. When I no longer felt the task was an obligation I felt way more productive.

Tips to shed your ‘shoulds’:

  • Ask yourself why. Write down your rationale of why you need to complete a task or achieve a goal. Ask yourself why again and then, write down your rationale. Repeat this as many times as you need to until your statement reflects your decision of what you want to do and not what you ‘should’ or are ‘supposed’ to do. If you end up with a statement that is still what you ‘should’ do, it is likely not aligned with your desires or goals. 
  • Prioritize your time. We only have 24 hours each day and everyone will spend their time differently. Generally, we work, eat, rest, and play. How would your perspective of what you need to accomplish change if you think about the minutes in your life as dollars? Would you re-prioritize your tasks and goals differently?

ACTION: Take the time to evaluate whether your decisions are ‘shoulds’ or if they are truly your own desires. What are the ways you can shed the 'shoulds' in your life and goals?