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  • Darci Daniels

Stop Should-ing All Over Yourself!

I 'should' take a vacation... stop dreaming, and do it! Or at least make a plan for it. Italy (or Hawaii, Toronto, South Africa, your cousin's beach house...) is waiting!

Have you ever wondered why you can’t seem to make yourself do that thing you know you should do? Whether it’s as simple as flossing every day or as complicated as having a tough conversation with that person in your life you are afraid to upset, we all have something. Most likely, we have SEVERAL somethings. You may even know exactly why you haven’t done it (tough conversations are, well, TOUGH), but it’s still on your mental or actual to-do list as a “should”.

I hereby give you permission – no, in fact, I’m expressly telling you – STOP SHOULD-ING ALL OVER YOURSELF!

We are so damn good at the shoulds, aren’t we? We’re so good at it, we do it to other people all the time. “Oooh, she should not wear those pants.” “He should not say that.” “My kids should be nicer to each other.” “He should be smarter with his money.” “My parents should treat me like an adult.” “My boss should treat me like I know what I’m doing.” “Our President shouldn’t say that on Twitter.” And on, and on, and on…

But first, let us focus on the should-ing we do all over ourselves. Because, I’ll be honest, it’s not doing anyone any good, and the more shoulds we pile on ourselves, the more likely we are to do it to others. So really, this is for all of us! But mostly, it’s for you to feel better. I know nothing makes me feel shitty faster than a to-do list of shoulds I haven’t gotten around to yet. I’ve got a few tips for how to break the habit, and I’ll bullet point them out for you, but it’s the big one at the end you’re going to want to stick around for.

· First, be aware of how you’re talking to yourself. We can dress up our shoulds in different ways: I need to…, I have to… (this is a crowd favorite), I gotta…; but they’re basically all the same. I will tell you “need” is a step above should, but just barely. Listen to what you’re telling yourself when you’re looking at your calendar or making your to-do list. Got it?

· Okay, now we can start making the shift. A simple tweak in wording can sometimes make a huge difference. Instead of, “I should talk to Ken about putting gas in the car before he gets home” feels a lot different than “I will talk to Ken about putting gas in the car sooner”. Using “will” shows you’re ready to take action, and typically has no guilt or issues attached. It’s a simple statement. Should, on the other hand, usually leaves a feeling of heaviness or guilt about not having done it already. Let yourself off the hook and change the way you’re talking to yourself. Here are some great alternatives: I will, I want to, I can. Take all your shoulds, write them down, and tweak the language.

· Or… don’t do the shoulds. Seriously. Can you just bag it altogether? Sometimes we think we should do something only because other people think we should, not because we think we should. If it’s something someone else has put on your plate, you can refuse it. If it feels awful to even think about doing it, why would you entertain the idea of doing it? Once you’ve decided for yourself it’s not something you’re going to do, it’s a lot less stressful to interact with the person putting their expectations on you. Do you only host the 4th of July because your family expects you to, but you hate it because fireworks scare the beejezus out of you? Then don't! Say no thanks, and make your own plans.

· That said, there are a few shoulds we’re not likely to get rid of. Paying taxes, for instance. There is one major way to make this kind of “should” better: remember what the consequences are of not doing it. Okay, yeah, going to jail doesn’t sound like much fun, so I actually WANT to do my taxes to avoid the consequences. Tweak made. Doesn’t take it off my to-do list, but improves the feeling of it when I remember the WHY. Find the why, and shift your language around it, and it becomes infinitely easier to see it on your to-do list. You know what often happens when you do this? You’ll find yourself wanting to do it as quickly as possible to get it off your mind. You’ve already decided you’re going to do it anyway, so might as well “eat the frog” and get it over with!

· If you can’t bag it, then better it. I hate going to the grocery store, but I need to buy food. There are not many ways around it. I could eat out all the time, but I don’t like those results either, because it hurts my bank account and health. I can get groceries delivered, but that's expensive. So usually I make my list as short as possible, go at a time when it’s quiet and I can blow through there quickly, and sometimes I put on my headphones and listen to music or a podcast while I’m pushing my cart. Now THAT is better. Take one “should” you’ve got on your mind right now, and brainstorm all the ways you can still do it but make it better.

· Barter it. Otherwise known as a trade… we can probably barter more often than we think, especially if it’s something someone else loves doing (or doesn't mind) but you hate it. Detest driving carpool, but your friend is fine with it? Maybe she hates making dinner and you always make too much. Trade carpool for a ready-made dinner casserole. My dad is a master at this. He’ll help people with all sorts of random chores (he once helped a friend deliver a refrigerator 60 miles away), and then when he needs his lawn mowed and flowers watered when he’s out of town? He knows just who to call.

