Most people can think of at least one thing they want, but don’t currently have. To be their ideal weight or at their ideal level of fitness, to earn a certain amount of money, to create their ideal career.
Obviously there are many different things that can get in the way of accomplishing a goal. This article is about one of the biggies. The concept of ‘I should do’ vs ‘I get to’.
When we think I have to or I should it comes from the perspective of Obligation. Consider this for a moment. Whenever you’ve been obligated to do something, how did you feel about it?
Likely you felt frustration, resignation, resentment or even a stronger negative emotion like anger or even hatred. How’s it likely to go from there? Right. Not so good.
Coming from the perspective of obligation – should do, have to, etc – the mind tends to categorize the goal as a fix for a problem. When this is the case, the mind then focuses it’s attention mostly on the problem, not who to be or what to do about it.
The goal becomes big and significant. It feels heavy like a ball and chain we’re dragging around. This causes unnecessary pressure and takes a lot of energy. Sounds exhausting, right? It is.
Conversely, when we’re doing something because we want to, it feels fun. Like we’re playing a game. Think about a time when you were having fun. Time flew by and the experience was likely playful and joyful. What if everything you were up to occurred to you as fun?
Something New to Practice
The Shoulda, Woulda, Coulda mentality is literally self inflicted punishment. Why would we do that to ourselves? Because this is learned behavior for most people.
Think back to when you were young and small being ruled over by a world full of giants AKA parents, teachers and preachers. Think role models like athletes, television characters and other media personalities.
These folks either shoved the should haves down our throats or we created that feeling on our own. I should look like that or feel like that or be able to do that.
When we didn’t or we couldn’t yet we were likely punished somehow whether it was someone inflicting it on us, or it came from our own thought or feeling. By now, as adults, this has simply become habit. And all habits can be replaced with new habits by repetitive deliberate practice.
I invite you to practice choosing. This is your life. Ultimately, who you are and what you do is because you chose to. So no fair acting like it’s something you have to do.
Want something different? Great. That’s also a choice. I invite you to practice relating to it as such and notice how the chains of obligation start to loosen their grip.
From the perspective of choice we can actually make a game out of anything really. Even if it’s new, scary and uncomfortable. Our attention shifts how we’re relating to our circumstances instead of being on the circumstance itself. You’ll find so much freedom in this. Guaranteed.
In June 2015 I decided I wanted to get in shape. I was going on 35 years old and I hadn’t exercised regularly since high school. My eating habits were less than desirable and I wasn’t happy about it.
Leading up to the moment when I chose to actually do something about it, I spent a lot of time in the shoulda, woulda, couldas. I should’ve done something by now. I would’ve already been through the hard part. I could’ve had a more favorable lifestyle by now.
I’d have all the familiar thoughts and feelings about it, and guess what? Nothing changed. I did nothing. All I accomplished was making myself feel terrible for not taking action.
Every time I looked in the mirror I was reminded of what I should be doing. Every time my energy felt low because of the so called food I was eating I was reminded of what I should be eating. It felt like I had to do something different. And for that reason, I did nothing because who likes doing something they feel obligated to do? No one.
I took a serious look at this in June 2015 and I realized nothing was changing because I hadn’t connected a set of different actions to my own choice. I began to imagine who I wanted to become.
I wanted to be the guy who exercised regularly, was fit, strong and ate healthy food. Just because I said so. That was inspiring. It wasn’t because anyone else told me to. It wasn’t because I wanted to look like someone else. It was because I chose to.
I completely changed the way I ate, started exercising several days per week, and lost about 30 pounds in less than 3 months. And I’ve been going strong for almost 2 years.
I don’t share this to toot my own horn. It’s simply an example of what’s possible from choice. Try it out. Practice shifting your perspective from have to over to get to and see what happens. I’d love to hear about it in the comments.