Shedding the Shoulds

The word ‘should’ is one of my least favorite words in the English language. Our lives have been filled with ‘shoulds’, created by parents, teachers, employers, friends, advertising, media  … it feels like every time you turn around, someone else has inserted another ‘should’ in your life. 

Do you feel the same way? Like you can’t even get to how you want to handle a situation because you can’t quiet the noise to hear yourself think? How long is your list of shoulds? Let’s try something. Grab a piece of paper and a pen and start writing. Yep – every last one of them. Today mine is looking something like:

I should …

… go to bed earlier

… get up earlier

… stop scrolling through my Instragram feed

… spend way less time on Facebook

… get some exercise

… go to the gym

… leave for the gym earlier

… stop procrastinating 

… stop eating food that food because it isn’t good for me

… have figured that out by now

… have taken care of that before now

Pour your heart out. Write until your pen stops. Until you can’t think of anything more to add to the list. If you’re anything like me, it’s taken a lifetime to collect them, so it could take awhile. There are surface shoulds, but there are deep down shoulds. Obligations. Responsibilities. When you feel like you’re done for now, put your pen down and turn the paper over so you can’t see your list.

Those shoulds DO NOT SERVE YOU and DO NOT DEFINE YOU.

Take a big breath, and then another. Exhale deeply.

Next, grab a new piece of paper and start writing what you want in your life. From the depths of your soul really want. Those desires that you maybe haven’t even been willing to acknowledge. There is no right or wrong here. No boundaries, no limitations. Don’t think about whether that want is ‘possible’. What do you want less of in your life? What do you want more of in your life? What lights you up? Where do you feel gaps between what currently exists and what you really want?

Now – let’s compare the two lists. The shoulds and the wants. Do you notice anything appearing on both lists? I’m guessing not.

What’s the point of this exercise? Midlife is a time where we start asking questions. What’s next? Who am I? I’m currently reading the book “Inventing the Rest of Our Lives”.  Author Suzanne Braun Levine talks about women being daughters, mothers, partners and employees, and how each one of those titles brings a time-tested script of its own. “We may carry those relationships with us … but we are done with the roles that came with them. Each of us is now writing her own script. In her own voice.”

That’s the point. It’s time for you to write your own script in your own voice. Some of us may be regular journalers, but many of us may have never actually taken time to write down those thoughts that constantly bounce around in our heads. It feels vulnerable to get these words out.

This is where you start. These words are only for you and you don’t have to share them with anyone. It is beyond exhilarating when you awaken to the knowledge that you can be in control of this time in your life – right now. You can ask the questions and listen for the answers. It’s true – you can stay in your life of shoulds because that’s what you know and that’s where you’re comfortable. Or you can start moving forward, one question at a time, one answer at a time, one step at a time toward a life that looks more like what you want. Really want.

Which will you choose? If you feel at some point in your midlife journey that it could be helpful to talk to someone about your questions – that’s what I do. I listen, mentor, guide, support & encourage. Sign up for a Discovery Call or just reach out via email at jean@youhavetojuststart.com. I’m here to help in any way I can and I’d love to hear your story. I bet there are parts of it that sound a bit like mine. 

Your biggest fan,

Jean