A Coaching Power Tool Created by Lisa Liljeberg
(Career Coach, ITALY)
(Otherwise known as DON’T “ SHOULD” ON YOURSELF!”)
Have you ever said to yourself something like “I really should exercise more.” And then immediately come up with some excuse why you couldn’t? “I have to get the kids to school. No time before work. No time after work” etc . I know I have! So what happens when we say the word “should?” What’s so powerful about that word? What does it immediately bring up? RESISTANCE.
SHOULD almost always comes from the outside, from somebody else. It is almost invariably someone else’s (a parent or someone we admire)value or belief that we have unconsciously adopted somewhere along the way. Our subconscious KNOWS it isn’t OUR idea, so why SHOULD we do it?! It is a sort of childish reaction, albeit subconscious: “NO! I want to do it MY way!”
When someone starts a sentence with “I should – do – this, that, or the other thing,” it just BEGS the question, “Who says? Who says you SHOULD?”
But, instead of asking this question, which might take us into the world of the past, I prefer to look to the future, and ask that person to repeat the statement they just made, substituting the word “could” for the word “should”. “I COULD do this, that, or the other thing.”
What often happens at first, is a moment of silence, and then the realization: “It’s true, I COULD do this, but I COULD also do, a bunch of OTHER things, that I hadn’t thought about before.”
Just changing the verb from SHOULD to COULD, opens up a whole new world of possibilities. SHOULD is almost always somebody else’s idea, which we have subconsciously made our own. There are, of course, exceptions. Sometimes the person will then reflect and say “What I really meant to say, is I WANT to do this.” Great. They have achieved some clarity around the choice to do something. They have owned that choice. Whereas if their SHOULD does come from the outside, often in that moment, they will realize that this is NOT what they really want to do. And in that moment of realization, they then begin to explore new possibilities, new solutions, new options that they COULD do, in the exact same situation.
Let’s take an example:
“I SHOULD go to the gym everyday for at least an hour.” Rather limiting in terms of possibilities –OR- “I COULD go to the gym everyday, for at least an hour, but I COULD also alternate the gym with a bike ride, which I really enjoy, or maybe just go to the gym for ½ hour at lunchtime, so I am energized for the afternoon. Or maybe I could take a brisk walk after lunch, or maybe, if I work out really hard one day, I could give my body a rest the next day, so that the following day, I’ll have even MORE energy!” See how many more possibilities there are?
Now let’s take an example in the “negative”:
“I SHOULDN’T have another glass of wine.” Sounds a little reprimanding, at best. –OR- “I COULD NOT have another glass of wine, which would probably allow me to sleep better, so that tomorrow morning, I won’t be grumpy, and I’ll start my day out on a positive note.” In this case, the person has thought about the consequences of another glass of wine and CHOSEN NOT to have it. He is not just blindly following a self-imposed rule that feels limiting and depriving. The alternative”COULD” scenario sounds logical and actually, inviting. In this case, the person CHOOSES NOT to have another glass of wine and take care of himself, instead of simply depriving himself.
As coaches, when we have a client who is perhaps trying to change a habit, or form a new habit with something they SHOULD do, invite them to substitute the verb COULD for SHOULD and wait – and see what happens.
You can always ask them “Who says you should?” It might just assist them to realize that it really wasn’t their idea in the first place, but maybe it WAS actually a good idea! And now, instead of resisting the imposed idea, they have consciously embraced it and made it their own. They see that they COULD adopt that behavior and benefit from it and then CHOOSE to do it.
The opposite scenario is equally possible. I had this experience recently myself. In planning my coaching business, I got caught up in the whirlwind of excitement with a coaching group I was in. Everyone was aiming for the stars – a six figure income was possible! Oh boy! I was on board with that one! Then I began to experience a sense of overwhelm, of losing momentum. I got a sore throat. I wasn’t sleeping well, thinking about everything I had to do to build my business to that level. And suddenly I realized (literally at 3 am) I didn’t WANT a six figure income! I had adopted everyone else’s idea and thought I SHOULD want that too. Whereas earlier on, I had taken the time to define exactly what kind of life I wanted: maximum of 2 clients per day, so I had the time to do my daily work-out (which is of the utmost importance to me), meditate, work around the house (I am a carpenter and LOVE projects!) We own our house free and clear, so our monthly expenses are reasonable. Additionally, I had decided to create an online group coaching course, which would leverage my time and allow me to help more people at once. And I had decided to do one or two expedition coaching trips per year, to satisfy my love of adventure. Once I got back in touch with MY big picture, I realized I COULD have a six figure income, but I also realized that I COULD choose NOT to do that, and honor my own needs and values.
Helping our clients recognize and honor their own needs, wants, values and beliefs is the key to assisting them in creating an ideal life.
So, the next time you use the “S” WORD, make light of it and say to yourself: DON’T SHOULD ON YOURSELF! Then be sure to honor YOUR truth! Follow YOUR heart and YOUR intuition!