Language Overhaul: Transform Your Shoulds Into Wants

shoulds“I should wake up earlier.”
“I should meet Joe for coffee.”
“I should practice the piano more often.”
“I should really keep my house cleaner.”
“I should meditate every day.”

Sound familiar?

Shoulds feels heavy. They feel like an obligation. They imply a sort of dread, something that you look forward to being over. Yet, it’s a word overused in our society.

You should call your mom. You should take your friend to dinner for her birthday. You should buy your kid the latest Spiderman action figure. You should read more.

But are these things you actually dread?

How to Replace Your Shoulds

As you move through your days and catch yourself using the word “should,” ask yourself a question: is this something you truly want to be doing?

If the items on your “should list” are things you actually have interest in, I propose you exercise caution when using the word “should.” If it is something that you genuinely want to do, modify your verbiage to something that casts a more optimistic light on the activity. Try:

  • “I would like to ______”
  • “I’m looking forward to ______”
  • “I would love to ______”
  • “I want to______”

Using more positive language will naturally infuse a more positive tone into the whole activity—for yourself, but also for whomever you’re chatting with. That positive slant will give you more motivation to actually complete the thing you would like to, and should, do.

Try it for yourself. Every time you catch yourself saying that you “should” do something, try replacing it with “I would like to ____.” It actually feels good to use this kind of language.

Limit Your “Should Events”

If you cannot truthfully answer the question “is this something you truly want to be doing?” with a confident “yes,” you may want to reconsider the task. If it’s actually something that feels heavy—and the only word to describe it is as something you should do—then consider if it is something you actually have to do. And if not, replace it with something you actually want to do.

Consider this a way of censoring your activities. You probably have a lot going on in your life, and at times, you may have trouble saying no to things that you don’t want or need to be doing. These will often turn into “shoulds.”

If it doesn’t feel good to say “I would like to….” And you can remove it from your to-do list, remove it! You’ll have no trouble replacing it with an activity that you will look forward to.

And if you need help saying no to the things that will turn into “shoulds”, read this post about how to create personal policies and say no with grace and diplomacy to avoid them finding their way into your day in the first place.

Join my monthly newsletter!

If you loved this article, join the monthly newsletter — featuring tips and reflections on leadership development and stress management in the modern world. Join the 5,000+ leaders who have it delivered straight to their inbox each month.

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Melissa Eisler

Melissa Eisler, MA, PCC, is an ICF certified executive coach. She partners with leaders to develop their systems thinking, resilience, strategic communication skills, and executive presence in order to reach individual, team, and organizational goals. She blends more than 15 years of experience in leadership positions in the corporate world, with her master’s degree in organizational leadership and extensive background in mindfulness to help her clients master their leadership skills and steer their teams through challenges and change. Learn more about Melissa here.

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Join the monthly newsletter!

If you’re an executive, leader, or entrepreneur, you’ll love our monthly newsletters.

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Melissa is the founder and executive coach at Wide Lens Leadership and a Partner at Evolution. As an ICF Certified Executive Coach with a Master's degree in organizational leadership, Melissa has coached hundreds of leaders ranging from C-suite to entrepreneur, from Fortune 500 companies to startups, and across diverse industries. Her work focuses on helping high-performing senior leaders and their teams magnify impact by building trust, collaboration, accountability, and healthy communication skills.