Several months ago, I posted about the danger of “should” statements. You know, the phrases that are supposed to be motivating, yet they manage to be loaded with shame and self-criticism. “I should eat healthier, I should be calmer with my kids, I should read more.” “I shouldn’t eat so much fast food, I shouldn’t care what others think, I shouldn’t wait till the last minute.” If you haven’t read that original post, I highly recommend hopping over to read that post. You’ll probably be surprised how sneaky these “should” statements are and how frequently you use them.
In response to that post, I got a great question from a reader, who asked about a more helpful way to phrase would-be “should” statements. This is an awesome question, particularly as the new year rolls on and many of us work towards goals and resolutions. The most important thing to remember about goal-oriented statements is that we want them to be intentional and value driven, rather than shame filled and guilt ridden.
Check out some of these switcharoos. Instead of I should…
I’d like to
It’s important to
I want to
I am going to make time for
I’m committed to
Take a look at these swaps in action…
I should reach out to my neighbors more often.
Community is an important thing to me, and I want to reach out to my neighbors more frequently.
I should work out more.
My health is a priority, and it’s important for me to make the time to work out, even when it’s hard.
I shouldn’t yell at my kids so much.
I am going to be intentional this morning about speaking calmly when we’re rushing to get out the door.
I should organize my office, I’m such a slob.
I am going to set aside 30 minutes this week to organize what I can in that amount of time.
I shouldn’t be so hard on myself.
I’m pretty hard on myself, and I’d like to make an effort to be a little kinder to myself.
Do you hear a difference? “Should” statements set forth rigid and harsh expectations, often contributing to feelings of inadequacy and failure. The reframed statements still highlight a desire for change, but in a more positive and motivating way, rather than feeling impelled by guilt or external pressures. Goals and resolutions driven by guilt and shame rarely last. If we want meaningful change, it is important to operate from a place of intention and value, owning the desire for change.
And if you’re thinking, “C’mon Dr. Allison, you’re talking about a tiny difference, a few words here and there.” You’re right, I am. And guess what? This small switch, these few words, they make a difference.
So this week, I challenge you to pay extra attention to your “should” statements, and when you catch yourself “shoulding,” challenge yourself to reframe the sentence using a few of the prompts above.
PS: If you’re walking away from this post saying, “I shouldn’t say “should” so much,” whoa, slow down. You’re using a should statement right there! (See how sneaky they are!) Try, “I can see how should statements contribute to pressure, shame, and guilt, so I am going to make an effort this week to use more intentional and value driven language.” Boom! See how that worked? Alright, you’ve got this; go get ‘em!