Guest Blogger Kris Taylor Asks: What Word Should (Might) You Want to Remove from Your Vocabulary?

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No ShouldingToday’s guest blogger is Kris Taylor, the founder of Evergreen Leadership. Kris is a respected colleague and friend with a proven track record of promoting, leading, and implementing positive change.

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I had the opportunity to meet a brilliant young man this week. His list of accomplishments was long, his skill-set was broad, and his impact on others was positive and deep. Yet it was clear that he was struggling with a bad case of the “shoulds” – and the second-guessing that came with it. He should have gone to college sooner, should have had a better idea of where he was headed, should have stuck with his business venture longer, should be in a better job…

We all carry around some “shoulds” – both past and present. The list of past ”shoulds” is long and may include: I should have gone to different school, followed a different major, pursued a different career, tried harder, risked more, married differently, taken that opportunity, stayed with it longer.  And we all have an equally long list of present ”shoulds”.  They might include: I should make more money, have a better house, be a better boss, be a better parent, spend more time at work, spend more time at home, go back to school, exercise more, eat less, be kinder, make more money, work harder, relax more.

I’d like to suggest that you banish the word should (and even need to) from your vocabulary. The words connote an obligation or duty, rather than a choice or free will. “I should get a new job.” is heavy and onerous,  and conveys inaction and guilt. The “shoulds” wear us out – make our load heavy. Our past “shoulds” have us looking in the rear view mirror and beating ourselves up for missed opportunities or perceived missteps. Our future “shoulds” burden us with obligations that may or may not serve us well.

Contrast the thought “I should get a new job.” to these:

  • “I am choosing to stick with this job for the next year.”
  • “I am committed to making the best of this job, even if it is not where I want to be forever.”
  •  “It’s time for me to find a job that is a fit for me.”
  • “I wonder what steps I might take to find a job that is a fit for me.”
  • “I am curious about what I would like in a different job.”

Mary Lore, whose work on Managing Thought inspires me, provides a list of substitute words – that are accountable, freeing and focused. Instead of using the words need to, have to or should – try these substitutes:

  • I am choosing…
  • I am committed to…
  • It’s important to me that I…
  • I could…
  • Based on where I was, I chose to… Today, I am choosing…
  • I wonder how I can…
  • It could be great if…

When I began to substitute these words for my “shoulds” – there was a little jolt. This was followed by a sense of freedom – and letting go of some guilt and pressure I put on myself. I began to forgive myself and let go of past decisions and actions – and make conscious choices in the present. And I began to own the choices I was making – and make them with intention based on what I really wanted, rather than an amorphous obligation weighing on me from some other source.

So see if you can shed some “shoulds” and see what happens.

© 2014 Mary J. Lore and Managing Thought LLC All rights reserved.

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Kris Taylor has brought together her keen insights about organizations, change and leadership to create Evergreen Leadership.  Over the past 9 years, hundreds of leaders from 50 companies across the country have worked with Kris and her talented associates for help in successfully implementing large scale, mission critical change initiatives. Evergreen Leadership reflects Kris’s signature talent of creating high impact learning programs where leaders emerge with deep insights about their own personal leadership and learn how to lead others in today’s fast paced and uncertain environment.

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