March 22, 2022

Episode 31: Shoulds

“I should” is an expression that creates a lot of damage in our life. In today’s episode, we unpack what should actually stands for and what to replace it for to create powerful incentive for action.

What you will discover

  • The 2 hidden purposes of “shoulds”
  • What your brain hears when you say “I should”
  • The 3 steps that will blow “should” out of your vocabulary for good


Mixed and produced by Adrien Grenier

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Episode Transcript

Hi, welcome to the Excellent Rider podcast. I'm Mélanie. I'm a certified life coach and I specialize in helping people like you get things done, find ease and motivation again and get unstuck when it feels like you've lost your Mojo.

Before we start today, I'd like to thank very much. Jupiter HDSKWE in Canada, who wrote a very kind review on apple podcast. That person wrote: "Exactly what I needed to hear. Thank you so much! These podcasts are the groundwork you need to hear and do if you're feeling stuck and wanna stop spiraling into negative thoughts about yourself and your career!" So thank you so much to Jupiter for letting us know.

I really appreciate that you took the time to go and leave a review. Thank you. Today, I'm going to speak about a certain expression that we use that creates a lot of damage in our life. It's when we use the word "should". As in, I should do this or I shouldn't do that. Or the situation should be like this or the situation shouldn't be like that.

I want to unpack a little bit what's behind when we say things like that and what the consequences are. So when we say I should, or the situation should be, or shouldn't be, it's usually for one of the following reasons. The first one, it's basically a covered way of blaming ourselves.

So when I say I should be working on my report, or I shouldn't react that way, even when I'm stressed; or I shouldn't take another cookie; or I should do something about my lack of competence in that area.

Basically what I'm saying is that I wish that I were the kind of person for whom it spontaneously came to not want a cookie or for whom it would be spontaneous to write my report at the time I have said I would. And by telling myself that, I'm basically saying that I am disappointed that I am not this kind of person.

I wanna do something that I find difficult, such as writing that report right now when I don't really feel like it; or refrain from eating the rest of the cookies when I really feel like eating them. And try to do something difficult while feeling disappointed or frustrated about yourself. Well, good luck. And the second kind of thing that we mean when we use the word should, is that reality should be different.

So for example, when we say my boss shouldn't behave this way, or the situation shouldn't be like that, or the tax office should be more supportive of newly created companies or my blood pressure should react better to the treatment. What we really mean is that people and things should behave in a way that's in line with my expectations.

It's the same thing as before: by saying that it should, what I'm saying is that reality is disappointing or that I am powerless to get my wishes. And if I need to do something to influence the situation, It's gonna be very difficult to do that from feeling disappointed or powerless; or any other such unpleasant feeling.

I heard somebody say it in a very crude, but very memorable way, which is that "don't shoild all over yourself". So I'm going to refer a translation that you can use instead of I should, that will help you notice what's going on for you and address it in those moments. So what I want you to have in mind is that every time you're saying I should, what you really mean is "I want to want to".

It means, I wish I spontaneously felt the desire to, and since I'm not, I'm looking down on myself or on my perspectives of success in the situation. So, I really want this other person of this situation to spontaneously go in the direction of my expectations.

And when it doesn't, I make it mean something negative about myself or about my future success. So when you remind yourself that you wanna do something, but you're not doing it, you're creating negative feelings. When you're telling yourself, I want to want to not eat the cookies, you're creating negative feelings.

You're you start thinking that you're incapable or lazy or out of control. And when you think that way, it makes you feel inadequate, frustrated, discouraged. And from those negative feelings, it's going to be very difficult to do difficult things, such as write the report when you have decided that it's time to do it or manage your difficult boss or any of the situations in which you're shoulding yourself.

What's gonna happen is that you're gonna give up and you're gonna give in to the spontaneous feeling you have, which is to not do the difficult thing and choose the easy, spontaneous direction. So if you want to make yourself want something, you're gonna need to spend a little bit of time reconnecting to all the reasons that you want the thing.

You need to paint a picture of the thing that makes you desire it. So instead of I should write this report, notice that what you really mean is I want to want to write this report. Acknowledge that right now, you actually don't want to write this report.

And so figure out why. And maybe the reason you don't want to write the report right now is because you're afraid that the report is not gonna be good enough and that your client is not gonna be satisfied; or maybe you're reluctant to write it because it sounds like a lot of boring work on a topic that you're not very interested about.

Or maybe you're disappointed in yourself because you were supposed to write it three weeks ago when you finished the assignment and you still haven't done it. So figure out why right now you don't actually want to do the thing. And then, find out all the reasons why you do want to do the thing. So for example, all the reasons why you do want to write the report right now.

So one reason might be that you don't wanna have to think about this bloody report anymore and feel bad about it every single time you think about it. So if you write it, you will get rid of all of these negative thoughts. Maybe you want to learn how to motivate yourself to do things that are part of your job and that you don't love to do so much, such as write a report after the fun and exciting assignment is over.

