How often do you do, say, or feel something because you feel obligated to do so, even when it doesn’t feel right or depletes your energy and motivation? Keep track for a few days, and you may be surprised how often the things you feel like you “should” do are driving your choices, decisions, and actions—but also weighing you down and holding you back!
Typically, “shoulds” come from someplace outside of ourselves: something we have learned, interpreted, or determined based on a past experience. Sometimes, we adopt other people’s “shoulds” out of respect or fear, particularly when we are young. But then we forget to go back and question their continued relevance in our lives, even once we have our own unique perspective that comes with experience or age.
Instead of letting your “shoulds” drive your life and career, consider redesigning your life from your own dreams, beliefs, and desires. In part, it is a simple matter of becoming more conscious of whether an obligation is taking you closer to your dreams or if it is holding you back. Take the time to become more conscious and aware so you can become true to yourself and channel your energies toward the things you want most.
- Identify your “shoulds.” Make a list of all the self-imposed obligations in your life—both personal and professional. Assess where each came from: yourself, your parents, family, friends, employer, school, or other. Mark which ones energize and excite you, and which ones weigh you down.
- Connect to your dreams. Make a list of your dreams and make sure each one is really yours. What do you want to do professionally, how do you want to do it, where do you want to live, and what is the lifestyle you really desire? Prioritize your list and put the dreams that are most essential to your happiness at the top. Be honest with yourself. Maybe it would be awesome to start up your own company, or perhaps you’d like to work from home.
- Revise or eliminate. Look again at your list of “shoulds.” Which are taking you toward your dreams? Which aren’t? Consider how you can shift the obligations that support your dreams higher in your consciousness and priority list. As you look at the situation through your current experience and knowledge, you may notice that some of the obligations that don’t help aren’t necessary to your life at all. Consider revising or letting go of those “shoulds” based on this new perspective. And start saying “no” to any unnecessary burdensome obligations that crop up. When you lighten your obligatory load, you’ll likely rise to a new level of satisfaction in life!