Take a minute to think about all of the “should thoughts” that plague your mind. People tell themselves what they should be doing all the time: “I should spend more time exercising,” “I should be further along in my career,” “I should have a way bigger savings account.” Sound familiar?
Licensed Clinical Social Worker Ruth Feinblum writes that these “should thoughts” “create feelings of anxiety, shame or incompetence and hinder efforts at making changes that would meet their life goals.”
Here are Ruth’s recommendations for tackling “should thoughts:”
- Identify the should thoughts: what have you been telling yourself you should be doing?
- Identify how you feel after you have these thoughts: do you feel guilty, embarrassed, afraid?
- Create an alternate thought that is realistic and logical. It should be a thought that acknowledges the concern and identifies an effective change that you can make. The template she suggests is: “I wish I was [thing that is bothering you] and this is causing me to feel [negative feeling]. But I can [identify a productive action].” For example: I wish I had a bigger savings account, and this is making me feel anxious. But, I can spend $50 less on clothes this month and put that right in my savings account.
- Every time you have the “should thought,” replace it with the alternate thought.
So instead of letting those “should thoughts” nag at you, take ownership over them and the way you think about your goals! Perhaps everyone can take advice from Carry Bradshaw in Sex in the City when she says, “As we drive along this road called life, occasionally a gal will find herself a little lost. And when that happens, I guess she has to let go of the coulda, shoulda, woulda, buckle up and just keep going.”