I love words - they create pictures in my mind, emotions in my heart and experiences that really connect with my soul. But here is one word that is overused and under-helpful: "should".
When I tell myself "I should exercise today", I immediately feel like its something I don't want to do and have to make myself do. There is an internal resistance and sense of forcing myself to do it. There is an underlying tone of "What is wrong with me? Am I being lazy? Yeah but..I'm too tired, too busy, too late..." and so on. Oftentimes our "should"s come from self-judgement based on our limiting beliefs.
Here are a couple of phrases that affect me even more than should": "should have" and "should not have". Now I am judging and blaming myself AND adding regret to the mix.
"I should have spoken up"
"I should not have yelled".
This is the quickest way to bring myself down and undermine my confidence.
So, here is what I now know: "should" "should have " and "should not have" all arise from a "judger mindset" in which we are blame focused (Think "whose fault is it"). The opposite of a "judger" mindset is a "learner mindset" in which we are solution focused (Think "What's possible"). (1)
And here is what coaching has helped me to do: Replace "should" with "will".
"I will exercise today."
"I will speak up next time"
"I will not yell again."
The word "will" makes me feel powerful, positive and strong. I feel I am in charge and making a choice for myself. An added bonus, when I use "will" instead of "should" I find myself making thoughtful choices instead of reacting habitually.
Pay attention to your self talk and try replacing words like these that are working against you with words that empower you. Your self talk has the power to influence how you feel and what you do. Make it work for you.
(1) For more detailed information on the learner vs judger mindset, please see the Choice Map by Marilee Adams at the Inquiry Institute