"I really should start eating healthier. I know I should workout more. I should want to change for the sake of my health but to be honest I just want to look good. I know I should not be so vain."
Any of those statements sound familiar? I know I've been guilty of thinking them over the years. We want to feel good, look great, fit in and be successful. But instead of success, sometimes we just end up 'shoulding' all over ourselves. Our minds are racing but our feet are planted firmly on the floor... which makes one think to oneself, 'I really should get moving.’
Here are 3 steps to take you from shoulding to doing:
1. Find out where your 'shoulds' are coming from?
Ask yourself some questions: Why should I? Who says I should? Is it my inner voice that guides me to make the right decisions, or is it society's norm that is telling me what to do? For example, as a young healthy woman in my thirties, I should want kids. That is the norm of the culture in which I was raised. You go to college, get a job, fall in love, and make babies. Listening to my inner voice, I've never had the slightest inclination to fit this norm. When expressing this to others, there are a whole number of responses from those of shock - "Never? You never want children?!" to pity - "Oh honey, don't worry, you will soon change your mind,” to understanding - "You don't either? Oh thank God I'm not alone!" Once you discover the origin of the shoulds in your life, you can then decide which ones are yours to keep.
2. Be honest with yourself.
I once asked a friend what made her decide to adopt a vegan lifestyle. I had believed her answer would be about health, animal rights and environmental issues. To my surprise, her answer was this: "I was told by someone vegans are sexier. I wanted to be sexier so I went vegan." Wow, I love the honesty! No apologies about it.
You are here to live your life, not the one someone else thinks you should. You only have the power to please one person all the time: that person is you.
3. Turning 'I should' into 'I am'
Now that we're being honest, let's take care of the semantics. I should does not imply change or action. It perpetuates the cycle of inertia. Break the cycle by changing those I should's that you sincerely want to do into I am's. Telling yourself, 'I am a runner' will result in you getting your butt out there and running. After all, you're being honest with yourself now. Keep telling yourself, 'I am eating healthy foods' and you will think twice about heading to Dunkin' Donuts and get on the fast track to better health
Getting into action: Shoulds in a jar
Need some help getting into action? Grab a post-it pad, a pen and an empty jar. Write down each should you are telling yourself - ALL OF THEM (you might need a few post-it pads). Then go through the first two steps above sorting your should notes into 2 piles. One pile will be the ones that you truly want for yourself, the others are those someone else wants for you. Destroy the second pile. Now you have your pile of shoulds you do want for yourself. Change each of these statements from 'I should' to 'I am', each clearly written on a new post-it note. After writing each 'I am' note, fold the piece of paper and put it in the jar. When you have gone through all your 'I should' notes and turned them into 'I am' notes, destroy the pile of shoulds, leaving you only the 'I am' notes in the jar.
Each week, pick out an 'I am' note from your jar and focus on that statement. Keep repeating this with all the notes in your jar and life will get easier and more enjoyable. And, after all, isn’t' that how life should be?