Are you guilty of "shoulding" on yourself? You know, telling yourself that you "should" lose 10 pounds, that you "should" be exercising everyday, or that you "should" be more organized? If so, you are not alone. A lot of people are guilty of thinking that they "should" be doing something that they aren't. And worse yet, they think that if they could only accomplish what they "should" be able to accomplish, life would suddenly be a whole lot happier and more satisfying.
There isn't anything wrong with setting meaningful goals and working toward them in a way that helps you to accomplish them; but that isn't what I am talking about when I talk about how we "should" on ourselves. The "shoulds" in your life aren't goals...they are, rather, like heavy weights that are anchored to you all the time, keeping you from enjoying what IS because you are consumed with what "should be."
Talane Miedaner, a life coach who has written several self-help books about success, distinguishes between a legitimate goal and a "should" goal by saying that if your "should" goal has been with you for a year or more, it's a "should" goal that is lifeless. She recommends that you get rid of it--like right now.
I agree with her 100%. If you have been telling yourself that you “should” lose that last 10 pounds, but you have been telling yourself that for the last five years, go ahead and do a post mortem on it once and for all. Move on. Eliminate it because it isn't doing anything but weighing you down and making you feel badly about yourself.
I recommend that you do an exercise that Talane offers in one of her books: make a list of all the "shoulds" you have been carrying around with you for however long. You "should" learn a new language. You "should" give more to charity. You "should" volunteer more at your child’s school. You know what your own particular "shoulds" are. Make a physical list of them on a piece of paper, and study the list for a while.
Consider when you decided that you "should" be doing any of the things you wrote down. In college? When you first got married? When you got divorced? When you had your first child? When you had your last child? When you were 25? When you hit 40? For each of us, the list will be different, and the times when we decided that they were "shoulds" that belonged to us will likewise be as varied as we are. Make your personal list and then seriously consider this question: Do you still even WANT to accomplish that particular "should," or has it simply become like a habit that you have adopted and forgot to drop over time? Think about that seriously. Do you really still need to do some of the things on your list? If not, mark through them. Be relentless. Don’t hesitate to eliminate any and all “shoulds” that no longer serve you. Mark off every single item that no longer makes any sense for you at this particular point in your life.
Don’t delay doing this exercise or it will become another “should” as in “Kitty told me I should make a list of my ‘shoulds.’” Seriously, sit down right now and make your list. Consider which items on that list you have been dragging around with you for longer than a year and vow right now to get rid of it. There is no energy around it anymore if you haven't accomplished it by now, after all. Or rather, there is energy, but it is negative energy—the kind that holds you back instead of the positive energy that propels you forward when you make a goal and set an intention to reach it no matter what. Be real…if you haven’t accomplished a “goal” that you set for yourself five years ago by now, it may well mean that you don't need to accomplish it at all.
After you have marked off some of the items that you were using to "should" on yourself, do an inventory and consider if you feel any lighter than you did before you started the exercise. I am betting that you will. And as you are now lighter, you will also have more energy for tending to those more meaningful goals that you want to make for yourself that ARE pertinent to where you are right now in your life.