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Explore Life Coaching, Patti Phillips

From Should to Could; Making Every Action a Choice

How many “shoulds” do you have in your life right now?

  • I should lose weight
  • I should get more fit
  • I should have a cleaner house
  • I should eat more vegetables
  • I should grow my own, organic vegetables
  • I should preserve those vegetables for the winter months
  • I should read more
  • I should write more
  • I should save money for retirement
  • I should sell my car and exclusively ride my bike or take the bus
  • I should meditate
  • I should volunteer
  • I should take my dog for longer walks
  • I should be a better parent, partner, daughter, sibling, employee

It can get completely overwhelming if we believe we really should be doing all those things in order to feel successful. And realistically, it’s impossible to do all the things we should. So, when we are unable to do all the “shoulds”, we are left with a feeling of emptiness and failure.

So what’s the solution? How about making a small change to one word; from should to could? What would that actually do?

Think about when you hear the words “you should…” or you say the words “I should…”.  Take a minute to actually imagine what that feels like. Do you feel tight in the chest? Do your shoulders rise up a little? Do you feel a weight on you? A very natural response is to become resistant to being told that we should do something and then we either don’t do those things or we do, but with resentment.

Now, imagine hearing the words “you could…” or saying the words “I could…”. How does that feel? Light? Free? Still able to breathe normally? There is no fear, then, in giving something a try. It’s so much easier when we are internally motivated to take action with a sense of confidence.

It seems unbelievable that a simple change of a couple of letters, not even a whole word, can have such a significant impact. But think about the meaning behind should. It has expectation, obligation, and judgement. It creates a measure of doing or not doing; failure or success. Should doesn’t even have to have a valid reason behind it. Most often it’s a suggested behaviour because other people are doing it. We get to the point that we don’t even ask why we should do something.

Now the word “could”, implies choice .You could or you could not. The choices seem to be more evenly weighted and there is no judgement attached to the choice; it’s merely on option to act a certain way or not. And there is significant power in saying “I could…” or “I can…”. We automatically become capable of doing something if we put our mind to it and it’s really something we want to achieve. It then becomes a of matter of putting the steps into place.

Could takes ownership and responsibility. It is power and freedom. It requires intrinsic motivation.

Should is wishful and expectant. It is about duty and obligation. The motivation behind a should action is extrinsic and typically not long lasting or fulfilling.

Can you change your “shoulds” to “coulds”? Give it a try. It might just feel great.

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