Should vs. Could

Daisy Swan, Los Angeles Career Coach and Counselor
© Yuri_Arcurs
Daisy Swan, Los Angeles Career Coach and Counselor
© mrPliskin

We are all so good at ‘shoulding’ on ourselves. So very accomplished at this. I ‘should’ get that project finished tonight; I ‘should’ go to the gym; I ‘should’ make that call, etc. Think about it, though: What’s the next word that usually follows a ‘should’? [Pause. Think.] I would assert that the next word is usually ‘but’.

‘Shoulds’ have the magical effect of eliciting a rebelliousness or irritation that keeps most of us from taking action on that very ‘should’. Not always, but often. ’But’ I have three other things to do first; ‘but’ I’m starving; ‘but’ I don’t have the information that they need, yet…you know the drill.

‘Shoulds’ are real anxiety-provoking thoughts.

Daisy Swan, Los Angeles Career Coach and Counselor
© Yuri_Arcurs

When we have so many things to do, and so many options for actions to take, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. ‘Shoulds’ are real anxiety-provoking thoughts. They bring up a lot of worry and anxiety – probably because we’re then triggered to think of what will happen if we don’t do what we’re supposed to be doing. We tend to tumble down the rabbit hole of good intentions and missed opportunities. And not get any closer to reaching our goal.

How about a shift, to looking at ‘coulds’.

‘Could’, in contrast to ‘should’, opens me up and makes me feel more in charge, more creative about my ‘process’ of getting things done, seeing possibilities and options for how to make decisions – large and small – how to evaluate those options, and choose my next action.

Daisy Swan, Los Angeles Career Coach and Counselor
© baona

Try this the next time your thoughts keep circling around the ‘shoulds’: Make a list of all of your ‘shoulds’. Then write down the ‘coulds’. Take note of how you feel as you compile these lists, and what actions come from them. I’d love to hear about what you notice, and what happens next…


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