Cut that should out

I’ve always been fascinated by words. Long before I started my career in communications, I would pay close attention to the specific words people would use to speak. Words can influence the way we feel and the mark we make. They can rouse us to great applause and move us to quickly grab a tissue, because well, mascara.

Words have weight. There are some light words and some particularly heavy ones. There’s one particular word I hear time and time again from clients, myself and just about everyone, which feels like one of the most weight-y words around: S-H-O-U-L-D.

This word evokes images of prison shackles. Yes, that image is daunting, but let’s take a closer look at the hidden meaning we’re expressing each time we launch a should into the universe.

It’s rooted in consequence and self-judgment

While we don’t always voice the associated consequences and judgments, they hover around like pesky mosquitoes. Here’s an example, “I should open social media accounts on every platform for my business.” The lingering consequence and judgment might sound like “…or else I’m going to fall behind everyone else and fail.” It might sound extreme, but I encourage you the next time you use the word should to ask yourself “or else, what?” What comes up for you? And how motivated after that are you to do the thing you think you should do? Chances are, not very.

It implies that we’re less than

Comparison is the accomplice of should. When we say something like, “I should be married by now” or “I should be more successful” what we’re really doing is putting ourselves down in comparison to other people, who we see as having those things, while we don’t. We’re not good enough is the message we’re communicating.

I had a networking coffee with a lady I met at a recent event. Throughout our conversation, she kept mentioning she should read more books, so I asked her why she thought she should do this. Her response was reading would make her smarter – meaning she didn’t see herself as smart enough. She didn’t choose words like “to expand my knowledge” or “to learn new things”, which was unfortunate, because she came across as a well-spoken, intelligent person.

Whatever that thing is we think we should do or be is an elusive pursuit of being more. We are already enough.

An invitation to open our minds and know and trust ourselves a little more

When we’re should-ing on ourselves, we’re other focused. We neglect our own spirit. Unknowingly, what we’re doing is trying to meet the expectations others have of us.

Going back to the lady I met a while back, she also mentioned in our conversation that she disliked reading anything that was longer than a few lines. Now imagine not enjoying reading more than a few lines, but sentencing yourself to read more books, because you’ve determined it’s the way to make you smarter? That’s a recipe for self-sabotage.

So I ask this: Why does it have to be THAT thing we think we should do or be? Why can’t it be audio books instead of traditional reading or a running club instead of the gym or relationship building instead of selling? Should invites us to dig a little deeper — understand who we are and what we’re all about a little more and then trust what we discover. Be that. When we make decisions from this empowered space, we’ll quickly change should to “I want to” and “I will”.

My challenge to you this week is to pay attention to the way you speak. Where are you using the word should in your life? When you catch yourself using it, pause and take a moment to inquire what it’s all about. What you find will help you to move much more swiftly towards your goals.

If you already know where you’re using should in your life, share in the comments below. Let us know how you plan on cutting that should out.

Who are you? Look no further than your values

Who are you and what do you want?

Give yourself a few moments to think about it, and if you can, write down what comes to mind.

I admit I used to loathe when people asked me this question, and not because I thought they wanted to know too much, but because I didn’t actually know the answer to the question! The quickest things that would come to mind were my name, my age (if I felt like disclosing it), my job title, the city I lived in and that’s about it. Sound familiar?

I would leave those moments in frustration thinking to myself, “Geez, who am I and what am I all about and why is this question stumping me so much?!?”

I didn’t ask the question at the beginning of this post to trip you up, but to invite you to focus, even if only for a moment, to tune in to who you are at your core – the person beyond your job title, the city you live in and your relationship status. What’s important to you? What experiences do you seek? What legacy do you want to leave?

From what I’ve seen, too many of us don’t know who we are and what we want, because we’ve spent most of our lives being told who we should be and what we should want that when asked, we’re unable to articulate a response that’s clear, confident and that reflects our true substance. I would even argue that this also extends to businesses.

If this has you thinking, “Well, how do I begin to figure out who I am and what I want?” not to worry, because I have an exercise that will help you.

Values… why values?

One big step in figuring out who you are and what you want is identifying your values. Values help us to determine what’s important to us and serve as a blueprint for a fulfilling life. They’re unique to each individual – one person may value connection, freedom and abundance, while another may value solitude, influence and loyalty. The first person may be more inclined to be her own boss and like networking with a variety of people, while the second may prefer a position in an organization she can stay with for a long time and work independently. When we know what our values are, we’re informed and empowered to choose the career, experiences and people that invite more of what makes us feel good in our lives.

