Saturday, March 03, 2012

Message #19 - Should is an Evil Word!

When I stopped working on a regular basis I was quickly confronted by everyone’s first question: “What are you going to do now, Dan? How will you spend your time?”

I didn’t have an answer to the question. I didn’t know for sure. But my mind leapt to a familiar place – What should I do? Not what would I like to do? Not what would be fun to do? Not what do I now have the time to do? It was what should I do? I’d learned my first lesson about life as an old age pensioner.

Should is an Evil Word!

I call this the Tyranny of the Shoulds. Where do they come from, these shoulds? They aren’t written in stone on some sacred tablets. They aren’t laws handed down from Washington or Sacramento. They aren’t (necessarily) how mommy and daddy told me to behave.

I made them up. They’re my personal set of ‘to do’s’ created by me sometime in the past. They are decisions I’ve made that I adhere to automatically, without thinking about it. They are my internal on-duty Should Cops and they never take a day off.

If you think I’m a rare species, a burdened Should Victim who deserves pity – think again. You’re in the boat with me. You’re a Should Machine just like I am. And so is everyone around you. It’s part of the price we pay for being human.

I don’t object to you behaving in a way that is consistent with one of your personal shoulds – if you choose to do it. But that’s not what happens. What happens is that a should is triggered and off you go, responding to it like an automaton without a second thought. You haven’t chosen it. It has chosen you.

Early on in my non-working phase I realized that a big big should for me was ‘Making a Difference.’ My mission in life was to make a difference. I’d always been motivated by my desire to make a difference. Could I question that should? What would happen if I did and found that it wasn’t sacred after all? Would I be betraying myself? Maybe the Dan I thought I knew would disappear in a puff of smoke.

Try this one on for yourself. Question one of your sacred shoulds. You know what will happen? Neither it nor you will disappear. What will happen is that you will regain the power of choice. At some point you chose to live your life consistent with that should. And then over time it shifted from choice to automaticity. You became a Should Puppet, dancing on strings being pulled by a you from the past.

Becoming aware of a should and reassuming your role as chooser is giving yourself a gift. I found that I didn’t have an issue with making a difference. I was still free to do that. But now I could do it as an act of choice, not as a should. Free is an appropriate word. I had an extraordinary experience of freedom when the chains of the should were gone.

Should is an Evil Word!


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