Thursday, September 19, 2019

So many “Shoulds” and “Shouldn’ts!”

Are you aware of using the word “should” frequently through the day? Do you also notice people around you also using this word many times? If you can answer “No” to these questions, you are lucky and you can stop reading now! For the rest, quite possibly a majority of you, I’d like you to know that overusing the word, “should,” has a negative impact on you and others, as I will explain today.

First, please know that this use of “should” that I am writing about includes “have to,” “must,” and “ought to” as well. Therefore, please don’t feel relieved if you often use “have to” instead of “should.” You will still benefit from this post. All of these have similar impact on us.

Of course, I would not deny there are things we “should” and “shouldn’t” do, such as taking care of our children, following basic rules, not violating others’ rights, breaking promises, not killing people, and so on. Yes, I am aware of that. However, do you realize that we do not have as many things we really “should” or “shouldn’t” do as might be indicated by our frequent use of should? It’s actually much less!

Why do you think I am against the heavy usage of “should” and “shouldn’t?” That’s because “should” gives us a sense of obligation, and if we don’t do what we “should” do, then we end up feeling bad and guilty. If you keep using this term on yourself a lot, you will be feeling bound, suffocated, and overwhelmed in your life, because you have little sense of freedom left, but rather a feeling of so much obligation which may not be really necessary. Also, if you allow someone to use this term with respect to you a lot, you will lose your sense of autonomy and power, and you will be emotionally submissive to the person and the “should” statements. You may even rebel and fight back unnecessarily instead. “Should” and “shouldn’t” pressure us in a certain direction, but we often don’t notice its subtle impact on us; this is the big risk and problem. 

In reality, so many things we do in our life are actually optional. Even eating three times a day or helping out someone who just fell on the ground is up to you. Lots of people say, “You should take care of your elderly parents,” but even this is a choice you can make, not an obligation. (By the way, I am aware of a lot of cultural and racial norms around this particular example, but still, it is not an automatic obligation). There are things good to do and not good to do, but it is still optional and you can choose if you want to do them or not.

As another example, you might be in the habit of saying, “We should have lunch with so-and-so next weekend.” Try to start saying something like, “Let’s have lunch…” or “I’d like to have lunch…” Using these alternatives psychologically changes your thinking from obligation to something you choose and want to do. If you avoid using “should” and “shouldn’t,” you can feel more aware of your own options being your own choices. Because it is optional, you can pick and choose what are optimal for you and your loved ones, and what are not. As a result, you can simply your life and use your own energy and resources more effectively with a better mood.

You may be afraid of what will happen if you stop using “should” when it’s really about something that is an option,  but you will actually be surprised how much freer you feel once you rid yourself of this term. And now you can choose to do what you choose to do for yourself and your loved ones. This shift makes your life more fruitful and fulfilling. 

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