How to stop “should-ing” on yourself (and start doing what you want!)

Have you ever started your day by mentally running through a list of things you “should” do?

stopsignIf I look at the litany of things I should be doing, my list gets long pretty quickly.

“I should exercise for a full hour today – 30 minutes isn’t enough.”

“I should get to work super early – I’ll never get that project done.”

“I should eat healthier – my skinny jeans are feeling really tight!”

“I should be a lot more productive – better work late tonight.”

“I should de-clutter my office. Can’t let a Skype client see this mess!”

And the list goes on…

All of a sudden my early morning energy – charged with possibilities – is draining away. A day of finding fault with myself, coming up short against some self-imposed standard of performance and feeling “less than” stretches out before me.

The Should Stop Sign

After years of letting myself be ruled by shoulds, I decided to challenge my thinking. Now when I catch myself saying “I should…”, I picture a big red stop sign. Then I hit the brakes and ask myself:

1. Why should I ?
2. Who says I should?
3. Is this something I really want to do?
4. What am I afraid will happen if I don’t do it?
5. Does it bring me a sense of excitement and happiness?

Once I’ve answered these questions, I then make a conscious choice. And you know what? I no longer feel like a powerless victim of circumstances who bows to external expectations or even the unreasonable ones I’ve sometimes set for myself.

Step Into Your Power: Choose

What is one thing you’re doing now because you think you should, not because you really want to?

Take a minute to ask yourself these 5 questions. Do the answers surprise you? It’s okay to own your wants and personal priorities. (Warning – this can feel a bit uncomfortable at first if you are challenging a longstanding thought or behavior). If you decide you really want to do something on your should list, make that a conscious choice. Reframe your original thought from “I should” to “I choose to” or “I want to”.

I’ve found this simple exercise to be both liberating and empowering. What happened when you tried it? Post a comment – I’d love to know!

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