By now, many of us will be stuck into New Year Resolutions – those well-intended, paper-thin commitments that we make to ourselves about changing something in our lives.
My brother once memorably told me his only New Year’s Resolution was not to make any New Year’s Resolutions for another year. And he was probably right.
Too many of the promises we make to ourselves are based around the idea that we “should” do something.
I should lose weight. I should drink less. I should get a new job.
“Should” is the language of self-coercion.
“Should” is a nagging, mini-dictator who lives in our heads.
And it’s such a negative way to commit to a goal that it stands little chance of ever being fulfilled.
Remember how often in your life you have been told you “should” be doing this, that or the other by family, teachers or well-meaning friends?
Should do your homework. Should do better. Should never be late. Should get a life.
“Should” is a stick with which we beat ourselves because we are taught to believe that feeling bad about something somehow provides the motivation to change. It rarely does.
Simply exchanging “I should” for “I could” or “I would like” or “if I were to do X, I would feel Y” can reap dividends in how you feel about a particular goal, challenge or anything you would really like to do. These are far more positive – and less bullying – ways of thinking.
And it’s not just about how we talk to ourselves.
For those of us working as advisors, consultants, trainers, coaches or agencies the word “should” is both implicit and explicit in your relationship with clients. You are, after all, being paid for your expert advice aren’t you?
Aren’t you there to tell your clients what they “should” do? Don’t clients ask you what they “should” do?
But none of us like to be told we must do something, however politely put. We had enough of that when we were children.
A trusted advisor helps people to work something out for themselves; provides options; makes informed suggestions; and leaves their desire to appear clever at the front door. Removing “should” from the equation as much as possible – either specifically or by implication – can encourage a much more healthy and positive dialogue.
Yes, we should see a doctor if we’re seriously ill, we should escape from a fire and we should deal with our litter responsibly. But let’s leave the word to those situations where it’s pretty clear cut what needs to be done and the consequences aren’t good.
For everything else there’s a more positive and motivating way of talking to ourselves and those we work with.
You could watch out for “should” in 2016.