Code word ‘should’

CODEWORDSHOULDI’ve just written this week’s newsletter – it goes out every Sunday, and has at least one tip or action that I think might make your life a little bit easier and happier (if you want to be in on that little piece of scrumptiousness just drop your details in the sign up box opposite). So where was I? Oh yeah, this week’s newsletter.

In it, I talk a lot about the Shoulda-Woulda-Couldas. And it got me thinking about that word. There’s so much behind that one little word, isn’t there? ‘I should have stayed at work a little bit longer’. ‘I should have offered to lead on that project.’ ‘I should be spending less.’ ‘I should be working out more.’

Code word ‘should‘ – because of course, it is exactly that. It’s code for all sorts of things – failure, inaction, lack.  And the feelings it triggers? Guilt, anxiety, stress, embarrassment, inadequacy – pick whichever combination works (or doesn’t) for you.  It’s not a particularly happy word, and I’m not convinced it’s always a useful one.

We use it all the time too, don’t we? Watch out for it over the next few days. Notice how many times your thoughts kick off with the phrase ‘I should…’

The question we never ask, but maybe we should (sorry, couldn’t help myself!) is this – why?  Why should I have done X, or be considering doing Y?  Is the reason a genuine one, or is it because someone else (your boss, your partner, society at large) is telling you that it’s what you should want (see, there it is again) – I talk about this more in the book – Chapter 2 is all about what we want to do vs what we think we should want to do.  Why should you have stayed late – because you really do have a lot of work to get through?  Maybe because you want to leave earlier tomorrow?  Or is it because everyone else is staying late and you don’t want to be the odd one out?

What is your WHY?  Some shoulds are genuine, useful prods – they’re valid.  But not all of them.  I’d guess that a lot of the shoulds we torture ourselves with aren’t genuine, or useful – so why bother with them at all?

Ultimately, I think it boils down to this – if it isn’t making you happy now, or isn’t moving you toward being happier later, there’s probably no reason you ‘should‘ be doing anything.

So next time you find yourself thinking ‘I should…’, stop right there.  Ask yourself why?  If the why is a genuine one, then sure, go ahead.  Otherwise banish the should and all the crap that goes with it and go do something else instead.

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