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Column: Stop “shoulding” yourself as a New Year’s resolution?

New Year’s resolutions can be so onerous and lofty that they never come to fruition. This is because most of the resolutions people set are impulsive compensations to behaviors that make them feel better in the moment of commitment.

Therefore, anytime a person sets a goal to stop smoking or eat healthier, it’s not long before they are reaching for a cigarette or eating cupcakes.

The reason for this is that their goal is not in line with what they truly value.

Breaking a resolution has nothing to do with willpower, and everything to do with what a person authentically wants.

Most goals set are shoulds and not true desires. We tell ourselves we “should” when we really don’t want to. And isn’t it true that we do find the time and energy to do the things we really want to do?

I’m not one to make resolutions at the New Year since I believe goals can be set at any day of the year.

However, when asked about resolutions to start the year off, I think there is value in setting an intent to manage your usage of the word “should.”

Whenever you use the word “should,” you’re not accepting things as they are. You are motivating yourself based on a lack of self-acceptance, rather than loving encouragement.

Whenever you tell yourself you “should” do something, you’re reinforcing the idea that you are not doing it — which is reinforces the negative.

While it is not easy for anyone to remove the word “should” from their vocabulary, here are some points to consider when tackling this habit:

1. What benefits will you receive if you do this?

Instead of saying, “I should keep the house cleaner” or “I should eat healthier,” focus on why you want what you say you should do.

List, speak of and envision the benefits and the outcome. Remind yourself why this is something good to move toward.

For example, “I feel great when the house is clean,” or “I love the way I feel after I eat a healthy meal.”

2. Remind yourself of how important this is to you.

Instead of saying, “I should exercise more,” shift it to something like, “Being healthy is important to me” or “Honoring my body is how I want to show respect for myself.”

3. Accept where you are and stop judging yourself for how you feel about it.

If it’s a feeling you wish you didn’t have like jealousy or anger, stop saying “I shouldn’t feel jealous of my cousin for earning more money,” or “I shouldn’t feel resentful of my sister.” Instead, accept it.

Tell yourself, “Even though I am feeling jealous right now, what can I do to move past this?” or “I’m feeling resentful, what part did I play in this?”

Empower yourself by accepting your position in your life’s journey.

Anytime you change out the word “should” with more helpful dialog, you move toward a kinder relationship with yourself, leading to better relationships with those around you. Perhaps using “should” a bit less could be a great new year’s intention to set.


Alice Inoue is the founder of Happiness U. Visit YourHappinessU.com


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