self motivation, should have

Do You Have a Bad Case of the ‘Shoulds’?

We often put a lot of expectations on ourselves or have them put on us by others in our lives. While we may not be able to control those around us, we can control how we treat and talk to ourselves.

“I should be doing more…”

Does that quote sound familiar? I think we’ve all felt that way at some time or other. I’ve recently been working with a client who has a new boss and is getting to grips with how to work with her. She is almost in the panic zone because she feels she ‘should‘ be doing more.

We’ve spent time discussing how ‘should’ can bring up a resistance, and how changing that word to ‘want‘ or ‘would like to‘ can help to avoid this. You just need to identify what it is you really do want.

We can often give ourselves a debilitating case of the “shoulds”—we tell ourselves we should be doing more, should be doing better, that we should be different. These thoughts and words are often followed by “but.”

  • I should do this, but I don’t want to.
  • I should do more, but I don’t have time.

This sets us up to feel guilty about whatever we accomplish, and whatever we don’t. We end up punishing ourselves for not achieving what we feel we should have. It’s a bit like saying “I have to…” It leaves us feeling powerless, and out of control of our own choices. It also makes us feel as though we haven’t done enough already.

These thoughts don’t motivate us in a positive way. They may stress you out and pressure you into getting another task done, but they won’t help your long term productivity. You need to find a way to motivate yourself with positivity, intrinsically.

I want to do more!

Think about why you want to do something. Check in with how the activity fits in with your work; how does it ladder up to your personal and career goals?

At work, we do sometimes have to do things we don’t necessarily want to, but you can still align these to your performance goals or how it supports your team, for example. If you feel annoyed or frustrated about an activity, then think about why. Is it not something that aligns with your goals or helps you to develop?

If the task is truly detrimental to your development as an employee, or to your career, you should raise these concerns to your employer. If not, you need to work to adjust your mindset, and find what attracted to this role.

Next time you think you ‘should’ do something, try using the following phrases instead:

  • I want to
  • I would like to
  • I could do
  • I would do

Identify the activities that you can derive value from, and that impart value on the organisation. If you truly can’t understand the value of your tasks, raise that concern to your superiors. When we reframe our thinking, though, we often realise that there is more value to what we do than we first imagined.

Look at how your work supports your coworkers, and the goals of the group. If you don’t want to complete a specific task, and can’t bring yourself to say “I want to do this,” then reframe your thinking. You may not want to do a boring data entry task, but that task might be an enormous help to your stressed out coworker—so frame it as, “I want to help my coworker,” rather than “I want to do data entry.”

When do you give yourself a bad case of the ‘shoulds’? Professional coaching can help you to shift this mindset to a more positive one. Get in touch if you would like to find out more about my coaching services.