Did you know there is a new bad word? I’ll give you a hint: it starts with “sh” but has more than four letters.
It’s the word “should.” Did you know we are supposed to feel bad when we say it now? It’s true! I’ve read all over the internet and heard in videos about how we should - oops, there I did it again - stop being so critical of ourselves and just live our dreams.
We should also stop focusing on the things we should stop doing, because that’s negative, and you can’t live a positive life with a negative mindset. I said should twice in that sentence!
When you go to school to learn how to be a wellness coach, you learn a lot of rules for how to talk to people in productive ways. One of them is that we’re not supposed to tell you what you should do. And, and we’re supposed to listen for when you are saying this taboo word so we can reframe your scenario into something more positive and helpful. I’m telling you our secrets! If you hire a health coach now, you will know what she is up to.
The reason why “should” is such a bad word is because it usually means we are beating ourselves up for making what we consider to be a bad decision, leading to feelings of shame and obligation. When we say something like, “I should order the salad,” our brains sometimes continue that sentence with, “because I need to lose weight,” and then something like, “but I don’t want to.” Either way you’re doomed to feel pretty miserable about your choices.
But I don’t think it is a bad word. I mean, there are some things we should do to promote a healthy quality of life, and some things we shouldn't. That’s just reality. And in my line of work, reality is where it’s at.
So I like to ask people what they know they should do. It’s important to know. And, it is the best way to get to an even better question - what do you want to do?
I want to know what people know they should be doing, and then find out what they want to do, so we can discover the gap in between, and then mend it. Here are some ways to do that.
Know Your Needs
There is a difference sometimes between what we should do and we needs to be done. For example, I should clean my baseboards more often, but do I need to? Eventually, yes, but it’s not urgent. I should get some exercise every day. Do I need to? Absolutely yes. Everything is better when I exercise, and my body both needs and thrives on it. That needs to be done, and I should do it. You should, too.
Know Your Wants
Often, what my clients tell me are things they should do are also things they want to do, they just haven’t figured out how to do them. I should clean my baseboards more often. But I don’t really want to. I should exercise every day, and I want to. I always feel better after a workout, and I want that feeling. I should exercise, and I want the feeling that I get from exercise, so I do it.
Know Your Readiness
Sometimes, what my clients tell me are things they should do are things they don’t want to do, but wish they wanted to because they know it would be good for them. They aren’t ready, or it is too complicated, or too time consuming. That’s cool.
It’s okay to know that you should do something and are not likely to, but don’t stop there. Explore what you are ready to do instead. What would be a step in the right direction? Do that, and don’t worry about whether it’s the best solution or not. It’s better than doing nothing.
“Should” is not a bad word! It is a helpful word! When we look around and acknowledge the difference between what we are currently doing and what we should be doing instead, we can make informed decisions based on facts rather than feelings of shame or obligations.
That is something we should all do.
About This Blog
Each week, I write the "Healthy Heather Blog" in the Tallahassee Democrat. It is republished here in case you are not a subscriber (what???). Sometimes it is really good and other times it is just okay. Thanks for reading it regardless of your opinion!