The problem with “should” statements and how to change.

“There are three musts that hold us back: I must do well. You must treat me well. And the world must be easy.” — Albert Ellis, Ph.D.

This past week has been a major “should” week.
I should clean the house…
I should study…
I should make more of an effort to do homework with my children…
I shouldn’t watch TV…
I shouldn’t eat this…
Literally I have been so consumed in should and shouldn’t (s) that I paralysed myself with guilt and didn’t actually do anything I “should” have done.

Now let’s investigate the definition of the word should
Should – used to indicate obligation, duty, or correctness, typically when criticising someone’s actions.
As soon as I read the definition it was a light bulb moment that the word “should” is nothing but a demotivating, guilt tripping, discouraging word that simply triggers my anxiety and makes me feel like crap. The same goes for when you direct a should at others, it conveys a sense of entitlement from yourself and can make the other person feel like they are being belittled or are inadequate.

So, what now? I have identified that we shouldn’t use the word “should” but what should we use instead?
Well you’re in luck because I’ve gathered a few tips that will definitely help!

☼ KEEP A RECORD – It’s first important to identify and record when we use the word should/shouldn’t. What are we feeling at the time? What is the environment? After a handful of examples have been collected look to see if there is a pattern or a trigger. It is very common that the “should’s” come out when we are feeling sad, worried or anxious.

☼ SAYS WHO? – What are your beliefs around the should? For example, if your “should” statement is “My house should be spotless.” Ask yourself, why? According to who? Is it a rule? What would happen if you missed a day of cleaning?

☼ BE KIND – What advice would you give someone else if they expressed their exhaustion over the things, they “should be doing.” I can guarantee you would be a lot more compassionate to someone else than what you are to yourself so adapt your inner voice to a far kinder version.

ACCEPTANCE – To be blunt, if your “should” is regarding an action either DO IT or DROP IT. Change your “I should” into “I decided” or “I will/I won’t” and take back your power to be in control of the situation.

☼ RE-FRAME – Change your “should statement” into something positive. I’ll use my initial “So what now?” statement as an example. Instead of, “I have identified that we shouldn’t use the word “should” but what should we use instead?” Here is a far more positive alternative, The word “should” makes me feel inadequate, disheartened and anxious so instead I will use words that empower, motivate and help me take control.” See what I did there? This is the power of re framing!

Here is an example of something you could put together when you have a “should” lingering around, you can download your own copy here.

3**Remember it is important to identify how you are feeling/your current circumstances when filling this out**

Finally it is important to accept people (including ourselves) for who they are and what they are capable of NOT who we think they should be or what we think they should do. Spread kindness!

Thanks for reading and make sure you share your smile with the world today ☮


  1. ashleyleia says:

    Great post and great topic – you’ve inspired me to do a follow-up post of my own! And I’ll definitely be included a link to your should worksheet; it’s laid out really well.

  2. James says:

    Thank you for the advice. I find my to-do list filled with ‘should’ tasks – the things I really don’t want to do like chores and paperwork. I will try reframing them to focus instead on the benefit of the completed task, rather than the task itself.

  3. great post 😃

  4. I love the practical steps you give to pull apart why anyone ‘should’. I have been making an effort for a couple of years now to not say ‘should’, so when I catch myself, I have been trying to use different words (like ‘choose to’ or ‘might feel better if I’)… but I’m going to try your reframing tips now. Thanks! 🙂

  5. fakeflamenco says:

    I’ve trimmed “should” from my vocabulary. Now there is only will or will not! : ) Rebecca

  6. Carol Anne says:

    I definitely relate to this! I am always saying I should do this or that and then I don’t! Great tips thanks!

  1. […] saw a post on this topic recently on Grounding Growth and wanted to continue the conversation.  Definitely check out her stop the should […]

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