Replace Your Shoulds with Coulds

Do you have an incessant personal judge that constantly tells you what you should or should not do? We each make choices every day about the words we use. Language is a powerful force and simple word choices can have an enormous impact. Create more freedom and less stress in your life by changing your language to a kinder tone and by changing your ‘shoulds’ to ‘coulds’.

The word ‘should’ often carries with it feelings of guilt, shame, and self-blame. ‘Should’ implies there is an ultimate way of behaving in every given situation. ‘Should’ suggests that you are supposed to be different than you are, that you don’t measure up, you need to improve, and you must be perfect. Often ‘should’ carries with it feelings of guilt, shame, and self-blame. It reminds us of the expectations of others for us and creates external motivation based on those expectations.

The word ‘could’ implies a choice rather than an obligation. Because it is more easy-going and less demanding, ‘could’ can open us up to opportunities rather than confining us to a supposedly righteous way. ‘Could’ can help create an internal motivation that is more powerful and compelling than an external motivation.

Consider replacing your ‘shoulds’ with ‘coulds’. Do you worry that you would not accomplish your goals without the harshness of ‘shoulds’ to motivate you? Consider how a set of demanding and rigid expectations makes you feel. Are your ‘shoulds’ helpful or do they serve to de-motivate you by making you feel guilty and inadequate?

Spend a day trying to catch as many of your ‘shoulds’ as you can. Take a neutral attitude as you notice these self-critical commands that you have been automatically telling yourself. At day’s end, notice when you used ‘should’ the most. Was it in relation to work, relationships, chores, leisure time, or something else?

Next, spend a day replacing your ‘shoulds’ with ‘coulds’. While ‘should’ implies an obligation, ‘could’ is more liberating because it implies a choice. Instead of saying ‘I should do better at work’ change it up to ‘I could do better at work’.  And, then carry it a step further by asking yourself, ‘How could I do better at work?’ What new options and possibilities do you discover when you do this? Do you find that you can tap more easily into a genuine internal motivation?

Treat yourself well and change your language to a more gentle and forgiving tone by replacing your ‘shoulds’ with ‘coulds’. Abolish ‘should’ from your vocabulary and increase your possibilities for more happiness and less stress by refusing to impose unrealistic expectations on yourself.

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