How To Stop Should-Ing All Over Yourself

take your power back

Make no mistake that the word "should" is totally meant to be used as wordplay for "shit." Some cunning linguist leveraged her semantical prowess to create a word that can be used both as a euphemism for indecision (I really should go to the gym and workout) and a form of judgment (He should shave that heinous beard). No matter how you slice it, both uses smell like a hot-n-steamy turd to me.

The shoulds in your life hold you captive. Every time you use this word it keeps you from taking action. When you say something like, I should be working on my goal, but. . . you're stopping yourself from forward momentum toward something you want. When you use should like this, it's just a softer way of saying you are limiting yourself and staying stuck right where you are. Remember that the next time you've committed yourself to something and are eager to break that commitment. Instead of "I should eat a salad but I'm going to order a bacon cheeseburger," think to yourself, "If I order a bacon cheeseburger I'm keeping myself stuck in the exact spot I'm in today with no progress toward my goal." 

In the same way it blocks right actions, should also causes you to miss the big picture life lessons and opportunities to grow that are lurking behind that word. Should isn't just used to judge others (see: heinous beard) but also to judge yourself. Thoughts like, I should be making more money by now, are bright blinking caution lights that are meant to direct you toward a truth about yourself you need to acknowledge. 

Look, you don't need to get all angry at shoulds and organize a committee to have it overthrown. Truth be told, learning to understand what should is offering you can make you more productive, bring you clarity and focus, and give you more of what you want in the future. 

Learn From Shoulds Of The Past

Shoulds of yesteryear also go by the alias, Regret. Here are a few of my personal shoulds of the past that tend to surface on the regs.

I should have moved to New York City in my 20s. 
I should have gone to improv school. 
I should have backpacked Europe after college or done a semester abroad. 

When I look closely at these example, it's clear what they are really saying to me: I wish I would have been braver instead of playing small and safe. I wish I would have followed my heart instead of trying to please other people. I wish I would have been more resourceful in finding ways to go after my dreams. 

The reason some shoulds of the past haunt you more than others is because those are the ones you most need to learn from. It's likely the reason certain shoulds really get you in a mood is because you haven't fully embodied the take-away you need in order to move forward. By concentrating on the deeper meaning of yours shoulds, you'll gain clarity on what you need to change going forward. Breaking a pattern, gaining a new perspective, and taking risks are a few ways you can reconcile with your shoulds of the past. 

Use Shoulds Of The Present To Your Advantage

Your current shoulds represent what you feel is lacking and are the impetus for a boatload of self-judgment. Sometimes your shoulds of the present are really sneaky and keep you stuck in the past — or worse yet — buying into a scarcity mindset. I have a present should that I'm learning to use to my advantage, and that's, I should be further along in a career by now. When I listen to this should it makes me believe that I'm too old/inexperienced to have my moment. It makes me think all the good cookies have been gobbled up and I'm sitting at the bottom of the cookie jar with the oatmeal raisins. 

But you can use a present day should as a bargaining chip for the future if you choose to see it as motivation. To be or have something different, you have to do something different. If you lament about not being where you want with a certain goal or by a particular age, you have to start taking a new approach with a new attitude, dammit. Otherwise, you'll just keep taking giant shoulds and stepping in it. 

How To Avoid Future Shoulds

Should only has power over your life and choices if you allow it to, so break the chains and free yourself from regret and judgment. 

* Trigger Word
Every time you catch yourself using the word "should" — in your head or out loud — pause for reflection. What is this word telling you? What is it doing to you? Why are you choosing to use it? Make this word a trigger to find the deeper meaning. 

* Take Action
Should can be a red flag that you're slowing down on something you want, need to do, or know has to happen in order for you to grow. Don't allow this to be a form of self-sabotage. Catching yourself in a should is your cue to take action. Go for that run. Have that hard conversation. Post your first blog. Don't let that should hang over your head and become a black cloud. 

* Get Into Your Heart
Making time to get still and tune into your true self is a great way to walk down a should-free path. The more time you spend with the honest parts of yourself the more trust you build in your ability to make choices and decisions that align with what you want most in life. 

* Keep An Abundant Mindset
Scarcity thinking keeps you small and prevents you from being your boldest and most beautiful self. But the truth is, there is more than enough to go around! Remind yourself often of all the things you have to be grateful for. Look to those who have what you want as inspiration that you can have it too. Know that abundance regenerates if you allow it to, so don't block the good stuff that is coming your way with a should.  

What do you want to create that you are slowing down by putting a should on top?
What can a past should teach you that will empower your future self?