Are you shoulding yourself?

I've got a problem with the word "should." Listen to yourself talk about things you do or don’t do. Chances are you are should-ing yourself and it's not helping you one bit. If you live your life with an "I should" perspective rather than an "I want" or "I get to" perspective, then you may feel unnecessarily drained. "Should" takes away our power and can make us feel like obligations are happening TO us, rather than by our own free will. Replacing should with other, more empowering words can give you a boost to go after what you truly want.


How can you turn your "shoulds" into wants? Begin by noticing your shoulds. It is a good way to check in with what you really want. A lot of our "shoulds" are societal or familial expectations. But why do as you should if it's not what you want? Ask yourself 'why' questions to help you focus on the things that you truly want. If the answers to your whys aren't satisfying, then dig deeper. Keep reading to learn how.


Sure, there are certain things that we all need to do like pay taxes, eat, clean, etc. So how do you turn those "shoulds" into wants? Instead of saying "I should clean the bathroom today," ask yourself the whys behind that should. Now you may be thinking, "Of course I know why I should clean the bathroom," and yeah, you probably do—but actually asking yourself why and telling yourself the full answer can help your brain integrate this chore with motivation, pushing you to actually do it.


Here's an example. Your inner dialogue could look something like this:

     I should clean the bathroom today.

          Why should I clean the bathroom today?

     To keep germs from building up.

          Why do I care if germs build up?

     Because I don't want to get sick.

          Why don't I want to get sick?

     Because I like to be healthy and want to stay healthy.

Make sense? Ask yourself "why" to each reason you think of until you are satisfied with your answer. In this example you are getting to your core value of being a healthy person, and it turns out part of being healthy is keeping a relatively clean bathroom. Going through that thought process can help to motivate you, and forcing yourself to think of all the 'whys' brings you to a grounded level of why this thing is actually important to you. So, rather than thinking "ugh I should clean the bathroom," you shift it to "I want to clean the bathroom because I want to be a healthy person." See how you are taking charge of your life there? Cleaning the bathroom isn't something that's happening to you. It's something that you are actively choosing to do.

Another angle is to turn your "should" into a "get." This takes on a gratitude perspective. For example, rather than "I should clean the bathroom today," you would say, "I get to clean the bathroom today." This takes your mind on a path of realizing that you are fortunate enough to have a bathroom to clean, and lucky that you have the time in your day to do it. When we sit with that gratitude, we are more likely to act on it.

Simply put, language is important. Giving your language a positive boost can give the rest of your life one, too. Try it!

Bright Minds Counseling, LLC