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Stop Shoulding All Over Yourself | Happiness Practice 19

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Lately I’ve been noticing my inner critic gaining strength as the summer ends and the fall approaches. I think we’re wired to feel like those early fall months are meant for hard work. Maybe my inner critic is forever stuck in school mode.
Whatever the reason, I’m noticing one word coming up in my head more often than any other – “should.” Ugh just thinking about it makes my chest tighten up.
It sounds like this in my head: I should be working out right now. I should be eating healthier. I shouldn’t be on Facebook. I should be playing with my daughter right now and not letting the Bubble Guppies entertain her. I should should should should….
How does it sound in your head?
Today’s happiness practice is really simple. But the ripple affect in your brain can be kind of crazy.

The Should-a-nator

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Use this during times of high stress, anxiety, depression, or whenever you notice that you are feeling more guilt and shame than usual.

Step 1: Notice your “Shoulds” 

What “should” you do? Ask yourself that question and I bet you’ll get a whole flood of all of the shoulds that your brain likes to beat you up with.You shouldn’t watch that much TV. You should be buying organic. You shouldn’t have quit breastfeeding so early. You should be running like that old high school friend on Facebook who lost 30lbs.

Step 2: Ask: Do I “want” to do this?  

Next time you notice a “should,” in real time, ask yourself “do I really want to do that”? Example: “I should be working out more. Do I want to work out more? Yes I do.”

If the answer is yes, then replace “should” in your head with “want.”  Example: “I want to work out more.”

Notice how that makes you feel different than “I should be working out more.” “I want to work out more” propels you forward. It motivates you. “Shoulds” make us feel weak. They make us feel like we are teenagers being instructed by the parent in our head. They make us want to rebel and do the opposite.

Self-abuse is a terrible way to motivate yourself. If you are doing something to avoid your own harsh criticism, that sort of motivation is not sustainable.Find your want – your desire – for the result that you’re getting. Your desire for the result is the motivation that will take you from shoulding to actually taking action.

Work to make these little word changes permanent in your head. The more you correct yourself, the faster you can rewire your brain for success.

Step 3:  If the answer is “No” – Schedule the Task or Let it Go

When you notice something you “should” do, ask yourself “do I want to do this?” If the answer is “no” then it’s time to reevaluate why you are shoulding this.Is the task something that actually needs to be done, or something that you just feel pressured to do? If the task actually needs to be done but you just don’t want to do it (like your taxes for example) then acknowledge that it needs to be done.

Acknowledge that you don’t want to do it, but have to. Then pull out your calendar and plan a time to actually do it. Just pick a day, block off the time, and plan it. Then you can let it go.

If the project is large, schedule an hour or so to just get started on the project. Then let it go in your head.

Now if you don’t HAVE to do it, it’s time to let it go.  For example I hear  “I should be reading more fiction books.” Do I want to read more fiction books? No I don’t. It just seems like something other women do and enjoy. So I let it go.

See the difference?

Small changes to the language that you use in your head can have HUGE ripple effects in your life. Start motivating yourself with the positive, and you will notice that you just start getting more done with less effort.

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