The words “should’ and “want” have very different effects on us. When I say, “I should” do something, the statement has an oppressive tone, thrust on me from outside of myself, like I am needing to adapt or conform to an expectation and until I do, I am not good enough. It implies that I am not what I need to be, that I am somehow falling short.
Maybe the “should” voices come from rules that have been established in either a spoken or unspoken way at some point by someone in our lives. Wherever their origin, the “should” statements often leave us feeling defeated before we’ve even begun our efforts toward change.
When “I want” to be something or change something, it comes from me. It is about bringing my behavior in line with my values. Doing what I want to do allows for empowerment in making a decision that I’m more apt to embrace rather than resent.
If I “should” do something, I haven’t yet taken ownership of it or become convinced that it is a worthwhile pursuit. There exists an inner tension about whether the “should” is really worth it. When I am convinced that something’s worthwhile, some part of me wants it.
The next time you notice your inner dialogue prompting you with various thoughts about what you “should” be doing, or when you hear yourself say to someone, “I really should…,” pause to consider a few questions: Who says that you should? Is the statement about what you should be doing consistent with your overall values, beliefs, and priorities? Or is it instead about comparisons, competition, or the pressure from our culture to be more and have more?
Try shifting your language to “want” instead of “should” and see if doing only what you really want to do makes a difference. Give power and attention to that which really deserves your efforts, and let go of language that leaves you feeling defeated.