Should’ve, could’ve, would’ve are words of regret – rather than opportunity. More than 70 people weighed into the discussion about the power of language when I posted last month on LinkedIn.
Let’s put that into context. I wake up looking out the window at the amazing sunrise (pictured) ready to bounce out of bed and get on with the day. But then it starts – the little voice in my head telling me what I “should” do. It says “You should get your bag of bones moving and go for a run”, then it says “You should eat spinach with your breakfast” then it says “You should wash the dog before work,” “You should not drink so much black coffee,” and on this little voice went. Before I knew it the spectacular sun rise had faded and I was busy making lists in my head about all the things I “should” be getting on with (including writing this blog).
I was perfectly happy until I started listening to all the “shoulds” that were going on in my head.
It used to be worse: my ex-husband used to also tell me all the things that I “should” be doing. Not seeing what I did do, only noticing the things that I did not quite get to. You may well have a family member, parent or sibling that tells you what you “should” do. And each time somehow you want to rebel a little. I hate being told what I “should” do. It makes me feel as if I am incapable of making my own decisions.
This word “should” is often used in a context of comparison. I “should” because those people do, e.g. “If my girlfriend can go for a run, I should too.” Keeping up with the Jones can be exhausting and really impact your sense of well-being.
This is what I have learned: there is no perfect, we are human and to be human means that we do not have everything sorted. When we give up the notion of “should” an amazing sense of calm engulfs us, an experience of well-being is restored. And when we encourage those people around us to use the word “could” instead of “should,” not only our but their experience of life shifts.
Years ago, when the children were young and life was a blur as I started my business, I wanted to stay fit and keep slim. I wanted to be the mum who played soccer with the kids in the playground, not just sat on the side. My little voice would battle in my head against this “should” word. Every minute of the day I seemed to be at myself about what I “should” do. This left me in a state of constant distress, as if I was never good enough.
I read the book The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle some years ago and it greatly influenced how I looked at what could be possible – if I got out of my own way.
What I learned is that if I create a powerful connection that is vivid, I don’t need to fight the word “should.” I know that to stay healthy I need to eat less and exercise more. But if I told myself what I “should” do, I would often fight it or be left feeling inadequate.
So I flipped it: I looked at one of my heroes, Audrey Hepburn. And I would ask myself, ‘What would she do?” She personified elegance and grace and had a spring in her step. So to quieten the “should” in my head, I’d ask “What would Audrey do?” Well she would not have a second helping, or drink too much and she was always active. Keeping fit and healthy became far easier.
Possibility becomes more powerful than negativity when there is a deep, vivid connection.
So this morning instead of giving in to feeling bad about all the “shoulds” in my head, I thought, “How great am I going to feel after I take my dog for a run! We both will be happy all day.” That is what Audrey would do.
Steps to getting rid of the “Should” word
1. Surround yourself with “could” people – not “should” people (this may take some coaching of the “should” people)
2. Observe the little voice in your head and quieten the “should” replacing the word with “could”
3. Create what you really want to do as bigger than yourself – do it for others or associate it to part of your bigger dream. Replace negativity with possibility.
Good luck! Let me know how you go.