The dawn of a new year naturally brings about a slew of self-improvement resolutions. Often these resolutions are based on what you think you should be doing, such as:
- I should eat healthier.
- I should exercise more.
- I should go to bed earlier.
- I should drink less wine.
- I should be nicer to my partner.
The Tyranny of Shoulds
When you live in this trance of shoulds you embed yourself in a negative thought pattern that stirs up guilt, anxiety and judgment. A sense of unworthiness or "I'm not okay as I am" arises leading to icky feelings of tension, contraction and heaviness in your body.
Shoulds are an unnecessary stressor that ultimately result in overwhelm, frustration, despair and burnout.
Anywhere But Here
Focusing on what you should do--or shouldn't have done--means you're fighting with reality. You're either living in the future (I should pump iron next week) or dwelling in the past (I shouldn't have inhaled those chili fries last night). You aren't engaged with the present moment, the only source of true happiness and peace. And, quite frankly, you're just making yourself miserable.
No Heart in Should
When you do things simply because you should, your actions lack authenticity, wholeheartedness and joy. It's hard to generate genuine enthusiasm and sustainable motivation when you're up against a big, heavy should.
Deconstruct Your Shoulds
I have a friend who every few years takes up running only to quit a few months later because he hates it. Why does he do this? Because he believes it's what he should be doing to be fit.
What if he stopped to deconstruct the source of this seemingly self-imposed thought? What or who really drives it? There are a million different ways to exercise; what makes him believe that running is the one thing he must do to be right with himself?
How would he feel if he let go of this thought and stopped trying to force himself to do something that isn't in alignment with his true self? How would he feel if he found a form of movement that makes his heart sing? I'm guessing pretty darn free.
Liberate Yourself: Swap Shoulds for Coulds
Operating from a place of shoulds is disempowering. When you catch yourself shoulding on yourself, stop and investigate the thought.
First, ask yourself why you think you should and reflect on every reason that surfaces with an open mind and without judgement.
Then swap "should" with "could." Doing so gives you the freedom of choice and is much more positive, empowering and liberating. For example:
- I could eat healthier.
- I could exercise more.
- I could go to bed earlier.
- I could drink less wine.
- I could be nicer to my partner.
Now, investigate with curiosity and compassion what's stopping you from taking action and what the benefits of doing--and not doing--this "could" are. Doing so will help you realize its importance--or quite possibly, its unimportance.
Many of us know what we could be doing, but don't do it because we don't have the know-how, support or accountability to get unstuck and make lasting change.
I help my clients identify the roadblocks that prevent them from fulfilling their desires. We break down their barriers to change then focus on cultivating lifelong healthy habits not because they should, but because they actually feel good. As a result, their actions become effortless, relaxed and pleasurable.
Do What's True to You
As you dive into the new year full of optimism for another fresh start, try to stop shoulding on yourself. Do what's true to you and your desires. Examine your self-imposed shoulds. Inquire if you're trying to live up to someone else's expectations or society's standards. Swap your shoulds for coulds then either embrace and act on them, or release them with love.