Discovering your values

Figuring out what your values are doesn’t have to be a laborious task. Ask yourself what you spend time doing that makes you feel good. On the flip side, ask yourself what experiences or behaviours really irk you. Jot your answers down. You’ll start to see a pattern develop. Perhaps you seek out thrilling activities like zip lining or boot camp, and so you may value adventure or intensity. Maybe you become livid when someone jumps the line at the grocery store or you see people get taken advantage of, and so you might value fairness or justice. A quick Google search for “list of values” will provide an abundance of words you can choose from to zero in on what’s important to you. This exercise is sure to serve you with an “aha” moment or two.

Putting your values into action

When we know what our values are, we become empowered to make conscious decisions about our lives. We’re far more easily able to define who we are, what we want and design a life filled with relationships, endeavours, and activities that honour what’s most important to us. The more we take steps to honour our values, the more we feel in tune with ourselves and live from an authentic space of joy. If it feels like a stretch to start putting your values into action, start small. The intention is not to jump from 0 to 100 and quit your job or end a relationship. Avoid thinking about making such drastic moves to start. Begin with one small step like putting aside 15 minutes of “me time” daily or sign up for that rock climbing club that meets once a month.

Closing words…

My most confusing moments about who I am and what I want have also been my unhappiest moments in life where I didn’t know my values (or temporarily strayed from them) – the job that no longer aligned with my value of autonomy, the relationship that didn’t click with my value of connection, the coaching program that didn’t speak to my value of creativity. When we find ourselves in a place of confusion, chances are we’re not in alignment with our values. Thankfully, we don’t have to go far to figure out what those are and make changes that get us back on track.

What’s one of your values and how will you make sure you’re honouring it going forward? Comment below and let us know!

You owe it to yourself to stand out from the crowd

You have something that no one else in this world has. You are one of a kind. You have a unique combination of skills, talents and gifts that no one else possesses. You have a unique path and journey to experience that is unlike anyone else’s. And there are people in the world who need what you have.

You might be wondering what the heck I’m talking about, but hear me out…

Remember when you were a child how imaginative and creative you were? You sang and danced and dressed up in the silliest of costumes you could think up and you thought you could do and be anything you wanted when you grew up. Remember when what anyone thought was so far from your mind, and you were just being you?

We live in a society that approves of people and businesses that conform. We’re expected to act and look a certain way. We’re expected to accomplish a list of specific things by externally defined milestones, and then we’re held up for comparison against others and given labels for what we’ve accomplished, or not. Consciously or unconsciously, for better or worse (usually worse), we give life to those labels.

Each time we give life to those labels, we shrink back to fit in. The more we “fit in”, the more we diminish our shine.

How would you live your life if you didn’t worry about what others thought about you? Would you live it the way you are right now? Would you be in the job you’re in? Wear the clothes you wear? Speak the way you do? Run your business the way you run it presently?

If the answer to any of these questions is no, what is continuing to do it the same way costing you?

Two years ago, I asked myself this same question. My life was vastly different from how it is now. I had been with the same company for close to eight years waiting to be promoted to the next step on the corporate ladder. In my mind, I had to move up, because that’s what you’re supposed to do to be successful in our society. I was feeling frustrated and deflated and stuck and I had back pain – lots of back pain!

I was suffocating, living a robotic existence of commuting, work, unwind in front of the TV. Rinse, repeat. I knew there was some specific contribution I was meant to make in the world – an untapped potential that was so desperate to emerge, it was becoming painful. It became clear to me that I didn’t want to one day look back and regret that I didn’t find a way to free that potential and make my own unique mark in the world. In that realization came another more profound one – I had choice. I always had choice, and in that moment, I decided to make the most risky, scariest decision I ever made. I decided to stand out from the crowd and do something many talk about, but rarely act on.

While I didn’t know what I was moving towards, the clarity and declaration of making a different choice rapidly opened up circumstances and opportunities that enabled me to leave my job five months later in the best possible way one could dream up. I didn’t have another job lined up (people thought I was crazy) nor had I started my own business as yet (it wasn’t even a thought in my mind).  Somehow I was OK with that, because I knew I would figure it out – my way – and I did. Oh and the back pain? It went away. Permanently.

There are people in the world who need what you have – that dream, that idea, the expression of your journey, that way of doing something that no one else does. In that space resides joy, fulfillment, passion, freedom and your unique imprint on the world. If this post resonates with you, let it be proof that just as that is, there are people out there waiting for you. You owe it to yourself to stand out from the crowd. Will you?

What’s one gift, talent, skill or idea you’ve held back on to “fit in”? How can you embrace it and begin making your unique imprint on the world? Share your thoughts in the comments below.