Should – A Harmful Word: How to Lose It

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We all have our own purple crayon - make your story count.
We all have our own purple crayon – make your story count.

A friend, who has since passed away, but who will always be in my heart, once told me that his mantra in life was “no should haves or would haves or could haves.” Period. He lived every day with a voracious appetite for the things he loved; comics, friends, the outdoors, juggling, and for a while, me. It was unlike anything I had ever experienced. I let go the lines I had drawn, and like Harold and his purple crayon, met the world one step at a time. I breathed, I lived, I loved.

But that was then, let’s talk about now. Should have. I have a lot of those, and I bet you do too. Think for a second about how many times in a day you use the word “should. The word “should” has become fixated in our everyday communications. We use it in conversation, to motivate ourselves, or to keep ourselves in line. We use it to express feelings, such as frustration, guilt, and regret.

As I am learning about life coaching my friends, I am learning to listen to those voices in my head. I am interested to see how they affect the way I feel about myself, present to the world, and live my life. Ironically, telling myself I should be doing or being more doesn’t actually help me do or be more, and I end up feeling like I am not enough as I am. Also, I realized that telling other people they should or shouldn’t do something is not respecting their ability to make the best decisions for themselves. That’s not coaching. As a coach, I must share my personal philosophy without telling anyone what to do. We all have the answers within ourselves – I’ll just help you find them. I truly believe that people are free to do what they want, as long as they don’t hurt others. “Should”-based vocabulary doesn’t help anyone.

So now, epiphany!  My new quest is to replace my “should” with alternative vocabulary that is healthier and more accepting of myself and of others. Using the word “should,” avoids reality. We’re talking about things that we wish for, but can’t or don’t lie in our future. The word should, when we listen to those inner voices, is a lack of self-acceptance, not encouragement. It reinforces the negative, and we all know- I am all about the positive. So what can we do?

photo courtesy of pixabay.com
photo courtesy of pixabay.com

Let’s begin with focusing on accepting reality. Anger, jealousy – these emotions are being touted as unhealthy. And they might be, if we can’t move past them. But using “should have’s” to beat ourselves up does no good to anyone. Try to focus on accepting your experiences, even disappointments. They help you to grow, and become kinder and more accepting of your true self. You may even notice that the relationships you cultivate will be better too.

Let’s move on to the benefits. Stop telling yourself that you should be doing more of something- whether its yoga, running, eating healthy, etc. Start focusing on why you want to do something. I have begun to remind myself of why I want to meditate. I enjoy the relaxed, peaceful feelings, and the big stretch at the end feels good. I feel connected to my inner self, and I can talk to those voices in my head, and tell them what I really want to do and be.

This week, I’m going to ask you to try removing the word “should” from your vocabulary. It won’t be easy, and I’m still a work in progress. It will take time, patience, and a lot of practice. But it is possible, and very rewarding. Disowning the should have’s. would have’s and could have’s will lead to a kinder relationship with yourself, and better relationships with the people around you. And that’s what makes it all worthwhile.

Learn to accept who you are.
Learn to accept who you are.

So grab your purple crayon, and draw some new lines for yourself. The world is a blank canvas waiting for you to explore. Carpe Diem.  Let me know how you will make the change.

Stay motivated and caffeinated! 😉☕

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