Should. What an awful word. It’s an obligation. A critique. A killer of possibility. And four years ago, I was paralyzed by it. Both inwardly (“What should I do with my life?”) and outwardly (“What do they think I should be doing?”). And then months after being paralyzed by it, I unstuck myself.
I realized I could not live my life as an adventure with should in my life. So, I got rid of it. Back in 2007, I made a conscious decision to eliminate the word “should” from my vocabulary. As my brother said at the time, I took it out in the back alley and killed it. Yes, I stopped saying and thinking a word.
Instead of should, I started asking myself what I wanted to be doing. I started letting go of things I felt that I should have done and focused on things that were a possibility for the future.
In the most mundane ways, it affected my life. Take simple phrases like “I should’ve remembered to pick up my dry cleaning.” What an awful thing to say! I’m critiquing myself for something as mundane as forgetting to do an errand! Critique is important (as is self-awareness) but not self-critique on an everyday basis about the minutest of things. When something like this happens now, I might be pissed, but I’ll let it go. It happened as it happened. And saying that it “should have” happened differently is ridiculous. It didn’t happen differently, and berating yourself does not accomplish anything.
On a larger level, this focus enabled me to explore new adventures, and really figure out my intrinsic interests. I was freed from this idea that I needed to live my life as I perceived others wanted. Within months, I was starting an exciting new job, living in a new apartment and really at peace with my decisions. And this was four years ago — since then, many other adventures have been had by the same thinking.
I’m anything but perfect. Shoulds creep into my life all the time – they can be very sneaky. But, now I’m aware of them. And now, every decision I make, I can test against the barometer of want versus should. And I encourage you to try it.
Forget the Shoulds. What do you want to do?
What excites you?
Are you doing that now?
If not, why not?
Think about it.