How many times a day do you say to yourself, 'I should...?'
I do it all day long.
'I should get out of bed,' when I hear the kids up and about and I know that we have to get organised for school. 'I should eat more fruit.' 'I should call my sister.' 'I should get up and start work earlier' 'I should, I should, I should.'
'Should statements,' as psychologists know them, are one of our least helpful thinking habits. When we tell ourselves we 'should' do something we put unnecessary and unhelpful pressure on ourselves. We feel resentful and cranky and paradoxically, we're less likely to do thing we're telling ourselves we should.
When we take it to the next level and start insisting that other people should be doing something, we're messing with our heads even more. It's a recipe for frustration.
Our shoulds often emerge when we're trying to change our behaviour or achieve a goal. 'I should go to the gym,' 'I should stop eating the Tim Tams', 'I should clean out the hall cupboard', 'I should go back to uni' 'I should start my own business.'
We spend a lot of time 'shoulding' and then beat ourselves up for not doing.
If you're telling yourself you should do something to achieve a goal it's really time to rethink that goal. Here's why...
Goal setting and motivation has been studied by psychologists for over 50 years. One of the keys things we've learnt about achieving goals in that time is that our goals have to be self concordant.
What on earth does that mean?
Put simply, a self concordant goal is a goat that you really, really want to achieve just for the satisfaction of achieving it. It's a goal that requires no outward motivation. You feel almost compelled to work towards self concordant goals, not matter how much work you have to put in. This goal is so aligned with your values and your vision and taps into so many of your strengths that you almost have to stop yourself from working towards it.
Not only are self-concordant goals easier to achieve than those we feel we 'should' work towards, but having and working towards them leads to greater happiness. A win-win!
How do you create self concordant goals or make your goals self concordant?
Try this: Make a list of the reasons you want to achieve your goal. The real reasons. Be very honest with yourself. Are you doing it to fulfil others' expectations of you? Forget those reasons. Look for the 'whys' that fulfil a deeper purpose, that feel really important. For example, a health goal might be associated with wanting to be around for your children for as long as possible, not just to fit into your old jeans.
Focus on those deeper more meaningful reasons as your motivation for achieving your goal. Expand on them. Develop a vision or story in your mind about why you want to achieve what you want to achieve. Let that vision draw you into action.
If you really can't find a deeper purpose for pursuing your goal - if you find yourself saying that it's just something that you should do - ditch it! It's only going to make you cranky.
Do you have self concordant goals?