Stop “Shoulding” Yourself


This familiar word wraps me up in its arms and holds me close, filling me with guilt and comforting me with an apology to the world. It’s familiar in its unrelenting judgment. The addictive powers of Should pull me into their welcome grasp and leave me feeling disgusted with myself, humiliated by my lack of willpower.

“Shoulds” sound like alarm bells when I meet with clients. Their “shoulds” echo around until I want to put my hands over my ears.

Instead, I reach out and put my hand over their mouth.

Not literally. Especially not right now!

When I hear a client say “I should __________” (fill in the blank with your favorite guilt trip), I know that I am hearing their expectations of themselves. An expectation which they say by rote, they know it by heart, they think it ALL THE TIME.

And yet, there is no thought behind it. They don’t think before they speak that “should.” They just say it.

In that “should,” I hear the blog post they read or their parent’s stern admonition or the guru they follow. And when the “should” gets revealed in our conversation, I know the shame that they can’t or won’t or don’t do the thing that they “should” do floods their soul and leaves them wondering if they really want to be a writer or to create this painting or design their own sweater.

Because they do want it. They feel it in their guts. They consider that dream and their love for it shines so brightly that it slips through the cracks of their bodies.

Which is what makes the should-monster so insidious. He’s there to shatter those dreams, to poke holes in our confidence, to push doubt and despair like the monster he is.

But we can vanquish him with one action: stop using the word “should.”

That’s it. Excise that word from your vocabulary with a scalpel.

And, when you feel that “should” bubbling up and out of you, inquire. Why “should” this action take place? What goal is achieved by taking this action? Could a different action – something that actually fits you and your personality and your energy and your meaning – take its place?

Maybe you don’t even have to do it at all! Maybe you could enlist help or even pay someone else to do it for you!

Transforming your “I should” into an “I can” or an “I will” empowers you to work on your goals – the ones infused with meaning and love and light. That action moves you from the passive “should” into Movement! The movements that make your whole body scream “YES!” That transformation propels your dreams into reality.