I discovered something fascinating a few days ago. It might sound obvious but it was a deep realisation to me: ‘I shoulds’ are useless and every time I say ‘I should…’ I want to do the exact opposite. Every time I want to achieve a better version of myself and I start moralising to myself and say: ‘I should do this’ and ‘I shouldn’t do that’. These sentences have the complete opposite result to the desired one. That was the saddest part about this realisation: I rarely do what I tell myself that ‘I should’ anyway but I can’t help feeling frustrated, guilty and a bit depressed because I don’t.
My conclusion was that not only ‘shoulds’ are useless because they are not motivating me to do what I’m telling myself I should do, but also the feeling cause by my constant moralising is harmful to me.
I also realised that every time I am very passionate about doing something, I say ‘I will’, ‘I’m going to’ – never ‘I should’. Please note that I’m not talking about laws and rules from society that we MUST do. I’m talking about personal Shoulds and Shouldn’ts.
So I decided to track all the ‘I shoulds’ and ‘I shouldn’ts’ in my life that I could remember and in half an hour I had written close to 100! That’s mad, isn’t it? Here are a few samples:
- I should clean those windows.
- I shouldn’t spend so much time on the internet.
- I should get that mole checked: I might have cancer.
- I shouldn’t drink so much tea: my iron levels are not great.
- I shouldn’t watch that much TV and I should read more. What example I’m giving my kids!
- I should shave my legs: I look like a man!
- I shouldn’t feel so guilty about not doing what I should.
- Etc, etc, etc…
Who set all these rules? I know that if I do all these things, I will be a better version of myself but I don’t have the true conviction that this is what I really want. This is not my reality. I have to accept that once and for all.
All these statements weigh so much inside my head and I actually want to do the opposite! Why do I keep saying that to myself if I know I won’t do what I should? Well, maybe I will but not because I say that I should again and again. I only get to do this or that when I really want to do it for my own conviction. The more I tell myself ‘I should’, the less I do the things that I should and the more guilty and frustrated I feel.
I decided to stop beating myself up and stop saying ‘I should’ for a week and try to connect with that really feels right to me. And if I really want to do something, I do it. No more ‘I shoulds’!
This week for me has been eye-opening. I’ve realised that there are too many ‘I shoulds’ in my life and I’m not going to be a better person just by saying them. I will become a better person when I free myself from that mental burden and do the things that feel truly right and I’m passionate about.
I know that at the end of the day I am passionate about my health and I will take care of myself but I’m only going to eat more veggies because I actually love veggies, not because ‘I should’. And TV is boring anyway and I love a good book… but sometimes I just need mindless TV and that’s OK. I’ll do all those things whenever I truly feel like it. I decided that if I’m not passionate about something, I won’t do it. But most importantly, I will stop saying ‘I should’ because I want to be more in touch with reality, not the fantasy of that improved me.
Only when I connect with my own desires will I be able to do the ‘right’ things but for the right reasons.
Not easy, I know, but I’ll get there. It’s already been quiet liberating but I have to be honest with myself: years of moralising won’t change in one week!
And yes, I’m still trying to find a true reason for shaving… ha ha!
Have you ever tried tracking all your ‘I shoulds’? Do they help keep you motivated? Or are they as useless for you as they are for me?