Getting Rid of Those Nagging “Should Thoughts”

Shouldn't have painted the town red last night

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:”

  1. Identify the should thoughts: what have you been telling yourself you should be doing?
  2. Identify how you feel after you have these thoughts: do you feel guilty, embarrassed, afraid?
  3. 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.
  4. 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.”

1 Comment

  • star says:

    Hello,
    Thank you. I am good at these “should thoughts.” I am sitting down on my couch now as myself should I go running or wait until later. Then the excuses begin to pop up and one of the main excuses is that it is too hot. Another thing that pops up in my mind is listening to others opinion about what I chose to do with my life. One of my goals is to compete in a fitness competition. I started training and then I stopped. This competition is when one competes on stage and perform a dance routine. This is not bodybuilding. So what am I waiting for. Now since I have turned 50 three months, I still have a desire to accomplish this goal, but I must stop with the “should thoughts.” I realize now I am the one responsible for my making this happen. I have set the date for my fitness competition. It in in September, so I have ample time to train. Thank you for this post.

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