Screw “shoulds”

Everybody uses the word “should” a lot.  “Yeah, I should do that.” Or better yet, “Hey, you should do that.” Huh? When we hear this one, most of us go on the defensive. Who are you to tell me what I should do?

The worst use of should is when you do it to yourself.

For some reason it’s taken me a long time to learn this lesson. Ok, let’s call it a lifelong pattern. I followed the old should pattern society laid out for me. I did all the right stuff – went to university, graduated and got a corporate job, got married, built a house, increased my debt load. I stayed on the trail that I thought was expected of me. Sure some of it felt good, but a lot of it didn’t. And don’t get me wrong, this works for a lot of people!

Something in me was missing and I was unsettled, anxious and depressed. But I kept doing all the things I should be doing. Until I couldn’t. I started to unravel, my marriage dissolved in a slow painful way, and I felt resentful of the should life I’d created for myself. Like I wanted to travel! But I didn’t because I should be working to make money to save, to pay down debt. *sigh*

Twenty-plus years later (i.e. recently) I did it again. I started going down the should trail.

Why stay on the trail when you can create your own path?

Since I exited my corporate career last summer, I’ve toyed with the idea of getting a job (in addition to my business). An amazing opportunity fell into my lap – thank you, Universe! I started down the interview path. Again, I got that niggling feeling that it wasn’t right for me, but in old-Mel-pattern I kept going because my logical brain compelled me forward. The logical brain / ego kept saying things like a regular pay cheque means you can get new shoes (seriously, I definitely don’t need any more shoes!) and it said the cleaning lady could come back! Thank you logical brain for bringing up all the things I don’t actually need.

Then I started to get headaches as my brain kept spinning around on all the reasons why I should take the job. Could I do it? Hell, yeah, I’d be awesome at it.

I process by talking things through, so my friends had to listen to me talk in circles – in and out of this job. Sorry and thanks for listening. As a coach, I also rely on other coaches who remind of my goals, dreams and keep me on track toward them.

Also, over the last few months in my own business planning and in working with my coaches I’ve gotten really tight on my values and what I need to live most authentically, so I listened to my gut which said don’t take this job. I turned it down. The headaches went away and my friends wanted to hangout again (Just kidding, they’re all amazing and supportive!).

This process was a great reminder (again, thank you, Universe, for this lesson). Hopefully this is the time I learn to listen to my gut when it’s telling me that I’ve fallen to that old “you should” pattern. I want to break free from a life of should, and I’m still a work in progress on this one.

What I learned was to not ignore the niggly feelings, to face them with compassion not only logic, and then listen to my intuition.

As a side note, shortly after not taking the job, I saw this post on Facebook about something not feeling right being an entirely valid reason for not doing it.


What are you doing in your life because you should? How does that feel to you?

How can you stop shoulding yourself?

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