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Stop your shoulding!

Updated: Oct 9, 2022

When you tell yourself you “should” do something, do you feel resistance, reluctance and resentment? Perhaps you quite often don’t do it?

A lot of “shoulding” is related to things that have obvious benefits – eg exercise, healthy eating, housework. We want the results, so why the reluctance to do what will achieve them? Maybe that’s the wrong question. Maybe the question is “What’s the benefit I want?”.

That may sound a bit odd. When it comes to housework, surely a clean home is the obvious and only benefit, isn’t it? But I had a bit of a lightbulb moment with this recently – to be fair, it was one of those energy saving lightbulbs that slowly increases to full power, but speed isn’t everything!

I realised that I wasn’t basing the need for housework on whether my house was clean enough to make me happy by my own standards, but rather on my sub-conscious assumption that people with clean houses do their housework (or have it done) every week.

So, instead of saying “I should do the housework”, I started asking “Is my house clean enough for me?”. Mostly, the housework is still done every week, but with a much more positive attitude, rather than being something I waste time and energy resisting and arguing with myself about. But sometimes I answer myself “Yes”, and go and put my feet up – and that feels good!

Similarly, like so many people, I’ve battled my weight for years, always wanting to be slimmer and feel better in clothes. There was a never-ending stream of shoulding about all the stuff that would help, and which I largely didn’t do. And then I accidentally lost 3 stone. Seriously. And yes, you can hate me for that – I would too.

How did that miracle happen? My GP told me I was pre-diabetic. Obviously, I didn’t want a serious health condition, especially not one that could lead to blindness, which terrifies me. So I immediately reduced my sugar intake, with massive embarrassment about how drastic that reduction needed to be, but, ridiculously, without any thought of the potential weight loss implications.

Somewhat shamefully, it turns out that pride in my appearance wasn’t a big enough motivation for weight loss. It didn’t matter how clearly I visualised the goal of being slimmer and how it would feel to wear amazing outfits – that didn’t outweigh (pardon the pun) the immediate gratification of yet more chocolate. But the idea of losing my sight and having an ongoing health problem was an altogether different proposition.

So, if you’re struggling with something you “should” do, ask yourself what’s the benefit for me? If the answer doesn’t light you up, ask what does that benefit do for me? Keep digging until you get to what does light you up – that’s the point at which “I should do this” becomes “I am doing this”. And if you don’t get to that point? Well, why bother doing whatever it is you’re telling yourself you should?

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