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Stop Shoulding on Yourself

by Lisa Martin
Founder & President, Briefcase Moms

Have you ever counted how many times a day you say the word should? For most people I know should is one of the most commonly used words in their vocabulary. I should call so-and-so. I really should go to the gym. I should take some more courses. I should redecorate my living room. Shoulds show up all the time. And most of us aren't even aware that they are there.

How can that be? When shoulds have been ruling your life for years they are almost invisible. Like the electricity that runs your home, shoulds can power your life. But while electricity enables you to live more comfortably; shoulds compromise your ability to live joyfully.

Shoulds get in the way. They stop you from doing what you really want --- what is important to you. Living your life based on shoulds takes you away from your true purpose. It can make you feel miserable and out of balance.

It takes effort to change shoulding behavior. For me what really made the difference was choosing not to go the Spa (I know, you're wondering how can going to the Spa possibly be a should?) Let me explain. I was exhausted. I'd been on the road conducting coaching workshops. With my last workshop complete, I headed back to my hotel. It featured a guest spa area complete with gym, sauna, whirlpool, steam bath and hot stone treatments.

I remember going to view the spa. Its beauty captivated me. I thought I really should come down here and take advantage of these complimentary facilities. It was like lightning had struck. As soon as the word should appeared I knew that I didn't really want to go to the spa. I wanted to take a bath and relax in my room. And that's what I did. It was a completely freeing experience.

If you find yourself saying you should do something. Stop and assess the situation. Ask yourself:

  • Why do I think I should do this? (habit, obligation, to please someone else)
  • What are the consequences if I don't do it?
  • What do I really want to do?
  • Do I feel safer pursuing a should instead of a want?
These questions will help you make conscious choices. In some cases the choice may be to follow a should... for personal reasons or because the consequences are too great not to. But over time you will start saying no to your shoulds and yes to your passions.

True joy comes when you do what you're most passionate about not what you think you should do. Your passions are the things you love to do, causes you believe in, and experiences you enjoy. When you are passionate about what you do, success comes easily. You exude energy and enthusiasm when you follow your passions. And the word enthusiasm derives from the Latin en+ theos, which means "the god within." Living your passions frees your spirit.

It's important to ask yourself how safe or satisfying it is spending your time doing something that doesn't reflect what you are truly passionate about. When you follow your heart, you discover what is truly nourishing to your soul and an abundant, joyful life is just around the corner.

Start paying attention to when and how often you say the word should. Anytime you find yourself doing something because you feel you should, I invite you to explore why you are doing it. I challenge you to muster the courage to say no to the should and replace it with a passion. And for fun... banish the word should from your vocabulary for one week.

� Copyright 2007. Briefcase Moms. All rights reserved.

Lisa Martin, author of Briefcase Moms
Lisa Martin
Founder & President, Briefcase Moms
Lisa Martin, PCC (Professional Certified Coach), is the author of Briefcase Moms: 10 Proven Practices to Balance Working Mothers� Lives. She lives what she writes and talks about.

A working mother with 20 years of corporate and entrepreneurial experience, she is the founder and president of Briefcase Moms, an international coaching and personal development company with a mission to �make it easier for working mothers to live balanced and successful lives.� She helps professionals, executives and entrepreneurs succeed in all areas of their lives- career, family and personal fulfillment. Subscribe to her free newsletter at

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