Let's Stop Shoulding on Ourselves
How to use the word should as fuel instead of as a boxing glove to our brain
From Oxford Languages
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..."
I hear it in my own brain, too, but I should on myself a lot less now and I can tell you the air around and within me is a lot more pleasant! Here's how I cleared the air.
How to Use Should as Fuel
The next time the word should comes into your head, try making a decision right away and acting on it without too much thought.
When your brain says, "I should..." let the next thought be one of two things:
I'm going to do this on this day, at this time (now is often a great time)
I'm not going to do this, and therefor I'm not going to feel bad about it
If you 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, and that creepy little word still sneaks into my consciousness in other ways.
When I realize I'm running around full of anxiety, fatigue or overwhelm wondering why I'm so busy and tired but not getting anything done, I've learned this is usually my body telling me I should do something I'm choosing not to paying attention to.
Sometimes anxiety, fatigue or overwhelm are my body telling me to 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, clear the laundry...
Listen to the should and make a decision right away.
If we don't deal with it, it often leads to overwhelm, frustration, anxiety and/or fatigue. And, if we're really lucky, all that 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.
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 sitting in a boxing ring as our brains pound us to a pulp, our bodies collect fat and our homes collect stuff.
Super fun, right? Yeah, I know that boxing ring well. It's really hard to get anything done in there.
Or 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."
Ok, maybe that's a little gory, but so is the cumulative effect of saying we should or shouldn't do something over and over, but not doing it.
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.
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. Should went into the trash-heap with guilt.
I was sick of feeling anxious, overwhelmed, exhausted and surrounded by things I "should" do. I could never fully relax.
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 recycling 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 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 not. No one else.
We get to decide if we use the word should or not. Only we can choose this.
Do you have a Mrs. or Mr. Should?
Recently I shared about The B*tch in my brain with TidyWild Members in our group call.
I asked them to name their own bullies in their minds (the source of our shoulds) and one called hers Mrs. Should Who Tries to Beat Me Up.
I love this, and I 100% get it!
Do you have a Ms. Should in your Mind?
What would happen if you made a decision the next time your brain shoulds on you?
Do you think the world would be a better place without all this shoulding going on?
If you try this, let me know how it goes!
And if you'd like help turning shoulds to action and making 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...