There’s a word that most of us use on a regular basis that can have a detrimental effect on our self-esteem and our motivation. It’s only a small word, just six letters, but it has a massive impact on the way we view ourselves and our success in life.
We speak to ourselves almost continuously and the things we say, and the words we use, shape our lives. A lot of what we say is unconscious and goes on in the background without us being aware of it. But just because you haven’t listened to what you’re saying, doesn’t mean you’re not hearing it.
The brain works a bit like a groove on an LP. The needle goes around and around in the grooves, playing the same piece of music every time, no matter how many times you play it. In the same way, the words you say, whether in your mind or out loud, will create an automatic way of thinking.
So what is this 6 letter word that will sabotage your happiness?
The word ‘should’ is such a small word that we almost don’t hear it.
“I really should …”.
Sounds harmless enough doesn’t it? Sometimes we use this word because we want to be accepted by the people we are with. Other times we see or hear something which has improved the life of someone else and think perhaps it may help us too.
But mostly we use this word because we are not taking the action we think we ‘should’.
Perhaps you wish to lose weight or start an exercise program and tell yourself “I really should go to the gym today”; or “I really shouldn’t eat that chocolate brownie”. Or maybe you have a partner who is abusive and say, “I really should break up with this person”.
Whatever your particular circumstances, the effect of the word ‘should’ is the same. See, the problem with continuing to say ‘should’, is that you are essentially beating yourself up on every occasion. You believe you ‘should’ be doing something but you know you are not. You are judging yourself which produces guilt and sabotages your happiness.
So how can you release yourself from this guilt?
Ask yourself, “Why do I believe I should be doing this?”
Is it based on other people’s expectations?
We live in a world where there are certain stereotypes which are considered desirable, acceptable and the ‘norm’. In many cases, they are unrealistic, impossible or simply the result of an advertising campaign to sell you something. If your use of the word ‘should’ is based on other people’s expectations, or your desire to ‘fit in’, then it’s not really about you at all. You will never find the motivation you need to make changes if this is your truth. And why would you beat yourself up for something someone else believes? Madness huh? This is your life and you never, ever need to justify yourself to anyone else. Accept yourself as you are and let the ‘should’ go.
Is it something you really want to do?
Oftentimes you wish something were different, you want the results that you believe will show up once the change is made, but for some reason you just don’t seem to be able to do anything about it. You feel hopeless as you cannot see how anything can change and helpless to do anything about it. You are completely powerless in this position and the pain you feel as a result is overwhelming.
If you really want things to change then the second question is the most important.
“If I really want to change, what is stopping me?”
It takes a strong desire to motivate change. Even if our current reality is painful, weirdly, we often prefer a familiar pain to the adaptations we may need to make to create something different. In this case, the fear of the unknown is keeping us stuck in a pattern of behaviour which is paralysing. Whilst some people are motivated by the desire for something different, more commonly people are motivated to change because the pain of their current situation is more intense than the fear of the unknown. And things have to get pretty bad before we can acknowledge this.
J. K. Rowling says, “Rock bottom became the foundation on which I built my life”, and this is true for many of us. It is only when we are in despair that we find the strength to move beyond the pain into the life of power and freedom we desire. Pain motivates us to take action.
Sometimes however, you don’t have the information or skills you need to go about these changes. If you have lived your whole life in a certain way, then to do something different seems impossible. But doing things differently is the only way to get a different result and therefore asking for help is often the first step to take.
Make a decision today to take the word ‘should’ out of your dictionary and choose your path to happiness either through letting go of expectations which don’t concern you, or by asking for help to take the steps you need to enact change. In either case, in the moment you choose, you are reclaiming your personal power and stepping into freedom from guilt and helplessness. And happiness will be your reward …