I should have…. [said…done…]”

“You should have….”

“He should have….”

“It should have….”

How many times a day do you use the word “should” out loud or silently in the 60,000 thoughts generated between your ears daily? For most high achievers “should” is one of the most over-used words in internal dialogues. After all we did what we “should” to get where we are! And there is nothing wrong with achievement orientation–there are definitely “shoulds” and hurdles to any life of accomplishment.

But somewhere along the way the “should” driver gets out of control, constantly pointing out the gap–the distance between where you are and where you should be… if only you were better or did better, had more self-discipline, more stamina, or more of that highly-overrated brain commodity, willpower. The “should” driver surveys the world measuring and comparing. And it quickly feeds your inner critic’s argument that you are not good enough as you are.

Should can also challenge one of our main intrinsic motivators, autonomy. Should feels like it is not really your choice. And in the process should can generate resentment or some feeling of “ugh” that triggers the stress response and drains your precious energy. (And to add irony, this stress further depletes your willpower!)

How different is it to do something because you want to than because you should? Sometimes subtle, sometimes massive! Neuromarketing capitalizes on the want/should conflict and many of us wear ourselves out creating conflict between these 2 perspectives.

Just notice how often you use the word and ask yourself if a reframe might save some energy, reduce your stress.


Thoughts? Ideas? Insights? Please share……
Contributed by AIS Fellow and Chairman of the Workplace Stress Board, Cynthia Ackrill, M.D.

Visit Dr. Ackril’s website: www.wellspark.com for more practical stress managment information.