4 reasons to remove “should” from your vocabulary forever

“Should” is one of the most disempowering words there is. Free yourself from its constraints by eliminating it from your vocabulary from now on, including how you talk to yourself.


When Richard and I work with clients who have clutter, we make sure never to tell them they should do this or should do that. Instead, we explain how keeping clutter can affect them so that they can assess it from a more informed standpoint and make wiser choices about whether to keep things or let them go.

Here are some reasons to remove “should” from your vocabulary forever, not just in the words you speak to others but – even more importantly – in the way 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. 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. You follow 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! 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 yourself from what you thought were your own ideas and in fact were 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 dutifully 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. Embrace and enjoy the responsibilities you freely choose to engage. Beware of those you use as a distraction from discovering who you are and what you are here to do.

How to free yourself from a life of shoulds

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 couldShould is weighty. Could has levity and opens you to opportunities. 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 book Clear Your Clutter with Feng Shui, 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, although without completely 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 in this way with the food you have been served. In your country it may be illegal for a man to have more than one wife, but elsewhere it’s perceived as something 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.

Copyright © Clear Space Living Ltd 2016, updated 2022

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About Karen Kingston

Karen Kingston is a leading expert in clutter clearing, space clearing, feng shui and healthy homes. Her two international bestselling books have combined sales of over three million copies in 26 languages and have established themselves as "must read" classics in their fields. Her best-known title, Clear Your Clutter with Feng Shui, is now in its fourth edition. She is best known for her perspective-changing insights and practical solutions that enable more conscious navigation of 21st-century living.
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18 Responses to 4 reasons to remove “should” from your vocabulary forever

  1. The German word “sollte” (equivalent to “should”) derives from the old German word “sculan” which means blame, fault, guilt or also debt – in German “Schuld” (which is pronounced similar to “should”). So whenever using “should” or “sollte”, you put a blame or a debt on your shoulders.

  2. Good post.

    I would like to add, or request discussion on, word “shall”. I was surprised not to see this word mentioned.

    I learned to discern these words in the field of engineering, technical guidelines. Word “should” is not preferred word there also because it’s vague and “leaving a door open”, in other words disempowering.

    Instead we use the word “shall”. Even though it’s often about acting on some expectation of others, I use the word also when listening to my inner voice. Of course, “can”, “could” and “wish”, “want” are also empowering words. Thank you!

    1. Hi Pasi – “Shall” and “will” are used to express an intention in the future, which can be just as restricting in life as “should”. In my online courses, I teach a progression in self-talk from “should” to “could” to the wonderfully invitational “Will I?”, which many people find is a great remedy for overcoming procrastination. “Will I?” and “Shall I?” are virtually the same in that respect.

  3. Hi Karen, love your blog! I was just curious on this you stated you were not going to advise to follow our hearts or intuition because it can lead to pitfalls or disasters and was wondering what you meant by this? I was asking because I have been taught to follow my intuition and that it leads you on your path/purpose. Thank you.

    1. I stand by what I said. I have seen sooooo many people lose their way by following their heart or their intuition. To learn a better way, a good starting place would be to read the Atlantean Secrets novels by Samuel Sagan, in which he describes the structures above the head that can be cultivated to facilitate true discernment. (By the way, don’t be put off by the title. It’s not the usual New Age nonsense that is written about Atlantis!)

      1. Karen, when you say, “I have seen sooooo many people lose their way by following their heart or their intuition” – could you say anything more about what you mean by that, or how that’s so prevalent? Is it that they actually lose their way by following the heart/intuition, or that they are deluded when they *think* they are following that guidance but are misguided? This is very relevant for me. Cheers!

        1. When a person experiences a flash of intuition or a feeling from their heart, they may “know” that something is true but not understand why. This can be very misleading because they do not have the discernment to distinguish where the impulse has come from. They may think they are following their their intuition or their heart but in fact they are being influenced by personal samskaras and/or outside factors such as social conditioning, meme waves, and astral pulls that are beyond their awareness.

          This can be changed, but requires personal work to develop third eye perception and structures above the head that can allow you to navigate through life with integrity.

          If you are interested to know more, you can find information about these topics in books by Samuel Sagan, as follows:

          Samskaras – Read Regression
          Third Eye – Read Awakening The Third Eye
          Developing structures above the head – Read Atlantean Secrets, Volume 1

          More information

    2. I have discovered that it’s easy to be misled when trying to follow your heart or intuition because you identify it as a strong impulse that you can’t necessarily explain. Some strong impulses come directly from your social conditioning, addictions, or other invisible influences.

      I do believe in following your heart and intuition, but it takes a high level of practice to consistently discern intuition from influence.

  4. “Many religions…, 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.”

    This is one of the stupidest things I’ve ever heard! You “should” definitely be more careful with what you write…

    1. Hmmm… It sounds like you are not aware of the immense occult forces at play behind the two great World Wars. If you do some in-depth research on this you will discover there is a lot more to wars than most people ever realize.

      1. Can you point us, your readers, in the right direction of where to find information on the occult forces behind the world wars? I’ve been searching for the last couple of hours, but all I can seem to find are conspiracy theories.

        1. I very much doubt you’ll find information of this depth through searching on the internet. I had a Reader’s Pass to the British Library when I lived in London many years ago and discovered many shelves of books there devoted to this topic.

          If you are interested to research this too, a good starting point is this article: The Allies and The Occult: The Best Kept Secret of World War Two

          A very interesting and well-researched book on the topic is: ‘The Spear of Destiny’ by Trevor Ravenscroft.

  5. ” The safest path is actually to be flexible enough to handle whatever comes your way.”

    I love this way of explaining it.

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