When I turned 30, I told my friend, “Part of me thinks I should be married by now, I should have a house and settle down.”
My friend looked at me like I’d just birthed an alien. She laughed and said, “Shoulds are lies.”
I said, “What do you mean?”
She said, “You’re lying to yourself. You know when you say, ‘I should go to the gym’? Or ‘I should go to that party’? You don’t want to go. So don’t. It’s your life. Do what you want.”
Seriously? Was she for real? “It’s your life. Do what you want.” Umm… was she crazy?
I mean, if I did what I wanted, wouldn’t I turn into an apolitical antisocial unhealthy blob with a kale deficiency? Don’t I have to go to parties? Don’t I have to buy local and organic and cut back on sugar and go gluten free? Shouldn’t I raise my own chickens named Deepak, Oprah, and Cluck Cluck Clinton?
No. Life is about choices. And I don’t have to do anything.
Stop. Hammertime. Let me nail that one in again: I don’t have to do anything, and neither do you.
You don’t have to exercise.
You don’t have to eat healthy.
You don’t have to give a cluck about anything.
The thoughts that you “have to” or you “should” behave in certain ways makes those behaviors unappealing. Obligations. Total bummers.
- What if you secretly want someone to help you with your children, but you think you shouldn’t need help? How does that feel?
- What if you secretly want to leave your job, but you think you should stay because of the money? How does that feel?
We don’t have to peck around living life like we should. We don’t have to please everyone else all the time. We don’t have to raise chickens.
What if we changed the way we think about our choices?
- What if you get to give yourself the gift of exercise and time outside?
- What if you want to make healthy choices because they feel great?
- What if you choose to go to your friend’s party because you love her so much?
My friend was right. My pants were on fire back then, because shoulds are lies. Shoulds are expectations that other people created. Shoulds are making you miserable.
When you say you should do something, pause for a moment. Realize that you don’t have to do anything. You get to. You have the privilege of choice.
So stop shoulding all over yourself.
Instead, be brave. Tell the truth: What do you want?