If there was one word I could eradicate from the therapy room, it’s should. I hear it more often with my clients than I do anywhere else in my life, except perhaps in my own head. I have yet to eradicate all the shoulds in my life and it’s certainly a work in progress.
My friend Paul often says to me, “If you don’t want to do something, then don’t.” Then he’ll shrug his shoulders and usually add an “it’s simple”. He is someone who seems to be genuinely confused at those people who get themselves tangled up in their minds as they try to reconcile the conflict between what they should do and what they would prefer to do.
Now I’m not suggesting that you let those dishes sit in the sink for weeks or you don’t get up for work because you would rather lie in. I always do the dishes immediately because the food gets crusted onto the plates the longer I leave them, so I choose to do them because the alternative is more of a hindrance. I don’t think I should, in fact, I don’t think about the dishes at all.
So, putting aside your daily routine, what about those judgment calls, which we make on a daily basis? Those things like, I really should lose weight so I should eat that salad instead of a Five Guys burger or, I really should be progressing in my career so I should be staying late and taking on that extra work.
Putting a should in front of something immediately makes it less appealing. It comes from a pressurised place where we are forgetting to own our choices. Should makes us wrong somehow, as if we are not doing enough. Saying we should be a certain way, calls our attention to what we are not and makes us wrong somehow.
It’s a subtle difference in attitude – the best reason to do or not do something is choice. Drag yourself out of bed and trudge to work because you feel like you should and you’ll set off for your day with a heavy heart. In most cases, there will be good reasons to go. Find your reasons and go but go because you chose it.