Are you Suffering from a Bad Case of the “Shoulds?”

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A closeup of a prescription pad and a stethoscope

It is no mystery. I like to be in charge. That’s a pretty good thing when I expend my efforts by being in charge of me.

From time to time, my in-charge-ness leaks out in one of two ways: comparing myself to others or correcting others. They both undermine me and the later undermines you as well.

In this day and age, it is easy to get a peek into what everyone you know is up to via social media. Never mind that people only post or tweet or pin what they want you to see. It creates an illusion that everyone is up to something better, more impressive, and substantially more significant than you are. It has the potential for you to fall prey to a bad case of the “shoulds.”

I should have a better job.

I should lead more like that.

I should have more friends.

I should be making a bigger difference.

I should lose 15 pounds.

I should be more organized.

The list of “shoulds” could go on and on! You know the “should” that you slip into.

The language we use makes a powerful difference. When you utter that six letter word – take note! That word will keep you frustrated, stuck, and unmotivated to make necessary changes. It will blind you to solutions.

Get in the habit of switching your shoulds to things like:

Next time I will…

It would be nice if…

I prefer…

I would like it if…

Or, best of all, I get to…

Close cousins to should: ought to, have to, need to, got to, and must.

What’s lurking behind the need to compare, criticize, and utter endless shoulds? A lack of clarity on what makes you, YOU! Imagine, really imagine, what would your life would look like if you fully embraced YOU?

In addition to becoming more aware of the language you are using, here are five ways to free yourself from a bad case of the “shoulds:”

1. Dwell on Your Identity in Christ

As a believer, you are a son or daughter of the most high God. You were fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14) and redeemed for a great price – Jesus gave His life for you! The debt for your sin has been paid – God sees you as 100% righteous. Your Father in heaven is omnipotent and so much more! That all adds up to some awesome stuff – who needs to compare with that kind of identity?

2. Focus on Your Strengths

Everywhere I look, there are some very impressive people doing some amazing things. If my focus is on what others are doing, it will leave me with that I-am-not-good-enough-feeling. If I choose to focus on the abilities that God has given me and devote my efforts to maximizing them my chances of doing something significant increases substantially.

Sometimes what you are good at is easy to miss because it comes so naturally to you. Want to get clear on your strengths? Ask the people around you – trusted friends, family or co-workers what strengths they see in you. As they respond, you are sure to see some patterns evolve.

 You may also wish to take a strengths assessment. My favorite is the CliftonStrengthsFinder Assessment which you can pay less than $10 to take online or purchase the book Now, Discover Your Strengths which includes a free access code for the assessment. You can also take a free strengths assessment here.

 Clarity around your strengths will keep you focused on what you can do!

3. Operate out of Your Values

Often, the things you envy in others are not even things you value. Perhaps you value depth of relationship more than quantity of relationship. Maybe freedom and flexibility is more important than a prestigious job.

What are your top five values? How will you be deliberate about making choices in light of your values?

4. Embrace Boundaries

Boundaries often get a bad rap. Rather than being an undesirable thing, boundaries are a way of establishing what you are responsible for and what you will tolerate within that space. Boundaries can be misused, but you are more likely to not put them in place. While you might blame others for the frustration that results when you fail to have boundaries, the truth is setting and communicating boundaries is your responsibility.

5. Practice Gratitude

Getting caught up in the vortex of shoulds keeps you spinning in a negative place. Making a deliberate effort to acknowledge all that you have to be grateful for, no matter how small, breaks the momentum and pulls you out of the negative spin.

Whatever it is that God has created you to be and do will be thwarted as long as you’re stuck in “shoulds.” Whether your shoulds are directed at you, or those around you, your forward progress will be limited. Instead of shoulds, be intentional about focusing on the unique and brilliant person God created you to be. That’s when you will shine!

Where have you noticed “shoulds” popping up in your life or leadership? How would your life or leadership be different if you successfully cured your case of the shoulds?

Ready to make some powerful changes and embrace who God has created you to be and do? Coaching is an effective way to help you heal from a case of the shoulds.

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