“Should” is one of the most disempowering words there is and when I work with clients who have clutter, I make sure never to tell them they should do this or should do that. Instead I explain how keeping clutter can affect them so that they can view it from a more informed standpoint and make better choices about whether to keep things or let them go.
Here are some reasons to remove it from your vocabulary forever, not just in the words you speak to others but, far more importantly, how you talk to yourself.
Reason Number One
Anything you do because you should, you do from a space of obligation or responsibility rather than enthusiasm. Enthusiasm is a quality of the Higher Self. Lack of enthusiasm is in fact a warning signal that you are not following your higher path but are getting sidetracked into a mundane track that ultimately leads nowhere. It’s impossible to navigate your true spiritual path if you are always complying with shoulds. You will get to the end of your days and realize that you never did what you came here to do.
Reason Number Two
Should implies a blind compliance and lack of perception. You do the “right” thing without looking at the wider perspective and examining its validity. You assume it must be done. But here’s the interesting thing – often when you fail to do something you should have done, it opens a space for something much better to happen than you originally thought of.
Reason Number Three
Should often comes from a sense of cultural or social obligation that makes a puppet of you. You are following influences that dictate proper behaviour for the masses. In the journey of any serious spiritual seeker there must come a point where you say, “Enough of this! From now on, I will decide for myself what I will and won’t do.” This decision will then need to be followed by years of disentangling what you thought were your own ideas from what you discover in fact are not.
Reason Number Four
A life of shoulds is a joyless one, and it comes in many guises. One of the most insidious is the should of selflessly helping others, of setting up your life so that it revolves around giving to a partner, family, friends, or a group in your local community. It may start with enthusiasm and joy but after a while it can become an obligation that it’s not easy to extricate yourself from. It is first-born or only children who succumb most easily to this because they tend to have a greater sense of duty and responsibility (parents try much harder to get it right with their first-born and the child, sensing this, tries to live up to their expectations and be the perfect offspring).
How to free yourself from a life of shoulds
I’m not going to advise you to follow your heart or your intuition because that can lead to just as many pitfalls and disasters. But following a path that brings you more enthusiasm and joy is certainly a good indicator that you are moving in the right direction.
The most important change to make is in the way you talk to yourself and others. Whenever you find yourself saying should, replace it with could. Should is weighty. Could has levity. It is full of promise and opportunity. It’s an option you can take rather than an obligation you have to fulfil. And could is much more likely to lead to the satisfying accomplishment of did.
Ask anyone if they want a life of coulds rather than shoulds and it’s only the most fearful who will choose shoulds because too many coulds feels too scary for them. Shoulds are perceived as being synonymous with security. With should, you stay on familiar turf and you know what’s coming next.
Except that that’s not true. No one truly knows what’s coming next. There is no such thing as security. The safest path is actually to be flexible enough to handle whatever comes your way. With could, the whole world opens up to you. Anything becomes possible.
In my Clear Your Clutter book, I explain: My advice is to dump the word should from your vocabulary forever. Use could not should from here on in. Feel the difference: ‘I should start clearing my clutter today’ or ‘I could start clearing my clutter today’. Could empowers you, gives you choice and later allows you to take the credit for a job well done. Should depresses you, makes you feel at fault and brings you little joy on completion of the task.
So are there any “shoulds” that you should do?
Well, keeping the law is a good one to retain if you want to preserve your freedom. It’s also wise to keep within the bounds of the culture you live in but without necessarily buying into it. It’s important to realize that most shoulds are relative. They are not dictated by any over-riding universal truth but are local conventions that people agree to. When you see and understand that, it’s very freeing.
For example, in your culture it may not be acceptable to burp after meals but in other parts of the world the host will be insulted if you don’t express your satisfaction with the food in this way. In your country it may be illegal for a man to have more than one wife but elsewhere it’s perceived as what every man is expected to do. Many religions teach that we should not kill, but some wars are necessary to prevent humanity being plunged into an era of darkness, as was the case in the two great World Wars.
I invite you to take a look at your own life to see how many shoulds you have adopted from the society you live in or as a result of your upbringing or personal experience. Then start weeding them out to discover new possibilities that you never knew existed.
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