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18 Mar

No more ”should”!

Datum: 2014-03-18 10:16

There is a word which I recent­ly real­ized com­plete­ly kills all my ener­gy, dri­ve and initiative.

Even if I am phys­i­cal­ly well, thor­ough­ly rest­ed and fair­ly on the go” I am drained of all ener­gy as soon as I think I should” do something.

It can be as sim­ple as receiv­ing an e‑mail from some­one who I think I should have got­ten in touch with sooner.

The thought that I should respond to the e‑mail emerges and with it all zest and ener­gy leaves me. In these moments I tend to turn my atten­tion else­where. I start check­ing Twit­ter for inter­est­ing posts, start brows­ing Spo­ti­fy for music I want to lis­ten to right now, or lose myself amongst the design-blogs in Feed­bin – I do oth­er things instead of doing what I should.

Just because that lit­tle word should” pops into my mind, I feel reluc­tance towards doing some­thing which I in actu­al­i­ty do not find very dif­fi­cult to do (and per­haps even inspir­ing and valuable). 

Come to think of it, the word should” does not con­tribute any­thing pos­i­tive to my life. I live and work accord­ing to the belief that I do not have to do any­thing, but rather want to do all the things I am doing since I want to devel­op both myself and my business.

In the begin­ning was the Word” …
I am remind­ed of the late author and trav­el­er Bruce Chatwin. In his book Song­lines” he describes how the Aus­tralian abo­rig­ines’ myth of cre­ation tells of that in the begin­ning of every­thing the gods wan­dered across the con­ti­nent and sang the land­scape into exis­tence. When the moun­tain, the tree or stone was named, it also came into being. I under­stand that it is a myth, but must admit that it holds a grain of truth. 

Phys­i­cal objects exist regard­less if they have a name or not, but many phe­nom­e­na occur or at least pro­trude more clear­ly and are spread to a greater num­ber of peo­ple once they are named and turn into a con­cept. Take for instance the Swedish author Bod­il Jönsson’s con­cept of set­up time” or Alain de Botton’s sta­tus-stress”.

If some­thing can come into exis­tence just by being giv­en a name, should we not be able to make things dis­ap­pear by get­ting rid of a name or word?

Sort out what the actu­al cause and effect is
I amused myself by dis­sect­ing the word should”, which amount­ed to the method of get­ting rid of it which I am shar­ing with you in this edi­tion of Done!.

As I see it, the con­no­ta­tion of the word should” (as in I should do X”) is actu­al­ly I think that I have to do X oth­er­wise some­thing unpleas­ant and unwant­ed will occur”. This unwant­ed event may for instance be that we miss a dead­line, that we lose a cus­tomer, that our col­league gets angry, that my oppor­tu­ni­ties to devel­op are impaired, or some­thing else.

The amus­ing part of this is that when we think should”, we also sub­con­scious­ly think that we are able to pre­dict what will hap­pen if we do/​do not do X. But, speak­ing for myself when it comes to my soon 40-year old life, I have encoun­tered enough unfore­seen events which have hum­bled me when it con­cerns my lack­ing” abil­i­ty to pre­dict the future. So, the only thing we actu­al­ly achieve is nam­ing our fear.

What we miss is that there are at least a hand­ful of oth­er pos­si­ble out­comes and con­se­quences to doing/​not doing X. If we make some of the alter­na­tive reper­cus­sions of doing/​not doing X clear to our­selves, we are then able to con­scious­ly choose whether or not we want to do X. And sud­den­ly the word should” is gone!

Do this
The fol­low­ing method has worked for me, per­haps it will work for you as well.

  1. Take an emp­ty sheet of paper.

  2. Write down what you think you have to do, in oth­er words what you should” do.
    For exam­ple I should send the mate­r­i­al NN asked for the oth­er day.”
    This is what my hand­writ­ten tem­plate looks like.

  3. Now write down what you fear will hap­pen if you do not do it.
    If I do not do it NN will be angry with me, lose faith in me and inter­rupt our col­lab­o­ra­tion which I val­ue deeply”.
    Now comes the fun part.

  4. Think of three things alter­na­tive out­comes of not doing what you think you must. To real­ly con­front your fear, try think­ing of pos­i­tive con­se­quences of not doing what you think you must do.
    • If I do not do it today, NN will not notice any­thing since he is busy in a con­fer­ence all day and will have for­got­ten all about me by now.”
    • If I do not do it today, NN will feel relieved when real­iz­ing he is not alone in some­times deliv­er­ing mate­r­i­al late to others.”
    • If I do not do it today, NN will be a bit dis­ap­point­ed but it will not affect our col­lab­o­ra­tion since he on the whole appre­ci­ates it as much as I do.”

  5. So, final­ly, decide if you with this new per­spec­tive on the sit­u­a­tion still want to do what you thought you should, or if you choose not to do it right now. The choice is ours and we are not vic­tims of our cir­cum­stances, which is cru­cial to our well-being.

You should” now have more energy!
If you are like me, you will do what you do because you want to rather than due to a sense of oblig­a­tion by pro­vid­ing a more nuanced per­spec­tive on your sit­u­a­tion and prefer­ably by remov­ing as many should” as pos­si­ble. I have felt more ener­gized, lighter and had more fun by doing this. Per­haps you will as well. Try it!

What is your way?
What word is your worst ene­my in terms of cre­at­ing obsta­cles and what do you do to pre­vent it doing so? Write a com­ment and tell me.