What happens when you stop telling yourself “I should..."

We all know that feeling. The thoughts of should-do-this, should-do-that, and should-have-done-so-many-things that race around when we need it least.

Now imagine if the word “should” didn’t even exist. Did you know in some languages, it doesn’t?

Imagine if you stopped saying to yourself “I should …”?

It is possible to remove this word from your vocabulary, or at least torture yourself with it less.

My stop shoulding moment came through complete frustration with a superior (but not my direct boss) at work. Anytime our team would meet, they would start every sentence with “we should…”. Without any concrete specifics included, it often fell on my shoulders to figure out and do the work to make THEIR “we should” happen. 

I began to cringe, literally, physically, cringe when I would hear those words, “we should…”. 

And I would feel overwhelmed, stressed-out, burdened, guilty…

Then I realized that so many of us say “I should…” to ourselves even more then other people say “you should…” to us. 

We bring all these negative feelings down on ourselves with a few little words. Why! The overwhelm, stress, burden, guilt. We do it to ourselves!

You don’t get more out of life by having a long list of “should dos.”

So how can you stop shoulding yourself?

1. Know that saying “I should…” is just a HABIT. And habits can change with practice. Yes, like all things, awareness is the first step for change.

2. When you start to say “I should…” PAUSE and take note. Just notice how many times you say it in a day.

3. Practice replacing “I should…” with other phrases. You’ll have to rely on other, sometimes more descriptive language, to replace “I should…” with. I’ll even talk directly to the voice in my head that wants to say “I should…” too. Some examples:

  • I WANT to do this (cool! DO IT, be sure to put it on your calendar)
  • I WILL do this (and if so, when, calendar that!)
  • Nah, I just don’t feel like doing that. Thanks for the suggestion!
  • Oh, hey, brain, that sounds like a great idea that could help me, but it’s not my priority right now
  • Yes! That sounds awesome! I love it, but I just don’t want to spend my time or money on it. Maybe later.

4. When your brain really wants to “I should…” something, try asking yourself some questions, to understand the feeling a bit more: 

  • Why is this important to me?
  • What will happen if I don’t do this?
  • Can I schedule this for another time?
  • How will doing this / not do this make me feel after?

After awhile, your habit of saying should to yourself - and that’s all it is - a HABIT - will start to end. And so does those negative feelings that come with it.

Have you tried saying “I should…” less? Tell us about your experience in the comments!