Thursday, January 1, 2009

New Year's Shoulds

Welcome to a Should-less 2009! It's the beginning of a new calendar year, and for many this means a new army of "shoulds" are marching in (ie, "I should lose weight," "I should quit smoking," "I should visit my family more,") etc. These goals in and of themselves may be quite healthy and beneficial. But I'm here to say: if you're making these goals from a place of "should" you are setting yourself up for failure.

Why? Because "shoulds" are never an effective motivator for change. This is just as true for disciplining children to teaching safer sex to shaping your employees behaviors. You may get some short term results, but in the long term "shoulds" rarely result in sustained changes. Unless you are willing to change your thinking you are unlikely to fulfill that resolution you keep setting every year.

For example, let's say your New Year's resolution has to do with going to the gym. Try asking honestly why you want this. If you're doing it because you've been conditioned to think you "should" have a body like the actors in the movies, then it will probably feel like a struggle, a burden, an annoyance, and chances are by March you'll stop going. And then you'll feel discouraged, depressed, and have a much harder time going to the gym in the future. Has this ever happened to you?

There IS an easier way! What if you just cut through the gym part and said, "My new year's resolution is to be as happy and healthy as possible no matter what." Then guess what can happen? You'll feel good. You'll feel strong. You'll feel empowered. And chances are, you'll want to do activities that support those good feelings, like exercise, eating better foods. You may even do some other healthy things like reading a good book, take walks, or treat the people around you a little kinder.

The point is, instead of using the gym as a means to feel good, you have the right to feel good FIRST, and use that good feeling to go to the gym. Or not. As long as you are feeling happy, what difference does it make?

So instead of focusing on what we want to happen externally, let's try to focus on how we want to feel internally. If your goal is to live another year stressed out and disappointed, then by all means, go forward and use your "shoulds" to torture yourself as much as you want. But if your goal this year is to obtain a more consistent level of happiness and peace, then join me for a year of "Should-less" living in these blogs. What's YOUR choice?

1 comment:

coach anne said...

Hi, Damon,

Are you on Twitter? Dare I say "You should be"? LOL, No. I will say you may enjoy it and/or grow your network.

There was a whole conversation today about "should", with many (including me) agreeing that "shoulding" on one self or others is, at best, less than wonderful. My opinion: "should" is one of the dirtiest words there is.

One of us mentioned a should-less culture, and my subsequent Google search led me to you.

If you choose to join the conversation, you can follow me on Twitter as @AmpleAliveness. No shoulds about that.