Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Productive Shoulds

"I should be getting more work done"

How many of you have sat at your desk and told yourself, "I should be getting more work done"? On the surface, there doesn't seem to be anything problematic with that idea, right?  After all, if you have goals to accomplish and responsibilities to uphold then of course you'll want to fulfill your duties.

The question comes back to, "How do you feel when you think that 'should'"?  If the feeling behind it is peaceful and joyful, then that's a beautiful thing.  But the more common feeling behind that type of "should" tends to be frustration, anxiety, stress, disappointment, and often self-anger.  How much work can you reasonably get done when you are experiencing any one of these feelings? And even if you do get the work done, what kind of shape are you going to be in by time it's completed?

There is an easier way to be more at ease and more productive.  It simply has to do with being willing to question this should, "I should be getting more work done.":

How did you learn this "should" is true? Do you remember learning this from bosses, parents, teachers, co-workers, religious figures?  Remember, no baby is born into this world saying, "I should be getting more work done."  Somewhere along the way you learned it.  This means you can unlearn if you choose. 
Is this "should" true for everyone /everywhere 24/7?  Is it absolutely true that EVERYONE should be getting more work done?  If it's not true for everyone, why is it true for you?
How do you feel when you think this "should"? Is it a joyful feeling?  Do you feel inspired and encouraged to work harder?  Or is it a stressful and depressing feeling?  
Who is profiting off your "should"?  Who stands to gain from you believing this "should"? Your boss? Your family? The medicine companies that stand to make money if you're too stressed out or too depressed?  Your bank account? Your followers on Twitter?  None of these answers are inherently "bad", this is simply to point out that you may be surrounded by external forces that consciously or  unconsciously stand to gain by your stress.
What would one day be like without this "should"? What if just for one day you didn't carry the "should" about getting more work done?  What would that feel like? Where in your body would you feel it?  What would you do instead?  How would you feel at the end of the day? Remember, nobody as far I know has ever lied on their death bed saying, "I should have gotten more work done."
Who would you be without this "should"? Who would you be if you didn't see yourself as failing expectations? Who would you be if you actually perceived yourself as getting enough done?  What could be threatening about seeing yourself as someone who is already getting enough work done?
Replace It:  You always have the choice to say, "I could get more work done."  "It would be financially profitable for me to be getting more work done."  "I might be able to do more to support my loved ones if I was getting more work done."  Does that feel different?

"Yes, but if I didn't have these "shoulds," then why would I bother to work at all?"

Yes, why would you?  Think about all the reasons you work hard now.  Perhaps you have loved ones to support. Perhaps you have your own dreams and aspirations.  Do you work harder out of love and respect for yourself and others, out of fear of the consequences, or some combination of both?

The truth is, getting more work done with "shoulds" is kind of like pushing a car down a hill with the emergency break on.  That car will eventually get to the bottom of that hill.  But what shape will it be in by the time it gets there? It will be tattered and ripped up.  It will be tired and useless.  Have you ever felt like that after a long day of "shoulds"?

In my own experience, people are a lot more likely to be active and get things done when they are internally driven by love versus when they are externally driven by fear.  If you truly want to be productive AND peaceful, then I encourage you to slowly go through the questions above, and authentically evaluate your reasons for your perception of needing to work "harder."

Again "should-less" living is not as much about what you're doing as much as it is about your thoughts.  This is not an excuse to "slack off," it's about cultivating a positive sense of responsibility that drives you to get moving. The choice is ultimately yours. 

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

It sounds like you're creating problems yourself by trying to solve this issue instead of looking at why their is a problem in the first place.