How many times have we shaken our fingers at ourselves about something we should have done, should be doing, or should do soon? We are often “shoulding” ourselves about something; and this is not surprising as most of us could not count how many times we have been told in our past about something we should do. We have heard it from our parents, adults, teachers, authority figures, siblings, peers in the past and perhaps even now; and more often, from ourselves. We are carrying on a tradition that others began inside of our minds and we should stop! Okay, this is the one should you can listen to!
For example, how many us are able to accomplish our New year’s resolutions? Most of us are not successful because we often try to change things that are so well-established not only as a habit and part of our life-style, but in the neuro-pathways of our mind.
One exercise that I completed in my four years of training to be a psycho-therapist was extremely helpful in helping me begin to make changes – albeit small changes at first – in my life and getting rid of my shoulds and turning them into accomplishments.
Many of us have a long list of shoulds:
I should go to the gym
I should go on a diet
I should be more patient
I should travel more
I should save my money for travel
I should save more! Work more! Work less!
…and the list goes on.
For some reason, the word “should” continues to resonate in our minds as a non-committal, sit-on-the-fence mentality that rarely ever brings about action, let alone change. Hence, we continue to tell ourselves that we should do this or we should do that; and we almost never get around to it.
The exercise to change this kind of mentality is very simple – and yet it works. It entails making a list of our shoulds. Then, after reading it through, we need to decide whether we WILL or we WON’T take the action. After we decide, we need to literally cross out the word “should” and write above it (or below it) the words “I will” or “I won’t”. For example, if you have on your list, “I should eat less” cross out the should and write what you’ve decided to do: I will eat less or I won’t eat less.
After you’ve finished “correcting” your list, then tuck it away somewhere and leave it for a month or two months – however long you can wait. I did this for one month and when I returned to my list – I could barely remember what I had written on it – I had accomplished all but one of the things that I had previously, so many times said I should do.
For some reason, our brain is able to make connections to our commitment to take action and either consciously or subconsciously, we begin to make small – and sometimes big – changes in our lives. What can an exercise like this one hurt? Perhaps, if you return to your list and you still have things to change, you can redo the list and re-commit. I know for me, this was the beginning of changing my entire language around accomplishing anything.
For example, another non-committal word is trying. “Trying is lying” to ourselves. As long as we are in the should stage or the trying stage, we do not accomplish the things we want. Instead of saying, “I should work out three times per week,” say, “I will or I am working out three times per week.” Instead of saying, “I’m trying to change” simply say, “I am changing ________ about my life” or “I will change _________ in my life.” Period. We wouldn’t want a non-committal reply from people we are relying on, so why do we accept it from ourselves?
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