No More Shoulds

I have been urging my clients to banish a certain word from their vocabularies.  It’s not a four-letter word, but it has the same deleterious effect on their psyches.

That word is “should”.

As we go through the piles of stuff that have cluttered their lives, I often hear such statements as “I should read that” or “I should answer that letter” or “I should take that back to the store”.   As soon as I hear the word “should”, I know that there is guilt or shame involved because this task has remained undone.

That puts a lot of stress on a person.

Here are some words that I suggest instead of “should”:

  • “Want to”, as in “I want to read that”.  “Want to” implies enjoyment in, or satisfaction by, completing the task.
  • “Must”, as in “I must answer that letter”.  “Must” implies that there is no choice in the matter  — such as replying to a letter from the IRS.
  • “Will”, as in “I will take that back to the store”.  “Will” implies that a definitive decision to do it has been made.

Unlike “should”, these three alternatives imply commitment.  An important next step in all three cases is figuring out when it is going to happen, and putting it in your calendar.   Otherwise this undone task continues to cause stress.

If you find yourself saying “should” about something, ask yourself whether any of those three alternatives could be substituted.  If not, then assume that you will not do it, and let it go.

  1. […] (I’ve written about the negative power of the word “should” in my previous tip, No More Shoulds.)   In some cases, these tasks are being put off because they are unpleasant, and my client […]

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