Do you find yourself using the word should a lot?
It seems to be a very common trait. We feel we should be doing more, doing the “right things”, feeling a certain way, or whatever it is.
All these expectations. All these shoulds.
And then, the things we shouldn’t be doing.
Sometimes, clients will tell me things like, “I’ve been feeling a bit angry (or other “negative” emotion) but I KNOW I shouldn’t feel that way.”
We might feel that we “should” be positive, even if we don’t feel that way.
What I do know, is that denying how you actually feel doesn’t lead anywhere great. Much better to notice how you feel, and acknowledge it, and find a way to appropriately express it, rather than lock it away. There is a therapy based on this idea called ACT.
In business and in life in general, there can often seem to feel like there are many things we SHOULD be doing.
If you have lots of rules for the ways things “should be” in order for you to feel happy, or be successful, or whatever, it obviously makes it far more difficult for you to experience happiness and success.
The more achievable your criteria for success is, the more likely you are to achieve it.
In Awaken the Giant Within, Tony Robbins says that rather than this meaning you’re lowering your standards, you’re actually raising your standards:
“It means you’ll hold yourself to a higher standard of enjoying yourself despite the conditions of the moment. It means you’ve committed to being intelligent enough, flexible enough and creative enough to direct your focus and evaluations in a way that allows you to experience the true richness of life.”
In Leonie Dawson’s post about post-natal depression, she talked about how, in the middle of it, her husband suggested they both write a list of the things they felt they SHOULD do each day:
And so I began.
Take care of Starry.
Write three pages.
Cook three wholesome meals a day.
Made out of organic food that I gardened.
Do gardening. Have a very large organic vege patch and fruit tree patch.
Read to Starry. Give her as much eye contact as possible.
Do 30 minutes of yoga.
Spend time with the dogs.
Watch no TV.
Spend time talking to Chris.
Work and reply to emails and do my business.
Go to sleep early.”
We exchanged lists.
“Be a good dad and partner.
What about you? What might your list look like?
Rather than letting the shoulds take over, try asking yourself a few questions:
- Why “should” I do this particular thing?
- Do I feel like that’s a good reason?
- Am I doing it for myself, or others?
- What will happen if I don’t do it?
- Do I actually want to do it?
- If not, do I think it will help me achieve a necessary objective and that’s why I haven’t let it go? (eg running for health/fitness/weight loss)
- If yes, are there other ways I could achieve my objective in a way that would feel lighter, more fun and more enjoyable?
Want to experiment?
You might start by giving yourself opportunities to check in with yourself in simple tasks that you routinely do in certain ways.
For example, if when walking or running you always follow a particular route or go to a particular spot before turning around, or go a certain distance on the treadmill, check in and ask yourself if you’d prefer to walk or run a little less that day, or take a different turn, or if you’re feeling energetic and feel like going further.
If you tend to choose meals when you’re out based on what you “should” eat, try checking in with yourself and seeing what you actually feel like.
And if hearing either of those options makes you panic a little or think: well of course I’ll always choose to walk less distance, or eat the most unhealthy thing on the menu, then that’s great information, and might show you what’s behind the “shoulds” – a lack of self-trust.
The answer? Learn to trust yourself.
You might start with this video blog on how to connect with your guides: