Health & Well-being

January 19, 2020

Why You Should Remove ‘Should’ from Your Vocabulary

By Sally

Why You Should Remove ‘Should’ from Your Vocabulary

And yes, I know what I did there …

It’s the middle of January… and millions of New Year’s Resolutions have bitten the dust, toes up, dead as the proverbial dodo.

I’m not just talking from personal experience – studies show that 88% of New Year’s Resolutions are abandoned by 19th January.

While the beginning of a new year sounds like a logical time for new beginnings, that statistic means only 12% of people will achieve their New Year goals.

The trouble is… New Year’s resolutions are typically things we SHOULD do.

‘I should lose weight…’

‘I should spend more time with my mother…’

‘I should eat more healthily…’

‘I should write a book…’

‘I should work harder on my business…’

‘I should exercise more often …’

‘I should go to more networking events…’

We all do it … we ‘should’ all over ourselves…and others.

‘I should …’ – I say it to myself with guilt and self-recrimination.

‘You should …’ – I say it to others, and no matter how gentle my tone, there is an element of judgement.

The very use of the word ‘should’ implies failure – failure to do something in the past, and most likely failure to do it in the future.

Not to mention that SHOULD is the most demotivating word in the dictionary.

The Oxford English Dictionary gives the definition of ‘should’ as – “Used to indicate obligation, duty or correctness, typically when criticising someone’s actions.”

Nasty, isn’t it? No part of that definition is fun, kind or inspiring – particularly that ‘criticising someone’s actions’ – often that ‘someone’ is ourselves.

‘Should’ is a sneaky, pervasive form of self-criticism.

‘Should’ says we don’t fully accept who we are and where we are in life.

‘Should’ says we are not doing enough, we don’t have enough, we aren’t being enough.

‘Should’ actively gets in the way of us achieving our goals

‘Should’ doesn’t slap you in the face or boldly stand in front of you.

No… ‘Should’ is a coward, a worm, a whisperer of ill who sows seeds of self-doubt, who undermines you and fades away so you don’t even remember it was what made you feel bad about yourself.

The self-doubt created by ‘should’ causes anxiety and stress to both mind and body.

This is counterproductive to us achieving our goals because anxiety and stress shut down our brains ability to problem solve and to maintain attention to a new task. They cause us to fall into old automatic patterns and habits (usually the ones we are criticising ourselves for engaging in – the ones we are trying to ‘break’).

This is HOW ‘should’ prevents us from doing those very things we ‘should’ do.

Another aspect of ‘should’ is the comparison, the meeting of what we think others (particularly society) expect of us.

Often, the idea of what we ‘should’ do comes from a societal belief about the perfect person.

This perfect life and person doesn’t exist, yet it mocks us from the front of every magazine cover, advert, tv programme, and social media page. In these images people look and behave a certain way. They rarely have a hair out of place and they don’t struggle to get important tasks done. They never seem lost and confused. They do everything they ‘should’.

Every time we see these images our brain stores it as the visual representation of what it looks like to be ‘good enough’, ‘lovable’ and/or ‘successful’. Our brain then spends its days comparing us to this level of perfection and telling us this is how we ‘should’ be.

A friend who is very unsatisfied with her life recently said “I did everything I should because I thought it would make me happy… It didn’t.”

If I’d had enough wisdom, I would have said those words myself a few years ago. Everything looked shiny on the outside but I was dying inside…all because I was doing what I ‘should’, not what I believed in.

My actions were not aligned with my values and the incongruency was torturing me. That’s what ‘should’ does to you – cons you into living a lie because you think that’s what is expected, it’s what you should do.

‘Should’ really has a lot to answer for!

So as we come to realise what a bad word ‘Should’ is, what can we do about it?

Now the enemy has a face and a voice that we will no longer heed, we can remove ‘should’ from our vocabulary and replace it with wiser, kinder words like –

‘I could …’ and it becomes a possibility to be considered, not a guilt trip

‘I am going to …’ and it becomes a statement of intent for the future

‘I will …’ and it becomes a powerful force, a determination to achieve

‘I am… ‘ and you make a positive affirmation instead of feeling like you are not enough.

‘I would…’ and we lessen the judgement on others and share instead what we would do in the same situation

All it takes to rob ‘should’ of its power is to stop using it.

What could you do if you weren’t ‘shoulding’ all over yourself?


I write to solve my problems – maybe they are your problems too.

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I'm many things but predominantly a writer :-)

I solve my own problems through writing and share my thoughts and findings in hopes they make your path easier too.

Connection, collaboration and communication are my passions.

Nature, family, photography and art are loves of mine too.

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