Stop Shoulding on Yourself

I’ve been thinking about resilience recently. The ability to bounce back.

Heaven knows, with the exception of the very wealthy, we’ve all taken a financial as well as a social beating over the last few years.

Part of what makes it a hard experience to navigate is the notion that “things shouldn’t be this way.”

That monosyllabic word “should” has so much devilish power, and wreaks havoc in our mind and subsequently with our feelings.

The jokey responses to it are “stop shoulding on yourself” and “that’s really shouldy thinking!” Or as I have long said: “The word ‘should’ shouldn’t exist.”

That pernicious little word can show up in disguise, too. An example? “I could’ve done better.” What we really mean is, “I should’ve done better. Let me beat myself up for not being perfect.”

And when we try to use “should” to encourage ourselves, it backfires. “I really should stop watching Netflix/YouTube/Amazon Prime and get some work done.” Or, “I shouldn’t eat any chocolate-chip cookies because I’ll be sorry afterwards.”

Compare that to: “I’m going to stop watching Netflix/YouTube/Amazon Prime now, and get some work done.” Or, “Thanks, but I don’t eat cookies.”

Dropping “should” from your thought pattern creates a completely different mindset, and therefore a completely different outcome.

Speaking of baked goods, a long time ago, when I lived in Montreal, a North American city with a strong French-speaking population and flavour, I couldn’t walk past a patisserie (French bakery) without going in to buy a freshly baked croissant. The tantalising smell of pastries baked with butter was irresistible to me. I knew I shouldn’t do it, because I needed to lose weight, but I felt powerless to stop myself.

In time, though, thanks to educating myself about nutrition and a few years of Buddhist practice, it no longer represented something I shouldn’t do. It became something I didn’t want to do. Something I had no desire to do. In fact nowadays, I get my jollies from the vegetable kingdom. Nothing makes me happier that a fridge full of a variety of veggies!

I digress. 🙂

Dropping “should” from your thought pattern creates a completely different mindset, and therefore a completely different outcome.

Using the word “should” creates a distorted vision of reality in our mind. In our arrogant or fearful delusion we try to impress upon “what is” the way our lesser self says it should be. Futile and frustrating. This trying to force reality into a different mould differs greatly from holding a vision or a determination within yourself of a positive outcome to a situation that at first appears undesirable.

So what about children shouldn’t suffer and everyone should have enough good food to eat and we should have world peace. Sadly, we know that children do suffer, people starve and warfare continues to plague humanity.

“Should” simply doesn’t have the power to positively motivate people. We have to shift from shoulding to taking action.

The website tells us:

Should is an auxiliary verb… We use should mainly to:

  • give advice or make recommendations
  • talk about obligation
  • talk about probability and expectation

What’s an auxiliary verb? It means it’s not the main verb. And therefore it doesn’t have the inherent power of the main verb.

Consider the difference between “I should go now,” and, “I’m going now.” With the first sentence we leave long after saying it. With the second sentence, we go.

And so I finish this little rant now. I feel hungry and I hear some veggies calling my name! And I know that if I think that I should go, I’m going to sit here and feel hungry for quite a while longer!

Photo by Mae Mu on Unsplash

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