“I should eat healthier. I should exercise. I should get more sleep. I should spend more time with my spouse. I should _____.”
If so, you’re human.
We all have areas of our lives where we should make one choice, yet we choose another.
You dwell on what you should have done (or not done) and should on yourself.
The more you should on yourself, the more frustrated you feel. The more frustrated you feel, the less likely it is that you’ll actually do what you should do.
In this blog post, I’m going to show you how to stop “shoulding” yourself. Let’s jump in.
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Where Do You Get Your Shoulds?
Shoulds come from the gap between what you’ve chosen to do and what you need to do to get what you want.
For example, you might want to lose weight, and you know you’d be more successful if you didn’t buy junk food to put in your cupboards. But you buy it anyway, because it’s comforting to have it in your home. As you unpack your groceries, you tell yourself over and over, “I should not have bought this stuff.”
Or, you might want to build your home-based business, and you know to succeed: you have to invite people to come to your class or party. Yet, you listen to a voice in your head that tells you not to reach out to your friends and family for some crazy reason. The gap between what you don’t do and what you ought to do leaves you feeling you should do something. But you don’t.
As your sense of should grows, you start to feel guilty. The greater the gap between what you know you ought to do and what you actually do, the greater the feeling of guilt.
Instead of taking action and just doing what ought to be done, most people get rid of the guilt by making excuses.
You might say, “I need to keep buying the junk food, because my spouse and/or kids want to eat it.” To which, I might ask, “If the junk food is bad for you, and you care about your family, why would you buy it for them?”
You might say, “I’m not sure that my friends would be interested.” To which, I’d ask you, “Do you believe in what you’re selling, and has it benefited you? If so, why do you think it’s okay to keep it from your friends and family?”
Rather than just doing what ought to be done, most people lessen the guilt by filling the gap with excuses. As they fall back on their excuses, the guilt goes away, at least until they should on themselves again.
How to Stop Shoulding
Are you ready to break the cycle of shoulds and break through to success? It isn’t complicated. You don’t even need much time, but you do need to make some shifts to your mindset.
Here’s how to stop shoulding in four simple steps.
Step 1: Spot Your Shoulds
You probably don’t realize how often you should yourself. You feel, think, and talk so much about what you should do that you no longer notice it.
It’s like saying “um,” “you know,” or “so” when you speak. Once you realize you do it, you’re shocked by how often the words spill out of your mouth.
If you’re going to accomplish more and feel guilty about less, you’ve got to listen to your thoughts and words.
When you feel, think, or say what you should do, pay attention. Hold that thought.
Think about what it is you really want and why you’re referring to what you should do instead of what you did. You’ll likely find an excuse that’s keeping you comfortable in your should rather than moving you to action.
That’s where Step 2 comes in.
Step 2: Examine Your Excuses
Shoulding yourself can make you feel pretty guilty, and that’s okay.
Feeling guilt is your mind telling you, “You could have done better, but you didn’t.” Now, you might not like feeling guilty, but if you accept that feeling, you can do something about it.
Unfortunately, instead of doing something about it, most people create excuses to justify their (lack of) action and to lessen the feeling of guilt.
Excuses are often tied to your beliefs—beliefs about what you deserve, what you’re capable of, the people around you, and more. Other times, excuses are simply “white lies” that help you save face (i.e., “My dog ate my homework.”).
We’ll cover beliefs at another time. Right now, I just want you to start examining your excuses. Question them.
Do you use your excuses because you don’t want to admit a truth about your choices?
Do you think your friends will think less of you if they know the truth? Are you naive enough to think they don’t already know the truth?
Or, have you repeated the same excuses so many times that you believe they really are the truth?
It takes a mature person to call BS on their own BS. I created a free No Excuses Cheat Sheet (you can get it at the end of this article) to help you do just that.
I’m certain that once you start asking yourself better questions, you won’t hide behind your excuses anymore. Without an excuse to point at, you’ll be more likely to push ahead with the right course of action.
By the way, if you’re a trainer, coach, manager, or leader, you won’t help others through their excuses by giving them advice. You’ll lead them to answers and action through asking great questions. You can use the No Excuses Cheat Sheet when working with clients as well.
At this point, you know what you ought to do, you’ve embraced the guilt for not doing it, and you’ve examined your excuses and called BS on them. You’re ready for Step 3.
Step 3: Decide, and Do
Using the junk food example from above, you can make one of two decisions. After you get rid of your excuses, you’ll realize there are only two choices you can make.
One choice is to say, “I’m sick of shoulding on myself every time I go to the store. I’ve decided I’m going to keep buying the junk food and accept the fact that I’ll eat it. But I won’t keep going through this cycle of wishing things were different and not following through.”
The other option is, “I’m sick of shoulding on myself every time I go to the store. My family doesn’t need this junk food, and if I don’t buy it, I know I won’t eat it. If my family complains, they can walk or drive to the store and buy their own, but I’m no longer going to sabotage my health nor the health of my family.”
Going back to the business example from above, you’re again left with just two choices. One option is to decide, “I’m going to live in fear of what others think of me. And for that reason, I’m not going to ask my friends to learn more about my business. In making this decision, I won’t (pay off debts as fast, afford the vacation we’d love to go on, create a backup plan for my current job, etc.), but I’ll also avoid any further feelings of guilt from shoulding myself.”
Or, you could decide, “I’m tired of playing small, and living my life based on how I think others might think of me. I’m foolish for thinking my friends will think less of me because I ask them to learn more about my business and its products. And even if they did, they’re probably the wrong friends. I’m going to (pay off my debts, go on the vacation, build a backup plan for my job, etc.) and I’ll no longer live in limbo, shoulding on myself every day.”
Decide to do something. You’ll feel way better. Then do it immediately. Do it every day until it’s a routine.
Once you stop shoulding, you’ll realize how easy it is to move forward, to do what ought to be done, and to create a positive momentum in your life that allows you to experience better health, relationships, income, success, and more.
Stop shoulding, and start succeeding.
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