Shoulds vs Want-Tos
While I’ve always been someone with a strong sense of who I am, I have also been someone who wants to make others happy…which makes for a strange form of people-pleaser, I must admit! And I realized somewhere along the way that the impact of not wanting to disappoint others combined with being a high achiever resulted in a constant barrage of shoulds: I should do well in school because it will make my parents happy. I should give generously of my time because my friends will appreciate it. I should take on extra tasks so my boss will be pleased. I should not complain because I don’t want to create an issue. The list could go on and on. And while these “shoulds” were well-intentioned, when all was said and done and they were all added up, the result was clear:
I was SHOULD-ing all over myself.
Rather than experiencing joy from being of service to others, I felt overwhelmed with how to make everyone happy. More importantly, I started to see any effort to please myself or do what I wanted to do as selfish because I was not thinking of others before myself. In essence, my good intentions were making me miserable and causing me to think that I needed to give up my “want-tos.”
Once I realized that my efforts to please everyone and constantly be of service were in fact destroying my ability to do those very things, I knew it was time for a change. I quickly discovered that by trying to fill all the “shoulds” in my world, I was not just filling external voids that others needed filled; I was creating a void inside myself. I felt tired, depleted, and ineffective. I knew that SOMETHING had to change, but what? The answer, it turns out, was a simple one:
Love Self, Serve Others
“Love Self, Serve Others” is the motto I follow for both my life and my business. I know that in order to live the life of service that I crave, I MUST create time to care for myself first. Instead of focusing on things I “should” be doing, I start with asking, “Is this something I WANT TO do?” If it isn’t and it’s not something I consider a “non-negotiable should,” then I generally DON’T do it. And guess what? That’s okay! In fact, I have yet to recall a time when I lamented giving up a “should” in favor of a “want to,” yet I feel like I take action every day in service to others.
All too often we get SO caught up on what we think we SHOULD be doing that we forget to ask ourselves what we actually WANT to do.
Yes, there are certainly responsibilities that we may not enjoy but know are “necessary evils” or temporary means to an end. And there are those tasks I like to collectively think of as “adulting” that may not be our favorite but that we know we need to do. But I’m not talking about those things. I’m talking about the things we decide we SHOULD be doing because it’s what everyone else is doing. Or maybe it is what our family, friends, or even society have “told” us to do. But what if we decided to eliminate some of these “shoulds” from our lives in order to create space for things that nourish our souls?
Here are some questions to ask yourself the next time you are trying to eliminate some of your “shoulds” but aren’t sure how to distinguish between those that are TRULY non-negotiable and those that just FEEL like they are!
1. Will doing this feed my soul and bring me joy?
2. Will NOT taking this action be detrimental to my well-being in any way (emotionally, financially, etc.)?
3. 2 weeks from now, will it really matter whether I decided to do this or not?
4. Are my fears about the choice to not do this (missing out, disappointing someone, etc.) real or imagined?
5. What is my gut or intuition telling me to do?
By taking the time to think through what the different options mean for us, we are able to better assess the “shoulds” we face and determine which ones TRULY matter and which ones we can let go!