Maybe you want to know better what your client is after, and you're ready to receive negative feedback about the report in order to understand your client better. So dig deep and find what is the compelling reason that I am ready to do this, even though it might be a lot of work, it might be risky. The outcome might be uncertain; I might not be sure if I'm going to do a good job or not.

Dig deep and figure out what are all the reasons why you actually want to engage with this task right now. And don't allow yourself to answer, but I don't wanna do it, it's boring, I have no reason... Because that's not true. If you really didn't care, you would not be shoulding yourself in the first place.

So find what are all the reasons why you actually want to do this thing and reconnect with them and make them compelling. Same thing, if you are shoulding yourself about another person's behavior or a situation. So for example, my blood pressure should react better to the treatment. Step one, you translate. You replace should by "want to want to".

So, for example, I want my blood pressure to want to react better to the treatment. Or in better English, that means, I wish my blood pressure would spontaneously react better to the treatment.

And acknowledge that right now you're upset because it doesn't. And then figure out why. Why are you upset? Well, I'm upset because I'm afraid my quality of life will worsen.

I feel powerless to influence the situation and that's scary. I worry that I won't be able to work as much as I'd like on my new project, because I need to rest because of my blood pressure. Or I imagine that at some point I'm gonna become despondent and I will have to ask my family to care for me like a child. Etc. Etc.

So figure out what are all the reasons that you're feeling upset about the situation not behaving the way you wish it was. And it's probably going to sound extremely obvious why you're disappointed or why you're upset, but it's not because it's obvious to you right now that it's actually... That you're actually aware of the reasons why it feels obvious.

So really make the effort of writing down, however painfully obvious it sounds to you, but explain as if you're explaining to somebody from another planet who had no clue, what is so obvious about why you're feeling upset. Describe in a lot of detail what is upsetting you about the situation not reacting the way you wish it would react.

And notice that when you're describing this to yourself in this way, you're creating a lot of powerlessness to yourself. You're not enabling yourself to do whatever is possible for you to do in the situation.

And regardless of what the situation is, regardless of how ineluctably the situation is unfolding or how little influence you can have over the situation, you always have control about your attitude. You always are able to change the way you're looking at the situation to make yourself at least be okay in the situation.

So you can find out all the reasons why you are okay in the situation, even though it's not going in the direction you hoped for. So for example, in my example, with the blood pressure, perhaps that the fact that I might be about to lose some key elements of my health make me notice how blessed I have been up to now.

And maybe I notice that I want to actually celebrate this health that I have while it lasts, for example by not working as late as I have been working recently and taking a walk in nature more often. And placing my focus on my body and enjoying that relationship while it's good. And I can do that right now.

Like I don't need to wait for next week or three weeks from now. I can start to do that right away. Or maybe I can notice that being in this unpleasant situation with, some health issue is an opportunity to notice how many people care about me; from my immediate circle all the way to doctors who don't really know me and who have placed their lives in the service of strangers like me.

And that can be a way to feel connected for example. So I will still be with a bad health, but I will feel connected. And from that very powerful, very pleasant feeling, I might be more inclined to do all the things that will help me tackle or manage my poor blood pressure.

Or maybe I can notice that having this high blood pressure is the opportunity for me to learn how to enjoy the moment, to be present to myself, to find those little instance of joy and connection as they arise. Etc. Etc.

Because ultimately when you're saying that something should be different or someone should behave in a different way, what you're doing is that you're fighting reality. You're telling yourself I had this perfect plan and now this thing, or this person, is coming in between me and my plan. And I cannot be bothered to make the effort to adjust my plans accordingly.

And you know what? I agree with you. It does suck that you need to change your plans. It would be so much easier if reality would just conform to your expectations. But that's the difference between living in reality, using this opportunity to show yourself how resourceful and resilient you are; versus living in fantasy and constantly proving to yourself that you don't have what it takes and that the world is unfair and that things never happen in your favor.

And personally, I know which narrative I prefer to tell myself because I know which narrative makes me feel good and makes me feel empowered and makes me feel energetic and have the kind of energy and determination that helps me influence the situation in the best possible way. I don't love obstacles, but I do truly enjoy proving to myself that I can overcome them because that makes the trust I have for myself deeper and stronger and more vibrant.

It's a big part of the reason I love to have myself around because I think she's so reliable. She's so dependable. She's such an amazingly creative problem solver. And if you want a relationship just like that with yourself, you can start by translating your shoulds. "I should" really means "I want to want to". And you know exactly how to make yourself want something.

It's to describe it in a way that sounds enticing and that you actually can believe. It might not be easy at first, but it's like everything: 100% of those who succeeded started out by trying.

I hope that you found this episode helpful. If you did and you wanna help me reach other people who need to hear this, the best way is to share it.

You can tip a friend and you can leave me a review on Apple Podcast or Spotify. And if you want the transcript, it's on my web site Thanks a lot for listening today. And remember that even when you can't get yourself to do what you want, even when you're stuck in negative emotions and unpleasant thought loops.

And even when you don't believe it - especially when you don't believe it, you're not broken. You're not flawed. And you're definitely not jinxed. You're just learning how to be an excellent rider. There are no bad horses, only untrained riders.

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