When we use energy-draining, negative self-talk that starts with “I should have…” or “I should be able to…” we often do more to drain our motivation than support it. It’s best not to “should” on oneself but if we do, we might want to take a moment ask ourselves if what we’re telling ourselves is actually true.
Shoulds and oughts are mostly ineffective for creating an incentive to follow through. Like dragging ourselves to a task by a chain around our neck, it’s unpleasant and probably not going to work.
When we catch ourselves thinking a should thought, it may help to pause and ask ourselves “is that true”? If the matter in question is legal, health or safety-related as in, “I should renew my driver’s licence” or “…clear the skateboard away from the stairs”, then once considered, we’ll probably jump past I should and go right to DO IT NOW, and there we have it—incentive to follow through!
If it is a case of “I should send Aunt Emma a thank you note for the tea towels”, we might ask ourselves, “I should do it according to whom?” When it comes to social niceties, it’s usually OK to keep it simple. While a card with a handwritten note might be suggested by Miss Manners, timely follow-through may be better served with an e-mail or phone call.
When we are up to our knees in clutter, thinking “I should get organized”, doesn’t create a plan to do so and can makes matters worse by calling up an even greater disincentive, shame. Get out of this thinking quickly, with humour, as in, “Maybe I should also help bring about world peace!” (Hint: act locally–in both instances).
Following through with tasks, even potentially overwhelming ones, is more likely to come from a place of what can I do, rather than what should I do. Try to remember to keeping self-talk motivating in a pleasant way and follow through simple.