So many things you should do

It’s the New Year again, the season of resolutions, some of us are entertaining thoughts of what we should do. Perhaps you feel you should loose weight, stop smoking, take up exercise, or on a more mudane level you should do the ironing or wash the car.

I don’t know about you, but I often tell myself what I should do, I should do the washing up, put the bin out, or tidy up. I think the intention behind this line of self-talk is good, it’s to get me motivated to do things that aren’t intrinsically exiting or appealing. But, there’s a problem with telling yourself what you should do, take a moment to think of a time when someone else told you what you should do. My reaction is indignation, ‘Who the heck are you to tell me what to do?’, even if I don’t say that, I tend to dig my heels in, even if it’s a good idea from someone I respect.

In general we like to entertain the idea that we are masters of our destiny and we don’t like to go along with someone else’s idea of what that might be, however intelligent and well meant. If this is your reaction when other’s should on you, how well do you react to shoulding on yourself. So telling yourself that you should do X, Y or Z can provoke resistance before you even start. What could you do differently?

Pick one of the following sentences that seems to resonate with you:

  • I should do more exercise
  • I should change jobs
  • I should loose weight
  • I should quit smoking
  • I should (your idea here)

Have you got one?

Say the sentence out loud and notice your emotional response to it.

Now instead of ‘I should‘ try these alternatives and notice the emotional tone that goes with them.

  • I could …
  • I can …
  • I shall …
  • I want to …
  • I choose to …

These versions feel quite different to me from the ‘I should’ version. When I say ‘I should ….’ I feel my energy slump and feel much less inclined to do whatever it is. However if I try any of the other ones I get a much more positive feeling about the task. (For me substituting ‘shall’ for ‘should’ seems to work well, perhaps different words work better for you). So if you change your self-talk, replacing the shoulds with something more positive, that might make you feel differently needs to be done.Here’s the tricky bit; being alert enough to notice what you’re saying to yourself and change it to something more useful. That might take a bit of practice, but if you’re going to motivate yourself you may as well feel motivated rather than defeated by the original thought.

Now should I follow my own advice? 🙂

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