Change Every Should to a Could
When we couch an intention or a choice for a new behavior in terms of “should” – I “should” do my taxes this weekend, I “should” check to see how Harry’s doing after his knee surgery – the “should” creates an unconscious expectation or command for performance and sets us up for criticism if we “fail” to perform. “Should” implies obligation, duty, even right or wrong, and the mind contracts. “Could” creates an unconscious perception of possibility and sets us up for pride in our learning and our growth. I “could” do the taxes this weekend. I “could” check in on Harry. It’s up to me – my choice and my response-ability.
You can react to these unconscious messages of “should” and “could” quite automatically, creating a mindset of obligation and constriction or a mindset of possibilities and choice.
You can use your deepening skills of reflective intelligence to pause and notice your inner experience, your inner expectations about any particular possibility of action, and use this exercise to shift your mindset to more openness, more possibilities. This exercise is one of the single most powerful tools you could make to free up energy in your brain to make – and implement – wise choices.
Exercise: Change Every Should to a Could
I “have to” is another phrase that filters our perceptions of a task as a burden. Whereas I “get to” shifts our perception and thus our responses to one of privilege. From “Darn, I “have to” pick up the kids at school every day this week to Wow, I “get to” pick up the kids at school every day this week.
1. Without making “change every should to a could” another “should,” remind yourself fairly regularly that “could” is a possibility. Whenever you hear yourself “shoulding” on yourself, repeat the phrase “change every should to a could” and notice any shifts in your own thinking.
2. Likewise, whenever you hear yourself say “I have to” (which could be a lot!) practice saying “I get to” instead. Gratitude for the privilege of being alive and having the opportunity. Notice any shifts in your reactions to what’s happening and your responses to that shift.
Noticing how you talk to yourself as you go through your day, and choosing to change how you talk to yourself, shifts how you relate to yourself and can create wise shifts in your behavior. You will more easily take responsibility for the choices you make when you feel more response-able and flexible in making them. This one practice of changing every should to a could can have some of the most powerful effects on your practice of becoming more resilient.
(You will find this practice and similar exercises in Resilience: Powerful Practices for Bouncing Back from Disappointment, Difficulty, and Even Disaster forthcoming in September 2018.)