When was the last time you said "I should?" meaning, "I should do this" or "I should do that?" I believe we have all said it at some point, and some say it more often than others. Some, however, live their lives by their shoulds.
One of my clients tried many strategies and tactics to be more productive before working with me. She tried the Time Management Matrix from 7 Habits of Highly Effective People and certain day planners. According to her, none of these worked. However, she wanted to be more productive and structured in her business. She felt she should be. We began brainstorming and explored alternative things she could do. To get us started I asked her, "What has worked for you in the past?" Asking that question is a great starting point to build on. From there we could add, test and tweak different methods.
We also addressed her “should.” It's one thing to want to do something but another thing to think you must do it. Wanting to do something is empowering, “should do it” is not. We discussed that her attempts to fit into what she perceived was the 'right' type of structure or method, seemed to not work for her. Through working together, we discovered she is creative and spontaneous by nature so being overly structured was, in essence, clipping her productive wings. She works better with a balance of structure and a go-with-the-flow approach. After we highlighted these strengths, she embraced them, and she is now working on her happy medium; testing and tweaking accordingly.
Another example is a friend of mine who wants to start an online program. She is getting back into her business now that her three kids are older. She wants to grow her business and feels that an online program will do that, as well as provide passive income. She also felt she should go online since some colleagues in her field have done so successfully. She did not question whether her decision would really fulfill her objective of attracting more clients now.
I too have experienced the influence of “should” in my own business, and most recently in parenting our daughter, Connelly. I’ve read great articles and books on babies' sleep before and after Connelly was born. I’ve also watched documentaries and listened to experts who say you can sleep train your child right away. Others say to wait until after the baby is three to four months old (when the baby’s own circadian rhythm kicks in). Because others were saying you can start earlier, my husband and I tried sleep training our daughter at four and six weeks. We discovered our attempts and her sleep were not consistent, and it caused us more pain than the desired outcome of relief. We decided, instead, to take the pressure off and wait a bit longer until her circadian rhythm develops. We are happy to report at six months, she can mainly sleep throughout the night now, and we are experiencing fewer, occasional interruptions.
All this to say our 'shoulds' can cause unnecessary pain and can potentially drive us further from what we want.
Here is a recap of the main points:
Be mindful of the language you use, both internally and externally, to describe your motivation. Choose more empowering language to replace disempowering words and thoughts e.g., "I choose to" versus "I should."
As much as possible, identify and work with your strengths.
Test and tweak whatever strategies you implement. There is no "one size fits all."
Identify your true objective(s), it may not have anything to do with what you think you "should" do.
Avoid putting unnecessary pressure on yourself. If you are feeling pressure, check to see if there is an "I should" behind it. If so, talk or journal it out to diffuse it.
So, if you answered "recently" to the question above, I encourage you to live more by choice and desires rather than “shoulds.” “Shoulds” should be clipped! :)
Ps. if you are struggling with "shoulds" and would like to live with more agency, please contact me here to see if I can help.