You should do this

I should choose to exercise again.

Did you know that waking up early gives you a lot more time during the day? You should totally do that! Also, have you heard about the benefits of daily exercise? You should do that, too! What’s more, how about eating more fruit and vegetables, while cutting down on snacks? Get on it because this is something that you should definitely do as well!

Okay, stop. What’s with all these shoulds?

Of course, I get it. If you see things that seem like they will improve your life somehow, it is natural to think that you should do them. I see it all the time, also in reaction to our posts. On the one hand, this is great. It makes me happy that there really seems to be value in the things we are writing about.

On the other hand, I’m not sure about all these shoulds. What does it even mean when someone says they should do something?

First, should highlights they are not doing that thing right now. It may seem obvious, but it is also important to say. Anything you should be doing is something you are not actually doing.

Second, should implies that you are not actually going to do it either. Saying you should do something is different from saying you will do something. It has a built-in exit route, so to speak. Try this: Right now, think of something that you should do. Then, in your head, say that you will do it instead. Notice how different that sounds and feels?

Third, it is painful. Perhaps not overtly, like someone pinching you really hard. But painful in this subtle, draining way. If there are things you think you should do, chances are that they keep coming up in your head. Occasionally you remember them and think that yes, you should do these things. But you also remember that you are not actually doing them. If this works for you like it does for me, this creates a disturbing flinching sensation, either in your head or in the pit of your stomach. That’s not very encouraging.

I’m not a friend of should. Saying “I will do XYZ” is already better because you are setting a clear intention for yourself. It makes it harder to mentally wriggle your way out of doing it. This can be effective, but it can also be even more jarring if you still constantly find that you are not doing the things you told yourself you will do.

For me, the best solution is this: Instead of saying should or will, try want. I want to wake up early. I want to do some exercise. I want to eat fruit and vegetables. Again, try saying it in your head and notice the difference. Just like will, it gives you an intention, but in the most positive way – subconsciously, it becomes appealing. This also means that you remove many of those mental barriers that usually stand in the way of changing your habits. Alternatively, I choose to can work just as well.

So, if there is anything that I would say you should do, it is to remove should from your internal monologue as much as possible. Every time you notice yourself using should, gently replace it with want or choose and see what happens.

72 thoughts on “You should do this

  1. I like choose. Great post! I think we have a choice every day to do the things we know we should, and choose our ‘should’ carefully. Maybe some days the only thing we should need to do is smile/breath/live?

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      1. Yeah, but I’m not very consistent at it. So I usually write things down and pin it to a corkboard to remind me 🙂 I’ll get the hang of it soon 😊

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  2. I always get up early to see the sunrise. I always eat lots of fruits and vegetables and I get exercise with strenuous yard work everyday. So I should be alright. Nice post

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  3. Wow i never really thought of it that way but you are absolutely right. It’s a great way to be more intentional and mindful. Will keep this in mind!

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  4. I totally had a mental inventory of the things I told Micah I would do and so far, I am doing good 😀
    Although there are some things that are harder to achieve for people like me who have lived quite a sedentary life, I am trying 🙂 and thanks for the constant inspiration!

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  5. It’s amazing how powerful our choice of words can be on our mental and emotional state, isn’t it? Something seemingly small like using ‘will’ instead of ‘should’ can have a dramatic impact on whether or not we succeed in that aspect of our lives. It’s so important to be aware of what we’re telling ourselves!

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  6. This gives so much perspective on things and definitely makes you think of how you are thinking about doing things. I love the mindset change with changing should to choose…definitely motivates you more!

    Thanks for sharing,

    Aimsy xoxo
    Aimsy’s Antics

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    1. Thanks for stopping by and taking the time to comment! Yes these small changes can be super powerful, and it is exciting to see what changes once you experiment with them a little bit.

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      1. Well, all is going good with God’s grace but still i will try including more and more good habits like early to bed early to rise😉(it’s not my cup of it actually)

        Liked by 1 person

  7. I feel so called out (but in a good way haha) I definitely think changing the wording in how I speak to myself regarding my goals and things I want to improve is a really good move. Affirmations and the law of attraction are things I really believe in, so it feels like a natural extension. Great post, got me thinking 🙂

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    1. Yes, and we need this, especially in this stressful times, to be kinder and gentler to others and to ourselves, but also make sure things are moving forward. Are you thinking of anything specific that you choose to do now?

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        1. True! But isn’t there gentle and harsh fussing? Everyone experiences this differently, of course, but I notice an internal difference between “Wrong, Markus!” and “Wait Markus, let’s reframe this” (for example). The former seems to have a “you idiot!” implied, whereas the latter feels more constructive and growth-oriented.

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            1. Surely you deserve that you are nice to yourself? Also, I’m sure you are nice to everyone else around you – you certainly are to Micah and me here on the blog – why would you not afford at least the same level of niceness to yourself?

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              1. I’d rather reprimand myself than have someone else do it. Yes, I’m nice to people because I expect to like 100% of them. I’ve been wrong only four or five times in my life.

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  8. Markus and Micah, I am going to take your advice and and notice when any of those “shoulds” come up and see if they can be replaced. I do love getting up early in the morning and following a beloved routine. I should–will–be doing some yoga stretches next. 🙂

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          1. No it actually was not because I heard Tony say “turn your “I should… someday in the future” into “I must…right now, today and not someday: someday is now, someday is here”. In that moment I realized that I had to take action

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                  1. I remember reading a phrase in Tony Robbins’ “Giant Steps” that basically said something along the lines of “is there a change that you have been wishing to make for years? Decide that today is the day you start making it” and that was pretty much everything I needed to hear. I made a decision to cut myself off from any other possibility that was other than eating healthy, taking my marriage to the next level etc. From that point on I have never been the same and I haven’t had any backsliding.

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