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The Should List

Saturday, June 13, 2009


Today I have been mulling over my "should" list. I was thinking that it runs in the background, almost continuously and might very easily be one of the most overlooked energy drains. It occurred to me that much of the "helpful advice" I've been finding about energy drains sound a lot like even more "shoulds" that I "should" add to my to do list, that I "should" be implementing, and "should" be eliminating and "should" be dealing with... etc. etc.

And I realized that my Should List is a lot like an unnecessary program running in the background on my PC. Here's why: "All sorts of programs run in the background on your PC. Closing unessential ones is sometimes a good idea, because doing so can increase your system's speed and can help keep software installations trouble-free. Identifying which applications are essential and which are not takes some detective work, however."

If your computer is running slowly - here's a link to that article at PC World. If you think your "should" list is depleting your energy and bogging you down, today might be a good day to begin some inner detective work.

One thing that I thought might be important is to have an idea of what the word "should" actually means. I looked it up, and here's a dictionary definition of should. I didn't find it very helpful, so I did a search for the words "should have" and came up with this grammatical explanation. And that's when I realized that it isn't the words themselves, it's the meaning and the intention behind them.

For me, when I say "I should have done the dishes," what I actually mean is, "I'm such a slob, and lazy because I didn't do the dishes yesterday (or the day before, or last week)." It might also mean, "If I was smart, I would have done the dishes," which has an even deeper layer meaning, "I'm stupid because I didn't."

What about you? When you say yourself "I should do the dishes." or "I should mow the grass." What is it that you are really telling yourself? What is the rest of the story? And how does it make you feel when you say "I should" or "I shouldn't" or "I should have"?

What do you think? Should we do something about our should lists?


Anonymous said...

Some Shoulds direct me to the life I want to live; the trouble is when I pick 100 SHOULDS that point me in a new direction, I am sabotaging myself. I'm going to pick two for now and watch how the other shoulds try and derail me. When I fail I can recommit; I don't have to listen to the voice that says "see how flaky you are?" This is the process by which my true life gets stubbed out. The voice that says "I get bored too easy - one or two things at a time isn't 'me'" is also just another voice of sabotage. The judge voice isn't helpful either, contributing things like "so what that you walked? you didn't walk far enough - you are so halfhearted why do you even think this counts?" Thank you, but I'm going to keep walking and just watch the shoulds come and go, bullies on the playground trying to keep me from having fun. These are the energy drains that are getting plugged up every time I meet a commitment to myself. And every time I fail to meet that commitment, I can recommit and it is as simple as that. The voices that want me to quit and are very self hating will come around louder and louder the more I start to live how I want to live. And I can say thank you, I'm recommitting anyway. The one or two shoulds, the ones that I really want, the ones that direct me to living MY life are the ones I will hear for now. They change from shoulds to things I love to do for me. The rest of the shoulds are just very sneaky at keeping me stuck in not doing anything at all so they can punish me some more for all the things I don't do. The big energy drain for me is the belief that I can't stick to anything, that I can't change, that I will always end this way - failing - that I am incapable of meeting a commitment to myself.

Karla said...

This was a very good exercise Shirley! Plus I loved the PC Article..thank you for finding that!
I think even before reading this I've come up with a way that helps me deal with the "shoulds". I change the words to "I am going to____ right now.." or "I would really like to____" or "I don't have to ___right this minute".
Last night I returned home at almost 6pm after volunteering in a snack shack and then working all day. THERE WAS THAT LAWN (ha ha ha..why is it the mowing that scares the crap out of us?) I did NOT say "I should mow the lawn". Instead I pictured how nice the lawn looks mowed and smooth. I felt myself sitting on the deck with a beer enjoying that smooth lawn with birds chirping and dogs lounging by my side. I thought about how good that would make me feel. I walked inside and told my husband, "I think I'd like to mow the lawn!" And I did! I pushed the mower really fast and thought about how it made me breathe harder. Wow. I'm getting exercise, too! Bonus! The dogs chased me around so they were having fun. I stopped to admire my work along the way. Shoot, it only really took about 45 minutes to clean the whole yard! Including weeding the garden! And I had that beer. And the birds chirped, the dogs lounged and all was right with the world for a bit!
If I had said, "I should mow." I may have been angry that I had to be the one to mow. I may have felt tired because I was placing an expectation on myself, rather than doing something that would make me happy. Picturing the end product and changing the words in my head really helped! I could have also said, "I don't have to mow right this minute" and still pictured the beautiful yard. Perhaps I would have been inspired, or maybe not, but there would have been no draining guilt involved.

Two Feathers said...

These are great ideas. Thanks guys.

Here's what I came up with:

1. write my "should" list on toilet paper and then flush it

2. similar to Karla - change the words... say "might" instead of should.... for example, "I might get dressed today."

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