Counting your shoulds

Recently the other day, I was in what’s called a SIG group or special interest group for coaching. It’s when a group of coaches get together (usually over the phone), practice their coaching skills, and get feedback on how to improve.

During the call, I had my turn to play client, and I shared some of the obstacles I have been struggling with in my own coaching business. After the brief coaching session, one of the coaches observed something very important about the language I used. I used the word “should” a lot.

For those outside the coaching world, “should” seems like an ordinary word. We use it all the time, “I should do this”, “this should happen”, “they should do this”, etc. In coaching, however, “should” is a very important word, because it implies something.

When you say the word “should” you are actually saying the following: “Hypothetically, this is the way this is supposed to happen or work, but in practice, I’m not finding this to be the case.” In essence, the word should shows us when we’re emotionally stuck. We convince ourselves the world is supposed to be certain way, and when the reality is different, we feel trapped. For example, you feel you should go to your job on time every day, but the reality is you don’t want to.

Resolving a “should” is a little confusing, but very doable. Behind every “should” there is a belief that there is something you can’t do. In the case of the job, there is a belief that you can’t quit or find work you’d be eager to do. In the case of walking a dog, there’s a belief that you have to walk the dog and that you will not enjoy doing it. In actuality, somebody else could walk the dog, you could hire a dog walker, or you could find that it’s very possible to make walking the dog enjoyable.

So this article is both a reminder to myself and a hopefully an insight for others to be aware of when you say “should”. When you are aware of when you say should, you are aware of where your expectations and reality are not meeting up, and this can be really useful for figuring out where you might be stuck, especially if you are setting unreasonable expectations for yourself.

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