How To Cure A Bad Case Of The "Shoulds"

I wish I could begin this post by telling you that I'm a human who is immune to jealousy, self-doubt, or second thoughts.

When my friend completes (yet another) triathlon, crossing the finish line all proud and sinewy, I think "What an inspiration!"

When I'm sitting at the stoplight in my slightly rusty 2003 Ford Focus and a glorious, muscly BMW pulls up alongside me, I appreciate that German craftsmanship and turn up my stereo.

When my friends invite me over for a tour of their gorgeous new home, I coo over their rain shower and perfectly landscaped yard and when I return to my apartment with its fire escape "garden" and bad water pressure, I never think about their house again.

Just to be clear, none of the above statements are true.

Like everyone else, I want to live a life that fills me up. I want to be happy on a regular, day-to-day basis. I try my hardest to make decisions that will support a daily life that looks and feels the way I want.

And yet.

That doesn't stop me from struggling with ye olde "I see what they're doing and it seems to be working really well for them and I know I could do it, too and be good at it, I totally don't want to do it, but I know I theoretically could do it" neuroses.

If you've never encountered this feeling, you are an amazing human and I'd like to be your friend.

If you have encountered it, you know what it looks like and how it feels.

It's thinking you should train for a half marathon — even if you've got a bad knee and hate running.

It's thinking you should go to more parties — even if you're introverted and prefer one-on-one time with a dear friend.

It's thinking you should buy a house — even if you hate repairing things, painting, and yard maintenance.

If this sounds familiar, welcome to the club. I brought a cheese plate.

When we come down with a case of The Shoulds, we're usually enamored of someone's end result: the Instagram photos of amazing parties, the runner's butt, the deep front porch perfect for post-work cocktails.

If you're struggling with Shoulds (particularly Shoulds you know aren't right for your) simply direct your gaze a few feet to the left, adjust your focus, and imagine the behind-the-scenes and day-to-day that went into creating those results. Would you want to do the things necessary to get them?

Feel like you should be buying a house? Imagine banks refusing to lend you money. Imagine spending every weekend for months looking at houses that aren't right for you. Imagine you finally find one you like, putting in an offer, and having it rejected. Imagine finally getting a house — and two weeks later the basement floods and ruins the carpet.

Feel like you should be traveling more? Imagine the sacrifices you'd have to make to save enough money for three weeks in Europe. Imagine 8-hour flights, stuck between a crying baby and an arm rest hog. Imagine lost luggage. Imagine standing in line for three hours to see the Mona Lisa from the back of a crowd of 200 people.

Feel like you should have a nicer car? Imagine taking on more debt so you can have this nice car. Imagine feeling stressed any time you hand the keys to a valet or park in a less-that-great neighborhood. Imagine how you'll feel when it gets its first scratch or dent. Imagine when, inevitably, your friend pulls up to brunch in a car that's much nicer than yours.

I would never, ever dissuade you from going after something you truly want, something you know — in the marrow of your bones — is right for you. And the day-to-day reality of chasing any goal, even those we're really excited about, is rarely glamorous.

But if you're struggling to get past those should-y life choices that leave you cold, take a minute to consider all the hard work you'd have to put into pursuing something you don't even want.

Cured? Me, too.

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