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But *should* you, really?

Last week, in conversation with my usual, trusted people, the topic had turned to a familiar lament – our own shortcomings. You could hear things like, “I should exercise more.” And, “I would love to have a more satisfying job,” or “I wish I could lose just 10 pounds,” and so on. Nothing earth-shaking and it all sounds pretty benign. Almost regular stuff. Shoulda, woulda, coulda.

Then one of us shared something a therapist had told her: When you hear yourself saying I should, reframe it as I want.

Whoa. I felt a shift.

What a difference between “I should exercise more” and “I want to…” Okay, wait. To be fair, it might not work if you simply swap one word for the other without thinking about what you really mean when you hear yourself saying, “I should.” To me, the message in “I want to exercise more” sounds quite different from “I should exercise more.” But if hearing the should word alerts you to reframe the whole thought – “I want to feel stronger” is a lot more positive than “I should exercise” – then it becomes a goal rather than self-recrimination. It’s a choice, not a chore. An experience, not an expectation. And it seems to feel much more manageable, too.

When I got home from grocery shopping today, and was walking through my garage, picking my way through leaves that had blown in over the past weeks, cardboard waiting for me to cut it up for recycling, tools and other items I hadn’t put away blocking my steps, I thought, as I had for at least the past month, “I should clean up the garage.” And I heard it. I stopped and looked at everything around me and thought, “I want a cleaner garage.” It doesn’t even have to be clean – just clean-ER. That was all it took.  I stashed the groceries and spent 15 minutes sweeping, cutting cardboard and replacing a few items.

It wasn’t a full-blown cleaning but it didn’t have to be. My month-long chastisement of “I should clean the garage” was too big, overly intimidating, and so time-consuming in my imagination. But, instead of listening to should, I went with what I want. And it didn’t take much time or effort at all.

Later, when I went back to the garage to get something, I stood for a moment and admired my work. It looked and felt so much cleaner that I said, out loud, “Thank you!” And – after a moment – I answered myself, “You’re welcome.” It felt good.

Pay close attention to your shoulds, coulds and woulds this week. When you catch yourself in one, stop. Give it another thought. Reframe what you’re saying to yourself and think about what you want. Turn your (over-blown, fraught, much too harsh) chore into a choice.



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