Are Your Shoulds Trapping You?

One of my readers sent me a private email responding to the When Are You Excessively Above Average? question. The reader felt as if he should want to master some learning. However, the work had no meaning for him.

Too often, people feel stuck in their roles, because they should want to master them. Or they should want to finish this thing.

Some people are good at starting work. Some are good at finishing. I am one of those people who is good at starting. I need my checklists to finish things. It’s not that I hate finishing—it’s that I’m bored with it. I get to 90-97% done and I don’t want to spend any more time on it. I have checklists and I use dates in the form of deadlines and timeboxes so I can finish.

Finishing for me is important because finishing allows me to get my work in front of people. I want to publish my work or have people see the results of my work. I don’t feel a should. This finishing fulfills one of my personal needs.

Let me discuss one of my shoulds for a bit: I should clean up my office. I feel a little concern about the state of my office. But I don’t feel any desire to do so. Yet. When my office gets messy enough, I will want to clean it up. But right now? There’s that little should that I can ignore pretty easily.

What about other shoulds, some obligations? I have family obligations as do most other people. I try to manage those obligations so I feel good about my calls and emails. Other obligations? I work hard at assessing when I should eliminate those supposed obligations from my life and business altogether.

In some ways, because I’m a consultant, I have an easier time than other people with my shoulds. If I don’t address something on my todo list, I have choices about dropping it or contracting it out. Here’s my guideline about when my shoulds trap me:

If I’m doing something and I don’t care about the result, the shoulds are trapping me.

If I think I should care about the result—and I don’t—I examine why. For me, understanding the whys are as important as my feelings.

If I don’t care about the result, I have options: Is there some other way I can accomplish the result? (Eliminate the work, contract it out are two examples.) If I decide I do need to do this work, how can I make it more meaningful? Sometimes, I need to finish so I can continue to the next piece of work.

Shoulds are insidious and can remove the joy from your work and your life. Can you choose again to act in a way that creates meaning and even joy?

That is the question this week: Are your shoulds trapping you?

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