Thursday, August 30, 2012

Don't Be a Should-head

English is a very rich language. It has a long history and a massive lexicon. According to Wikipedia (the highly-esteemed compendium of knowledge and wisdom), some sources indicate that over 1 million words in the English language. It also says that over 8,000 new words are added each year. With such a vast pool to draw from, some words will be considered improper or, shall we say, "dirty." Colloquially, these words are sometimes referred to as "four-letter words," however I think the dirtiest word in our expansive vocabulary has not four letters, but six.

That word is "should."

Why is "should" such a dirty word you ask? The problem is that "should" allows our imagination to parade around as reality. Another part of it has to do with the context -- when we use the word. "Should" is a word that exists in both the past and the future, but never in the present. This is dangerous because the only reality we know is the present. The past exists only partially in our memories, and the future does not exist at all. But "should" drags the past into the present and limits the possibilities of the future. 

I know, this is sounding like abstract stuff, so let me make it more concrete with an illustration. "I should have done that differently," is a sentence we have all uttered in one form or another in our lives. But where is the focus on this sentence? It's stuck in the past. Saying something like this forces our attention onto events that have already occurred and cannot be changed. But this word, "should," confuses our minds into thinking that we have the ability to change what has already happened. We don't! And this leads to a failure to accept our current situation. 

Understanding and accepting your situation is another way of controlling the controllable variables in your life. In fact, accepting your situation is so important that I would argue the only reason we ever experience stress is due to a failure to accept our situation. Stressed about that interview or conversation tomorrow? Accept that you haven't prepared enough for it, and start focusing on what you can do with your time now to be as ready as possible. Stressed that you're living paycheck to paycheck? Accept that you have made some bad decisions with your earnings and get yourself on a budget with savings. 

"Should" prevents us from taking the necessary actions to remedy the uneasy situations we find ourselves in. When we let our thoughts and words be peppered by "should," we lose our focus of the here and now -- the controllable -- and we get lost in imagination land. 

So if you have recently found yourself stalled in your progress or on a plateau, examine where "should" has crept into your life and put a roadblock on your forward motion. Accept that no matter how much you feel like your situation or circumstances "should" be a certain way, they're not. Begin to find the specific actions you can take to create the future you want, not the future that you "should" have.

Jaselyn Taubel
Corporate Recruiter, Southwestern Advantage