Stop Saying Should Series Part 2: Skip the Should, Find your Why

 Stop Saying Should Series

“Your only obligation in any lifetime is to be true to yourself.” –Richard Bach



Do you use the word “should”? How often? How many times have you said “I really ‘should’ [fill in the blank] especially in the company of others?



I’ll give you a few examples:

“I should eat better.”

“I should get more rest.”

“I should exercise more.”

“I should talk to my friend.”

“I should call you more often.”

“I should put that away.”

“I should be better at this by now.”

“I should write that blog post.”

(Ok, that last one was especially for me.)

Have you said any of those or something close? I’m guessing yes. Did you notice when you did?

You are not alone. I am pretty sure we all have at some point or another. I know that I have said it many times and didn’t even notice. And not every time you say it is necessarily negative either. (e.g., “I should talk to my friend” might be different in context. If guilt’s involved, then it’s obligatory. If you are trying to get help and say it, then it’s a solution.)


Thankfully through personal development and a great deal of reflection, I realized what I was doing and that it was one aspect of self-sabotage I needed to change. I figured it out when I had been researching the power of language and positivity. I’d always been inclined to be positive and had a fairly encouraging outlook on life though most of it, but my time as a caregiver had beaten me down and I struggled with the rosy outlook I once knew.

When my life was nonstop overwhelm and I was drowning in obligation and exhaustion, I was finally willing to concede that using the term “should” was only adding stress and guilt to my life, but not necessarily helping me achieve more.

Part of my personal healing process included gratitude rituals and mindset work and I realized that language of obligation was getting me nowhere fast. Once I saw “should” as a culprit, I was more aware and made a point to listen for it, catch myself, and redirect.

It wasn’t until I saw how much I used the word “should” that I looked up the definition.  The word SHOULD is “used to indicate obligation, duty, or correctness, typically when criticizing someone’s actions”.

Criticizing? Don’t I get enough of that in life without adding to the mix myself? Besides, criticizing isn’t an effective way to get the job done. (The saying about catching flies with honey has been teaching us that for a long time.) If anything, criticizing only serves to break you down and destroy your motivation. Then there’s obligation, which frequently leads to resentment. So that means you may lack motivation and feel resentful when you feel you SHOULD do something. The result? Avoidance and putting off tasks. Exactly what you don’t want.


So how do you break yourself of the habit? How do you, quite literally, STOP SAYING SHOULD?

Much like any habit, the first part is awareness. Are you noticing that you do it? Is it in the company of other negative self-talk as well? It’s quite likely, but for now, let’s start with this and how you can break the habit.

Start by paying close to attention to your conversations. Watch and listen. When you catch yourself saying a phrase with “should” in it, ask yourself the following questions:

  • What made you say it? Were you feeling badly about yourself?
  • What was the context? Were you in the company of others? Was it positive or negative?
  • What obligation are you feeling in that moment? Is it to the actual task or to someone specific? Was it solving a problem or from a strong sense of duty? Or was it because you felt like you weren’t doing enough?
  • What would happen if you didn’t do this thing you feel you “should”?
  • How do you truly feel about doing it?
  • What’s the reason you haven’t yet?

“It is every man’s obligation to put back into the world at least the equivalent of what he takes out of it.” – Albert Einstein

Please understand that when I encourage you to stop and change this language that it doesn’t necessarily mean that whatever you were considering isn’t a good thing to do. As I indicated above, sometimes it relates to a sense of duty. Also, many times the actual task is a positive one or you have heartfelt intent in wanting to do it.

Whatever you want to do is not necessarily bad just because you used obligatory wording. Instead, I’m suggesting approaching it from a different angle. Some things might fall off the list when you realize you were simply following an assumed obligation. But for others, it might still be an important task and may even be a must do.

(I would argue that when it’s mandatory it’s more likely you’ll say you “must” do it rather than you “should”. But if you’re in the habit of using this word, your tasks and goals may be lumped in together.)

If you have determined this is something important, now it’s time to figure out WHY. This also plays into your personal and professional WHY as well. What is driving you to do what you do? What is driving you for this specific thing? It’s time to search for motivation versus obligation. When you do, you’ll be far more likely to follow through. Find the WHY in what you want to achieve.


Let’s use the example of eating better.

Regularly you’ll hear things like “I should eat better.” “I should stop eating at night.” “I should stop eating so much.” “I should eat healthier.”

The list goes on, but these an accurate start. From there ask yourself WHY. Must you really? Or is this perhaps something you’d like to do? If so, what’s the real reason?

I am sure I’ve said all those things, but now I refuse to bully myself with negatives. I still DO want to eat well, but my WHY is that I want foods to energize me and to help balance my weight. I don’t say I “should” but instead focus on what I want to achieve. I eat to have energy and to keep that up so I can balance caring for my family and running a business. I no longer want to feel sluggish, so I work toward that by making better food choices.

Does that require a “should”? I don’t think so. It requires my positive intent and commitment.

Is this a redirect you think you could try?

Even if you don’t ask yourself all the questions, but simply stop and say “Why?” each time you say the word “should” that would be a great start. Replacing obligation with motivation will help keep your perspective positive. And focusing on your WHY will help you stay the course as you work toward your goals.

I would love to hear your thoughts. Comment below and let me know if this is something you’d like to work on and be sure to join in on Facebook as well where I’ll be discussing it too.


In the Stop Saying Should Series, I’m focusing on a list of 7 items that sabotage our happiness and productivity. These are things like saying “should” and comparing ourselves and our lives to others, as well as skipping the self-care and assuming what others think. The full collection can be found in this free inspiration sheet, but I believe each one deserves its own spotlight, so I’m dedicating this series to that.

Through my own development and my experiences with clients, I’ve found negative self-talk to be a mindset killer. Even for those who are positive and determined, how they treat themselves and perceive things can be a silent threat that sabotages all they are trying to do. That is why I wrote “Stop Saying Should” and how the list flowed freely from me. It started with that simple, but potent, phrase

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