Stop the Shoulding!

The women next to me in line said to her friend, “I am so tired of people telling me what I should do. I just want to yell, STOP SHOULDING ON ME!”

I could not help but smile a bit. Not at her annoyance and frustration, but at the phrase, ‘stop shoulding on me.’ I thought, “What a great expression.” The expression stayed with me for days. I think it resonated because I see so many of us (me too) put ourselves through all kind of agony over what we SHOULD do versus what we really want to do.

I wonder, what is causing us more conflict, the things other people tell us we should do or the ‘shoulding’ that we do to ourselves?

Do you do things because you SHOULD do them or because you WANT to do them? How many times have you said something like this?

“I SHOULD wash the car.”
“I SHOULD call my sister.”
“I SHOULD take this job offer.”

When most of us use the word should it implies that we are doing something because we may think it is the right thing to do or it represents what others perceive as the right thing to do.

When you say: “I SHOULD wash the car.”

This implies to me that your car is dirty and you know your car is dirty and part of you thinks getting that car clean is the right thing to do, but another part of you is not really that into washing the car.

When you say: “I SHOULD call my sister.”

It sounds like you feel obligated to call your sister. It does not sound like you want to call your sister or that you will enjoy speaking with your sister.

And finally when you say: “I SHOULD take this job offer.”

Really, why SHOULD you take that job offer? Oh, because they offered you the job and the salary is right. What do you WANT to do? If you want to do something else and you settle for the job offer you should take, then what? What happens to what you wanted?

OK, I understand that sometimes the job is about the salary. I just want you to put yourself in a position where you can have a choice. So if you are currently working the job that you SHOULD have, what are you doing to get to the job you WANT?

I am not implying that you will shirk your responsibilities. There are some things we do as responsible adults that might be ‘shoulds’. Pay the bills, do the laundry, take out the trash. What I am asking you to do is to examine all of the ‘shoulds’ in your life and determine which ones can go away. Perhaps you can find a way to make a ‘should’ into something enjoyable or perhaps you can just let it go. I am especially asking you to stop taking on more ‘shoulds’. You don’t need to carry around any more ‘shoulds’; I bet you have plenty of them already. So next time you think to yourself:

  • I should go to the gym five days a week
  • I should volunteer two days a month
  • I should read more and watch TV less

STOP SHOULDING ON YOURSELF! When you are ready you will go to the gym, you will volunteer, you will read more. Focus on getting ready to make those changes in your life and start saying to yourself ‘I will’, not ‘I should’.