The One Word To Eliminate From Your Vocabulary

If I had to eliminate one word from my vocabulary, it’d probably be ‘should’. With its sister ‘shouldn’t’ thrown in for good measure.

Listen out to yourself and others because it’s SO common to hear people say, “That shouldn’t have happened” or “They should do that”.

Let’s take one ‘should’ thought I’ve had recently: The maternity hospital should operate an equal service at the weekend. Same presence of consultants, same quota of midwives. Going into labour on a Friday night shouldn’t be riskier than giving birth on a Tuesday morning.

Find a ‘should’ or a ‘shouldn’t’ in your life. I’d place a bet there’s one you’ve uttered within the past 24 hours.

She should speak more kindly.
He should love me unconditionally.
She shouldn’t ignore me.
More people should help out.
This appliance should work.
They should arrive punctually.
This headache should be gone already.

Got it? Okay. Now consider: where does this ‘should’ live?

Here’s what I see: any ‘should’ or ‘shouldn’t’ lives only in my imagination. A ‘should’ is pure fiction. Theoretical. Completely made up.

Hmm, yes, but isn’t that the point? Don’t we use ‘should’ aspirationally? Surely we need to have standards, to set the bar, to declare what people are obliged to do? Surely there’s a way life ‘should’ be? Surely these are right and good ideals, setting place-holders for a better world?

Well… ask yourself whether a ‘should’ actually works. Put aside your default response and look with an open mind.

When I believe, The hospital should be equally staffed on a Sunday, the result is I feel annoyed. I feel superior to reality – if only life went as I believe it should, everything would be okay.

But that annoyance doesn’t have power. It’s not a force that effects change. It’s an argument and, if I can be blunt, a childish argument.

For me, the cost of a ‘should’ is that it stops me seeing reality as it is – with eyes wide open – and dealing with it as it is.

Without a ‘should’, I can – as a mature adult – navigate reality exactly as it is. I can see that my consultant obstetrician is unlikely to be at work on a Saturday evening – so what do I want to do about that? Is there a question I want to ask her at my next appointment, in order to feel safer? Is there a request I want to make?

Perhaps you see that your colleague hasn’t arrived punctually. What do you want to do about that? Rather than seething or gossiping (two common consequences of the impotent ‘should’ mindset), is there a conversation to have?

Maybe you see that your partner didn’t speak kindly to you. Rather than matching their bad mood and snapping back (because they should have done better), could you check in with how they’re feeling?

When we see reality as it actually is, without any whiff of a ‘should’, we’re able to act with our full resourcefulness.

This week

Catch yourself uttering the word ‘should’ or ‘shouldn’t’ – either in your mind or out loud. Try replacing it with, ‘This is what is – what do I want to do about it?’ See how much more peace and power there is available when shoulds don’t cloud your mind.

If you’d like my help with sniffing out your arguments with reality and replacing them with a mindset that works, drop me a line to ask about coaching availability before I go on maternity leave.

Over to you

Where do you notice a ‘should’ or ‘shouldn’t’ playing out in your life? How effective is it, versus how effective it would be to deal with reality as it actually is? Leave a comment below, let us know.

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