November 1 – Give Up Your Shoulds Day

Posted November 1, 2013

I should read more books.”

“I should keep my room neater.”

“I should do sit-ups while I watch TV.”

“I should be a doctor.”

“I should study math harder.”

I should eat healthier food.”

Today we are urged to give up the word “should”—at least for the day. That word, especially if it isn't tied to action, can keep us down-in-the-dumps about ourself or our lives.

The family therapist who invented the day said that people generally live more calm and fulfilled lives if they give up the word“should.” 

Don't tell yourself you “should” exercise—do it! Find a way to get exercise that you really enjoy and look forward to. Ditto for eating healthy foods—look for something healthy that really appeals to you, like a juicy piece of fruit, rather than gnawing through some “health-food” bar you don't enjoy. When it comes to exercise and nutrition and keeping healthy, action really is way more important than words. Find the things you love that are healthy. Do them. Do them because you love them AND you love being healthy.


As to all of those other shoulds I list above, reading, keeping your room/house/ neat, studying, planning a career—all of these things are wonderful things. Read the stuff you love to read—and try reading new stuff, because maybe there are all sorts of other wonderful thing you would love reading just waiting out there. Study things that make your heart sing, and explore lots of “subjects” and ideas, because your heart might be waiting to play an entire symphony! Think about what's worth doing, and how your particular passions might lead you to your calling. (A calling is something you feel a strong urge to do. It's a career or way of life or vocation.) Explore your own gifts to see how you can contribute to the world.

One thing about the word “should”: it's often what other people think you should be doing, right? We live in groups—in families, communities, organizations, nations—so we definitely have to do our share of the not-so-fun work of being alive. We have to work together at times and compromise at times. For sure.

However, there are a lot of times when you can be your own master. You decide what you think about, what you dream about, what you want to do with much of your time, who you want to spend time with, how you want to react to things that happen to you. And other people's “shoulds” can get in the way of you becoming your most authentic self!

Here are some more not-so-great things about the word "should":
  • It can keep us focused on the future rather than on right now. But if we never enjoy now, we miss out on life (which is just a series of "right now" moments, right?)...
  • It can keep us focused on some unobtainable perfect ideal. The perfect person might be rich and accomplished, even tempered and healthy, with lots of good habits and no bad ones. In this society, the perfect person would have straight white teeth and little body fat; she or he would get straight As in school and a progression of raises and praises at work. And we should be that, we should work for all of that, we should, we should, we should... Working for perfection can cause people to put a lot of pressure on themselves.



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