So this word has just been top of mind for me lately, and I think it’s because this word has governed a good bit of my life. Should. I imagine there are people out there who think that’s probably good. It’s valuable to know what your obligations are and to follow through on them. After all, if we didn’t have a good sense of “should,” what would we ever get done? Given Western culture, I think this is a reasonable line of thought, and it’s one I subscribed to unconsciously and probably consciously for most of my life.
It turns out however, that this notion of needing to “should” ourselves into productivity may be inaccurate. The interesting thing that I’m finding in my life is that when I ignore or re-route my extremely well-developed sense of “should,” I get a lot more done, and more importantly, it’s all the best stuff. Strangely enough I don’t turn into some hedonistic miscreant without my long list of shoulds. That’s what we picture right? Without our obligations, without the tethers, without this burdensome sense of what we ought to do in order to be a good parent, a good citizen, a good employee, heck a good person – what ever would we be?!
Here’s the thing. I think we’re already all those things. We are already great people. I believe we are already worthy. Does that mean we’re perfect and will never make mistakes? No, but let’s face it, no list of shoulds stops anybody from making mistakes. I think we’re all really kind of perfect and it’s the shoulds and the oughts and the need tos that oftentimes get in the way of the fullest expression of all that perfection spilling out through your DNA and your heart’s voice. It’s the binding beliefs that we inherit that make us smaller than the life we could be living. It’s the cages we build for ourselves that keep us from being beautifully us.
I have heard of a game/focusing exercise where people choose a word for the calendar year to help them focus their thinking, their activity, their goals and aspirations. I think I’m going to do the opposite. I’m going to unchoose a word for 2017. I am going to unchoose the word “should.” When I hear myself think or say “I should,” I’m going to follow the suggestions of my fabulous mastermind group and ask myself “Is it true that you should do that? Is SHOULD true?” I’m going to try to replace it with other phrases, like “I choose to,” “I get to,” “I wish to,” “I want to,” “It would feel like play to…” and just see how that shakes out. I’m going to use criteria that serve me.
I have a feeling lunches will still get made for the children (and that I will make them, not some house elf that I’m conjuring for the year, although having said that I am greatly intrigued by that notion), laundry will still get done, the administrative tasks associated with my practice will still get done (and may even get done faster or with greater joy). I have a feeling that on the one hand my list of boxes will get checked faster and more joyfully and on the other, I will do things I never even would have considered in the land of “should,” and that those things will be my greatest learning and my greatest joys for 2017.
What do you think, could you give it up? What are you afraid of? Think you might come a little unhinged? I think I might like to see that… and I think you might like to see it too. Maybe you could choose to go should-less too (that was really hard to write because I SO wanted to should you). If you just want to practice or flirt with the idea, maybe give a should-less day a try. Ellen Burstyn described her should-less practice on the WNYC program Death, Sex, and Money – it’s just a small part of the interview (which is great), but it really stuck with me, I guess because I’m such a should-er. A should-less day revolves around the premise that it’s really beneficial to have an entire day where you do what you please. You may even read a book, like the whole book.
I know, I know first you say, “sign me up!” and then you laugh and think “I could never do that.” So what about a should-less morning, or a should-less hour? C’mon, go should-less with me. You know you want to.
P.S. If the thought of going should-less for any length of time makes you feel a little unwell, or thrills you but you immediately shut that stuff down, please do get in touch. I can help with that.