The Implications of Focusing on What Should Be

Sometimes the words we choose to use have a lot more meaning to them than we realize. One such word is the word ‘should’ which on the surface appears to be completely harmless, until we start to think about all the implications that come along with it. It is definitely a word that we need to stop using for a variety of reasons.

What is Implied When We Say ‘Should’

When we choose to say that we ‘should’ do something, it is almost as if we are planning to not fulfill a promise that hasn’t even been made yet. When we hear someone else use it, we almost expect it to be followed by ‘but’ along with an explanation or justification as to why they haven’t done it yet or won’t be doing it at all.

Also, when we say that something ‘should’ be done, it creates a feeling of obligation. Something ‘should’ be done not because we want to or because we choose to. It ‘should’ be done regardless of how we feel about its merits or benefits. It deprives us of choice and makes us feel dutifully bound, which never makes us feel better about what we are doing.

In addition, using the word ‘should’ gives us an excuse to procrastinate or become complacent about our current situation. If we were fully intending to go ahead and start on the project or task that is presented to us, we would just do it without feeling the need to announce that we ‘should’ do it. By saying we ‘should’ do it instead of we ‘will’ do it, we are letting ourselves and those around us know that we have no real intention of getting started any time soon.

The overall effect is that by continuing to say ‘should’, we set ourselves up to become people who never start or follow through on any tasks or responsibilities. When we let those around us know that we aware of what needs or ought to be done, and then we don’t do it, we can no longer use ignorance as an excuse. We become known as unreliable, not dependable, not somebody that others can count on when they need something to happen. We become people of empty words and broken promises, rather than people of action and results.

Another Negative Effect of Saying ‘Should’

When we use the word ‘should’, we are really saying that we don’t accept reality. We are pointing out that the situation is not as we wish it were and that in our mind it is unjustified or unfair.

If the situation is something that is under our control, and we talk about what it ‘should’ be instead, then we are merely complaining about it rather than coming up with a plan to change or improve it. And if the situation is not something that can be controlled or changed, then our statements about what ‘should’ be are completely moot and just allow us to avoid facing and dealing with reality.

All this serves to do is to cause us unnecessary stress and make us feel powerless and unable to deal with what we are facing.

What to Do Instead

1. Talk about the benefits of the action

Instead of simply telling ourselves that we ‘should’ do something, we need to explore the benefits that will come from that action. Instead of just saying, “I should go to the gym” it’s much better to look at the benefits that will come from going to the gym. A statement such as “I always feel so much better about myself after I have gone to the gym” or “Going to the gym regularly will help to lower my blood pressure” will go a much longer way toward accomplishing a task or goal.

The next time we feel like telling ourselves that we ‘should’ do something, we must instead come up with a list of motivating benefits that will encourage and excite us to actually get it done.

2. Think about how the action reinforces our values

We normally say that we ‘should’ do something when we know that it is beneficial for either ourselves or for those around us. We also use the word ‘should’ when we talk about activities that will help us to achieve a goal or some aspiration that we have.

If we believe that dependability and reliability are valuable qualities, then we need to think about that instead when we feel the need to say we ‘should’ do something. If we believe that being a supportive friend, a good provider, a productive employee, or a responsible member of our community are important attributes, then we must remind ourselves of how a particular action will help us to become those things.

By focusing on the higher or greater good that comes from completing an action, we eliminate the need to think of it is an undesirable or unpleasant obligation and we instead are grateful for the opportunity that has been presented to us. The activity becomes an honor rather than a burden.

3. Explore the reality of the situation and possible solutions

The next time we think that things ‘should’ be different, we must follow that up by figuring out why they are that way to begin with. Is it just an immutable fact? Or is it something that we have the power and wherewithal to change?

If it is the former then we need to accept the reality with no regret or disappointment. These are two emotions that lead to nothing but additional unnecessary stress in our lives and are a huge waste of energy. The best thing to do is accept the situation, and simply move forward without looking back.

If it is the latter, then we need to look for opportunities to improve the situation. Is it something that we can fix on our own? Or do we need to request the assistance of others? If we are creative, motivated and determined, we can make many changes that we may have never thought were possible if we chose to just focus on how things ‘should’ have been instead.


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