People like to have a sense of purpose for things. We want to know that we’re doing the right thing and that our activities are going along according to “the plan.” In short, we spend a lot of time either saying “I should…” or asking ourselves “what should I…”
The problem with this mindset is that it ends up being a prison for the spirit rather than a pathway to success. When we say “I should do x,” very often that x doesn’t refer to something we came up with. Instead, we’re almost always referring to things that other people have said we “should” be doing. We should be walking every day, we should be eating this diet not that diet, we should just relax and not take everything so seriously.
There’s another common element to the usual “I shoulds” we tend to burden ourselves with — they’re horribly nonspecific. They don’t tell you why leaving you to fill in the gaps yourself. They’re meaningless statements that don’t fit into a proper, healthy, holistic worldview that can let you benefit. Almost every time we say “I should,” we follow it up with “but.” Then we let ourselves dwell on the problems that get in the way of our goal, and we lose the energy to deal with anything as stress continues to build up and rob us of the good life. Before long it’s ingrained and habitual, and we can’t see a way out.
Instead of getting hung up on the “I shoulds” that keep tearing our confidence down, let’s look at the way we can harness the power of “I want,” and “I will.”
Step One — Decide What YOU Want
As we said, many “I shoulds” come from thinking about the desires and proclamations of people that aren’t you. This is what makes it so bad to adopt a should habit. The fact that they aren’t you, is the biggest problem; your life and your problems are unique, requiring their own perspective. What works for someone else may not work for you, but the moment that you say, “I should at least try,” you give the idea its own merit.
Instead, remember to sit down and inventory what you WANT out of life. Remind yourself what stress has done to you, and what it’s taken from you. Remember why you want it gone, and why you chose to try and remove its influence on you. Habits are built from desires, whether conscious or unconscious. Choosing to go from something that you want, something that pleases you, will make it much easier to hold onto that habit in the future. This is because it will be entirely yours, instead of a burden imposed by someone else.
Step Two — Review Your Tasks
On some level, the instinct of “should” comes out of needing to schedule our lives. We think we should get the car looked at because we don’t want it to break down and strand us on the highway, for example. This is a pretty reasonable way of looking at things, on the surface. Then again, if we have a good reason for getting the car serviced, it isn’t really a “should” so much as a want. We WANT a car that works well and gets us to work. We’re not doing it because someone said we should, but to meet a need we have.
This week, go over the things that you have scheduled or intend to take care of. Ask yourself why they’re on the schedule- are they there to keep up appearances, to please someone else, to maintain status quo or put off conflict? These are “shoulds,” and are probably taking up a lot of your energy through worrying. If they’re there because you want them to be, then they’re not a “should” and are alright.
Step Three — Act On Your Wants
In the end, everything we do because we “should” is just putting off the problem. It builds up those bad habits that get us stuck in a rut and let stress build up in our lives. We avoid an argument one more day because we “should” be peacemakers. Instead, take the initiative and break these bad habits by acting on good desires.
A major part of building up good habits is clearing out old ones so you have room. Every bad habit we have can be replaced with a good one, given enough time and consistent effort. Instead of avoiding a lingering conflict because you “should” keep the peace, initiate a discussion about it because you WANT to feel better and stop worrying.
Step Four — Be Gradual
Major changes are hard to turn into habits. Almost nobody changes immediately and overnight. It’s going to take the same steady, deliberate series of changes to get from “should” to “want,” and there’s no reason to feel bad about that. Take small steps, beginning with you. When you feel yourself saying, “I should take care of this…” ask yourself why. Start things out by taking the time to just think about why you feel a certain way. The very act of thinking on things will give you a new sense of control and direction that you may find surprising, and ultimately rewarding.
Originally published at https://www.tumblr.com.