How many times a day to find yourself saying, “I should…”?
- I should be more grateful.
- I should be more productive.
- I should do more to grow my business.
- I should do more volunteer work.
- I should visit family and friends more often.
And the “shoulds” pile on. Let’s talk about those “shoulds.” When you really look at it and break it down into its simple message, shoulds are just the way we make ourselves feel guilty for not being better people. Of course, that’s not to say that you aren’t already a good person, but we have been conditioned to believe that we should always be doing more. We compare ourselves to others and use their successes as benchmarks for our own lives. Then we feel ashamed when we don’t reach those arbitrary benchmarks.
The concept of “shoulding” has its benefits. It can motivate us to do more, discourage our own complacency, and get us to bring out the best version of ourselves. But there is a downside to “I should.” “Shoulding” can lead to a sense of never feeling good enough, a constant feeling of guilt, overwhelm, resentment, and even lead to depression. It can steal away those precious hours and minutes that we would rather spend doing something else. So how do you keep yourself from being buried under a big steaming pile of “shoulds?”
- You’ve heard me say it over and over again (and I will keep saying it). Define what is important to you. Evaluate why you think you “should” be doing something. Is your “should” coming from internal or external pressures? Prioritize what is most important to YOU and align your actions with your goals.
- Don’t overextend yourself. Think about it, if you divide your focus and energy among 100 different things, are you really giving your best to anything? Keep your focus on a few things and do them well. There’s nothing wrong with delaying a goal until you have the time to devote to it. You can always add something you want to achieve to your low-priority list. As you accomplish your higher priorities, you will naturally free up time and resources that allow you to get to your lower priorities.
- Get specific. Don’t be overly vague about what you “should” do. Oftentimes we procrastinate on doing things because we don’t know where to start or they feel so overwhelming. Break down your goal into individual details. Smaller, more specific goals make it easier to decide what steps to take to reach your overall goal. You’re more likely to succeed because you’ve already formed a plan.
- Set boundaries. Say “no.” You can’t do everything, especially not everything all at one time. And here’s a little secret, you don’t need to feel guilty. If you don’t have the time, energy or desire to add any more to your plate, it’s okay. If you are doing the best you can with your resources, let that be enough. Everyone has a different threshold of maximum output. Just because your neighbor seems to have an endless fountain of energy doesn’t mean that you do, and that doesn’t mean that you aren’t both giving 100% of what you have available.
- Stop saying, “I should.” “Should” is a psychologically passive statement. Replacing “should” with more empowering phrases like “I will” or “I choose to” influences you to take ownership of your goals and accountability for your actions. You will be surprised at how making this one tiny change in your inner dialogue can make a huge difference in your mindset and productivity.
Empowered Leadership helps businesses find freedom through business coaching, executive coaching, assessments, and training. Stacie is an entrepreneur who helps business leaders balance their time to run an effective business and enjoy their life.