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Let's Stop Shoulding on Ourselves

Updated: Jun 20, 2023

How to use the word should as fuel instead of as a boxing glove to our brain.

As an organizing coach I regularly hear people shoulding on themselves: "I should do that, I shouldn't do that, I should've done that years ago..."


Here's what I think:

This is my favorite quote - I keep it next to my desk in clear view



Do. Or Do Not. There is no Should.

Should is a word to hide behind, to procrastinate with, to show we see the problem but aren't willing to do anything about it.


Should is a soul sucker.


In 2020 the one resolution I followed through on was eliminating guilt from my emotional vocabulary (that'll be another post). I quickly learned Should was Guilt's sidekick.


I was sick of feeling anxious, overwhelmed, exhausted and surrounded by things I "should" do. I could never fully relax.


I thought, who says I should have a clear counter? Who says I should live tidily? Who says I should hold onto this thing until I find exactly the right place? Marie Kondo? Mother Theresa?


Who says I should spend this or that amount of time with people or do all the laundry all the time or wear underwear every day?


(Oops, did I say that last one out loud?)


I don't coach people to live a certain way or get rid of a certain amount of "stuff," because I believe there is no "right" way.


Making decisions that can lead to more happiness, peace and freedom are the only shoulds I believe in, but even this isn't worth shoulding on ourselves about - nothing is.


We get to decide what we should or shouldn't do. No one else.


We get to decide if we should or should not. No one else.


We get to decide if we want should on ourselves or not.


Do you have a Mrs. or Mr. Should in your brain?

Recently I shared about The B*tch in my brain with clients and asked them to name their own brain bullies (the source of our shoulds).


One called hers 'Mrs. Should Who Tries to Beat Me Up.'


I love this, and I 100% get it!


Do you have a Should in your mind?


What happens when you make a decision as soon as your brain shoulds on you?


What would the world be like without all this shoulding on each other?


I still have a Ms. Should in my mind, but she shoulds on myself a LOT less now, and guess what? The air around and within me is a lot more pleasant now!


Here's how I cleared the air...



Use Should as Fuel

When the word should comes into my head, I try to catch it right away, like catching myself saying a bad word around a little kid.


I use should as a catalyst to become the version of me I truly want to be.


Old Me: I should clean the kitchen before bed (as I work my way through an entire bag of chips on the couch)


New Me: "Oh! Oops! Sorry about that!"


Old Me: Oh stop, I don't want to do anything right now.


New Me: Really? You want to eat that whole bag of chips instead, then go to bed and wake up to a messy kitchen and make an even bigger mess because 'I don't want to do anything right now'? I don't think so. Either get up and set a timer for 15 minutes and do what you can or stop thinking about it. No in betweensies, that's torture and we don't do that anymore.


Old Me: rolls her eyes.


New Me: Ok, let's go. Oh look, your phone is RIGHT HERE! And we're setting a timer as we get up...nope, we're taking the chips to put away, not finishing the bag. Look at us go! We can do this...


Again and again, the New Me is stepping in and I'm choosing to listen.


Should tells me something is important to me, so I ask myself: am I going to do this or keep thinking about this? How can I be kind to my Future Self instead of torturing her?


Whenever possible, I make a decision right then and there, without too much thought.


It's like how the first answer we give for a test is often the right one - I find the same goes with what I want to do after shoulding on myself.


No in betweensies. I decide if I'm going to do it, schedule it or stop feeling guilty about it.


When our brains say, "I should..." try thinking one of these two things:

  1. I'm going to do this on this day, at this time (now is often a great time)

  2. I'm not going to do this, AND I'm not going to feel bad about it

If we choose #2 but it keeps coming back, it's often a sign to choose #1 so the should can move on (they're like parasites sucking our energy!).


It took me a year of diligent practice to stop shoulding on myself, but it still sneaks into my consciousness in other ways.


If I'm running around full of anxiety, fatigue or overwhelm, wondering why I'm so busy and tired but not getting anything done, often it's my body telling me I should do something I'm choosing not to pay attention to.


Sometimes these feelings are my body telling me I should STOP, rest, breathe, feel the air in my lungs, step outside for fresh air.


Sometimes they're telling me to just make that difficult call, finish that thing, put away the laundry, just do the damn dishes...


I believe when we don't listen to the shoulds and make a decision, it can lead to depression and, eventually, major physical ailments.


At the very least, it can keep us from connecting with people and our true desires.


No, it's not "easy," in that it takes practice moving through discomfort.


But isn't it also uncomfortable to sit on the couch and pretend we want to be scrolling social media, when really we want to get sh*t done?


And isn't it also uncomfortable to get diseases caused or exacerbated by stress?



The Power of Should

We don't need to eliminate the word should, just notice it and take away its power.


Either we do it or we don't. Either we did it or we didn't.


Saying we should, shouldn't or should've is like standing in the middle of a boxing ring while our brains beat us to a pulp.


Living in the land of should lets our bodies collect fat, our homes collect stuff and our brains collect toxic thoughts that lead to nowhere nice.


It's like walking into crocodile infested water and just standing there, letting our feet get gnawed off, saying, "I should get out of this water."


Super fun, right? Yeah, I know that boxing ring, that infested water. It's really hard to get anything done in there!


What does it do to our minds, lives, bodies, soul and society to know we "should" do something and not do it? I think it gnaws at us, sometimes swallows us in chunks, often leaves us deeply hurt, just like a crocodile would.


What are your thoughts about "Shoulding"?


And if you struggle with turning shoulds into action and want to make your mind and home happier places, PLEASE reach out to me - there's no need to suffer any longer!


I suffered for years and couldn't have found freedom without support...


Reach out if you have questions and/or you feel stuck.


There's no need to struggle with clutter anymore - you're not alone and I can help you feel better right away.



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