How Often Do You ‘Should’ Yourself?

This post was written nearly two years ago in June of 2012. I thought it was high time for a revisit and an update! And how empowering! It’s so easy to stay locked into noticing all the things that haven’t changed! And to feel frustrated and stuck. I’m not saying that I’ve miraculously eliminated this egregious word from my vocabulary… but Wow! My internal narrative has grown so much kinder in 23 months. Things really DO change dammit!
Scroll to the end for my assessment of the results of the ‘no-shoulding’ experiment. And read the Part Two (one week later) of the original post here.


 I woke up this morning, as I do almost every morning, with that same damn word reverberating in my brain. Well, it speaks a little more softly at that hour, but there it was – as always.

I should get up.

And last night, as I surged through my usual late night energy burst clearing out my in-box and writing down ideas and lists:

I should go to bed

And all day long:

I should exercise. I should go outside. I should call my sister. I should work in the garden. I should clean the bathroom. I should write my blog.

Should should should.

Takes all the fun out of any activity I may be contemplating.

I know the common answer to this dilemma. Transform the word ‘should’ to another more empowered phrase: “I want to get up now”

Or, “I get to.”

I get to work in the garden. I get to go grocery shopping. I get to clean the bathroom.

Okay, well that last may be a stretch. But it could be I want to clean the bathroom because I feel so much better when it’s clean.

But old habits die hard. Every morning, there it is again.

I should get up.

Really, I want to get up.

I want to get going on all the cool things I have planned for my day (Well, except for those days that I’m dreading. Like when I have an unpleasant conversation to face, or a task to do that I’m scared of – but even then there’s usually at least one or two things to look forward too. Like food!)

What’s really going on here? Who’s in charge anyway?

I hereby declare that I’m taking charge of my own freaking brain! I want to take back the reins. That whip-cracking should-saying Bitchy Inner Critic doesn’t get them any more!

I mean where does ‘should’ come from anyway? Is it ever appropriate?

Even more egregious is: “You should.” And oops, guilty here too. In the most well-meaning way (I like to think.)

It happens when I’m talking with friends who may be seeking some wisdom or advice on any topic.

“You should start taking a multivitamin” “You should take some arnica and turmeric.” “You should eat breakfast, really you’ll be amazed it can help you lose weight.” “You should ask him if he’s willing to talk honestly about this….” And on and and on.

Should, should, should.

It could be: “I suggest….,” or “How about…..” “What if….. ”

Lots of alternatives to should.

So why is that damn word wedged so firmly in my vocabulary??

Here’s a challenge I’m giving myself (and it’s going to be so freaking hard!)

For the next week, 7 days, every single time it pops up, I will replace the word ‘should’ with a more empowering alternative. Well, at least every time that I consciously notice it.

As I mentioned I’ve tried this practice before, but only half-heartedly. I never declared such a full-on challenge. I never even told anyone I was going to do it.

This time I want to see if I can once and for all kick ‘should’ out of my brain.

I will track my progress throughout the day, writing down how I choose to rephrase ‘should.’ (Not every single time or I’d probably do nothing else all day. But I’ll document it every few hours so I can really see what’s up here.)

I’m realizing that this is a foundational step for anyone to move toward their dreams at midlife – or any time really.

If you’re haunted by ‘shoulds’, when will you ever dig into what you really want? What you dream of?

Click here to read the results of this experiment!

Next week watch for my ‘two years later’ sequel and my new take on where I’m at with ‘Should’! (Because it is late and it’s not that I should back away from this computer and go to bed, I want to!)


Wanna try out this challenge? How many times does ‘should’ barge into your internal conversation?

And, can you think of any times the word ‘should’ IS appropriate?

Tell me in the comments.



Photo: by Weijie via Flickr




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