In that sometimes infernal internal monologue, there are a few words that are a blinking, red hot arrows. One of those words is SHOULD.
“I should go to that [insert social activity] tonight.”
“I should get my paperwork together for my taxes.”
“I should put myself out as a speaker for [insert big conference].”
Shoulds are a sign. They say to me that I actually don’t want to do that thing.
Shoulds come in three kinds — the first is things other people want me to do. For people pleasers like me, it can be terrifying to disappoint others. A big part of untangling that miasma is knowing what you actually do and don’t want. Literally ask yourself “Do I want to do this?” and realize you have a choice.
But wait, what about all of the life’s little necessary annoyances? These are the second kind of shoulds — things you wish you wanted to do. In a moment of angst, I ask myself if that activity ties back to some broader arc of who I am and where I want to go. That arc for “I should do the paperwork for my taxes” is I am a CEO that has a stable financial base. Getting my paperwork done is evidence that it’s true. Thinking of it that way ninja mind tricks you and makes the task more tolerable. If I’m unable convince myself that I do want to do it as part of the bigger arc, I admit that I’m not going to do it and move on.
The last kind of should is things that you want to do but they scare the shit out of you. This is where the opportunities to push yourself lie. This kind of should, however, obscures the goal of the task. Focusing on the outcome you’re seeking reveals other paths that are more appealing. So ok, speaking at a conference gives you a panic attack. Can you gain professional influence in another way? Perhaps reaching out to a podcast host and seeing if they want to interview you gets you to the same place with less anxiety.
I don’t have time to do everything I want to do. Why would I do the things I merely think I should do?