· THE BIG ONE. Okay, this is the one I promised you’d want to stick around for. Ready? Think of one big SHOULD you have. This isn’t on your to-do list, necessarily, because it’s not a simple action. This is a project. It has many steps, and isn’t going to be a quick thing you do in a day. In fact, this probably isn’t a thing you do at all. It’s more like a belief… I should get married. I should take that safe job. I should have a baby. I should stay married. I should be a better parent. I should be a better partner. I should make more money. I should be better at my job. THOSE doozies. Yeah. Pick one, and…

Flip it. This is about your language again, but in a different way, because it’s also creating new thought patterns in your brain. This one takes practice, and often a coach to help, because it's NOT easy. But it's worth it, because can open up a lot of freedom and happiness. Let’s take, as an example, “I should be better at my job.” Okay, first, flip it – “I shouldn’t be better at my job.” Um, what? Well, better than… who? Better than who I am right now? Better than Alice in accounting? Better than my boss? Second, who says? Did someone tell me I need to get better at my job? Or is this a belief I’ve gained because I’m comparing myself to others? If my boss did tell me I need to get better at my job, did they outline how they’re going to help me do that, or what the expectations are that I’m not meeting? The truth is, I SHOULDN’T BE BETTER AT MY JOB, BECAUSE I’M NOT. That’s the truth. There’s no real “should” here. You either want to get better at your job, or you don’t. If someone else told you that you “should” improve your job performance, they also better have told you how, in what way, and what support they’re giving you to accomplish that. But first, you have to decide if you even want to improve. Maybe you do – then it’s not a should, it’s a WANT. And when we decide we want something, we mentally make the shift to looking at things in a very different way. Not to mention it just feels better. Let’s say you don’t want to improve, because you don’t want to be the best burger flipper on the night shift. You’ve got bigger dreams. Well, then, you’ve got options. You quit, or you make an exit strategy to leave after you’ve found another job, or you stay and don’t improve. But you’ve made a choice, which, again, is a lot better than feeling stuck.

I was once in a job where “they” continually told me I needed to improve. It’s not because I was bad at my job, I was actually quite good, and they knew it. It’s because I was a salesperson, and they wanted me to make more sales. They knew what I was capable of, how much my clients loved me, and what a great job I did. In fact, they asked me to train new salespeople because I was so good at it… but I was NOT good at drumming up business. Again, not because I couldn’t do it, but because I didn’t like that part. Actually, I hated that part. So, I didn’t want to do it, and I didn’t. As a result, I was nearly always in the middle of the pack, even though my customers were loyal and extremely satisfied with how I took care of them. It took several years, but when I finally got clear that I wasn’t willing to do what it took to be a top salesperson and stopped should-ing all over myself, and my boss knew it, we reached a sort of peace. I told him I was fine being in the middle, and I meant it. That’s the key – I wasn’t faking, I wasn’t begrudgingly okay with it, I was truly at peace with it. I had done my work around it, and I knew this wasn’t going to be my forever job. It wasn’t even a career, really, it was a job. It had nothing to do with who I am, or my passion or purpose. By this time, I’d already gone through coach training and knew what I wanted to do, the timing just wasn’t right. So, I made my peace with where I was, and because I drew a clear boundary, “they” accepted it. (Side note: I was still doing far more than the minimum sales required, it’s not as if I wasn’t doing my job. I just wasn’t in the top 25% or making as much money as others. Money was never the biggest motivating factor for me, and in sales, it often is. They had no idea what to do with me!)

A job is somewhat impersonal though, so let’s take another example: the thought, ‘I should get married’. One of my favorite coaching stories is when Susan Hyatt, one of my friends and coach mentors, was on a plane and the guy sitting next to her asked what she did. After explaining a bit, including using the phrase “I help people get what they want”, he asked what if they didn’t know what they want? She responded with one of my favorite questions ever – “What are you pretending not to know?” The answer? He was engaged to a girl he didn’t really want to marry. By the time they got off the flight she had coached him through it and he had a plan on how to end things and move on. Whoever that girl was, she is damn lucky he talked to Susan that day. Who wants to be married to someone who doesn’t want to be married to them?! I’d bet all my money that guy, at some point, thought ‘I should get married’. Or was told, by family, friends, even co-workers, that he “should” get married. If he flipped it, to ‘I shouldn’t get married’ and that felt true, that sounded good, that felt like freedom… then he would have had his answer and not entered into a promise he really didn’t want to keep. If you’re not using the word ‘want’ when it comes to something as big and life changing as marriage, then I strongly encourage you to flip the should and see how that sits instead. And if you need help, I’m here for you, just reach out.

There are a lot of different tweaks, from small language changes to big belief-busting thought shifts, that can help you stop should-ing all over yourself. The most important part? Resolve to treat yourself better. Be aware of how your'e talking to yourself so you can stop the shoulds. And to love yourself all the more for it.

Read that again.


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