Excuse the language! ‘Should is shit’ is an extremely useful phrase that I have pinched from a good friend of mine.  

Think about it - how do you respond to people when they say ‘you should do this or that’? If you’re anything like me you would automatically switch off, unwilling to listen to the potentially very useful information that follows the dreaded ‘s’ word.

The same is true when you speak to yourself. How many times a day do you say ‘I should do this’ or ‘I should be doing that right now’ or ‘Really I should be doing this, but...’.  It’s toxic - the mind does the same thing when you say it to yourself as it does when someone else says it to you, and the likelihood of you doing what you’re telling yourself to, let alone doing it with a smile on your face, decreases significantly.

Want works better
If the ‘should’ that you’re contemplating is actually something that fulfils a value, or takes you towards your ultimate goal, then replace it with ‘want’. You’ll be so much more likely to do it. If you need to add a because then that’s fine – ‘I want to spend three hours training because it will contribute to my ultimate goal of running the marathon and supporting my favourite charity’ rather than ‘I should go for a run’.  

If the ‘should’ is in fact something that you’re giving yourself a hard time over and isn’t absolutely essential, experiment with ‘could’ instead. That’ll give you some options. ‘I could see my friends tonight’. Using could means you allow yourself a ‘but’. Should has the effect of adding a lot of guilt to the ‘but’. Compare –‘ I could see my friends tonight, but actually I’m too tired’ to ‘I should see my friends tonight, but actually I’m too tired’. In neither statement are you going to go out with your friends, but with the second, you’re likely to spend the evening worrying about it because you ‘should’ have done it.

To summarise – ‘Should is Shit’ and you’ve got options – experiment with couldwant togoing tolove to or almost anything else....and be aware of its toxic effect when you’re using it on other people.