Have you ever told someone he or she should do something? Has someone ever said that to you? Have you ever said it to yourself?
“Should” is a heavy word. It carries a sense of burden. It implies a duty, an obligation. There is no joy in should.
When someone tells me I should do something, I often get my back up and stop listening. I don’t like being told what I should do. I prefer to figure it out for myself, thank you very much. If I make mistakes, I will (I hope) learn from them and do better the next time.
Too often, I find, “should” statements come with unsolicited advice. They explain how I should raise my children, run my business, vote, decorate my home… and on and on.
Oddly enough, when I actually request advice from others, “should” statements tend to morph into probing questions, such as “Have you tried/thought about/asked/looked into… ?” My companion listens to me and then encourages me to think more deeply, to reflect on options I might not have considered. I feel myself opening up to these ideas instead of closing my mind.
Possibly even more disturbing are the “should” statements we tell ourselves. I should eat better, exercise more, spend time with my family and friends, vacuum the living room, etc. Well, yes, these things are all worth doing. But do I have to tell myself that I should do them? Wouldn’t I respond more positively to another approach?
I want to be healthier; therefore, I am going to choose less-processed and lower-calorie foods. I may hate exercise, but I do enjoy going for walks. I like my family and friends, so I will plan some time with them. I want the condo to be clean, and I can achieve that by vacuuming up the Cat’s fur. Yes, that sounds so much better.
If you are feeling stressed, try to avoid using “should” whenever possible. As my friend Art observed (and you have to say this aloud), “People don’t like being shoulded on.”
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