How many times a day do you tell yourself that you “should” do something? How many times an hour?
Or are you not a “should” person? Maybe you’re more inclined to use “must” or “have to.” Should, must, have to - they’re all the same when you’re talking to yourself. When you use these words, you are setting yourself up to be miserable. Here’s why: when you tell yourself you “should” exercise more, and you don’t, you end up feeling guilty.
Should is a one-way ticket to guilt.
Let’s take a closer look at the process. Do any of these “shoulds” sound familiar to you?
- I should get in better shape.
I should go on a diet.
I should be more successful.
I should exercise more.
I should visit my parents more.
I should stand up for myself.
I should be saving more for my retirement.
I should be able to speak in front of a crowd without getting nervous.
Think of a time when you told yourself you “should” do something, and you didn’t. How did you feel? You probably didn’t feel very good about yourself, and there’s a good chance guilt was involved.
Here’s the thing – there are no absolute “shoulds,” “musts,” or “have tos” in life, not really. We may believe there are, but if we were to take a closer look at them, we can dispel those beliefs. For example, if you tell yourself you “should be more successful”, I would ask: says who? And is that really true? I mean really?
The Antidote to Shoulds
The solution is simple, all you need is a slight change of wording. Try this instead:
Sounds different, doesn’t it? Now imagine you say to yourself “I want to exercise more” and then you miss a few workouts. How do you think you would feel? Likely not nearly as bad as if you had used a “should.” With a “want”, if it doesn’t work out, it’s still a “want”, and you can continue to work on getting it, without feeling guilty or discouraged. No guilt = freedom!
So if you want to feel better about youself, change all your “shoulds,” “musts,” and “have tos” to “wants”. Besides, if you don’t want something, why are you forcing yourself to do it in the first place?