Here we are, ramping up to the end of the year – in a way, having normalized the uncertainty we have to live with but equally longing for a time where stability will come to visit us and stay a bit longer. After all, our brains have a limited capacity to deal with so much change around us (and multitasking doesn’t help either).
Today, I want to share with you something which is intrinsically part of our lives, the way we establish relationships and communicate with others.
And the importance of how we use it.
The words we use to define and describe situations have a very deep meaning and help to build narratives and stories around them. The fascinating part is that even if we have standardized the meaning of words and language, the way we interiorize and process them is significantly different from one person to the other (we will leave that duty to the study of linguistics and semantics).
But the relevant part is how the choice of our words generates specific sensations in us and consequently, builds into predisposed internal narratives. And the more we do, the stronger that pillar, behavior, belief becomes. When we want to tackle change and make it long-lasting, we have to look at the language and its use as a way to unpick the narratives and discern the meaning associated.
I was discussing with a friend how very often we tend to operate in a space of “shoulds”. Everything feels like an obligation, something we don’t have a choice about, something that is so inherently part of us that we don’t even question whether it helps or makes sense doing it at all. And how, when we operate in that space so very often, we neglect and forget about those aspects that we “like”, we “want” we “appreciate” we “love”. Are we allowing time, space, energy for those too?
If we don’t, our tasks and actions become too mundane, too fixed. It’s like the liveliness that inspires our creativity, our interests and our stretch zones is gone, because we are mostly “doing” or “being” on autopilot.
Could it be a way where we could still benefit from routines that work for us but still leave breathing space for improvisation and checking in with what we need in that specific moment?
“I should exercise more.”
“I should meet Sarah for coffee.”
“I should practice the piano more often.”
“I should really work on my business project”
“I should meditate every day.”
Shoulds feel heavy. They feel like an obligation. They imply a sort of dread, something that you look forward to being over. But are these things you actually dread?
How to Replace Your Shoulds
As you move through your days and catch yourself using the word “should,” we can ask ourselves a very simple question: is this something I truly want to be doing?
If the items on your “should list” are things you actually have an interest in, I propose you exercise caution when using the word “should.” If it is something that you genuinely want to do, modify your verbiage to something that casts a more optimistic light on the activity. Try:
“I would like to ______”
“I’m looking forward to ______”
“I would love to ______”
“I want to______”
Using more positive language will naturally infuse a more positive tone into the whole activity — for yourself, but also for whomever you’re chatting with. That positive slant will give you more motivation to actually complete the thing you would like to, and should, do. Try it for yourself. Every time you catch yourself saying that you “should” do something, try replacing it with “I would like to ____.” It actually feels good to use this kind of language.
Limit Your “Should Events”
If you cannot truthfully answer the question “Is this something you truly want to be doing?” with a confident “yes,” you may want to reconsider the task. If it’s actually something that feels heavy — and the only word to describe it is as something you should do — then consider if it is something you actually have to do. And if not, replace it with something you actually want to do.
Consider this a way of censoring your activities. You probably have a lot going on in your life, and at times, you may have trouble saying no to things that you don’t want or need to be doing. These will often turn into “shoulds.”
If it doesn’t feel good to say “I would like to….” and you can remove it from your to-do list, remove it! You’ll have no trouble replacing it with an activity that you will look forward to.
Meet the author – Monica Ruiz
Monica first discovered yoga and mindfulness two decades ago while developing her career in a result-driven and high-demanding corporate environment. They brought a sense of freedom, inner peace and calmness that have accompanied her ever since. She combines different styles of yoga and somatic inspired movement (Vinyasa, Slow Flow, Yin, Restorative and Nidra) with sound therapy, coaching and energy healing in order to create deep transformative experiences. Her style is playful, creative and inquisitive, creating her unique “Holistic Wellbeing” offering, which combines cognitive, emotional and experiential frameworks to empower individuals to embody their authentic and resilient self. Based in London, she works as a teacher, retreat and workshop host both locally and internationally.