Swap Could for Should for More Possibilities


A bottle of Trappist milk

“Should” is not my friend.  This word too often inflames guilty feelings and prompts me to invest precious time and mental capacity doing things and thinking thoughts that I might not choose to do otherwise if it were not for the word “should.”

I have much more affection for the word, “could.”  One letter swapped, “c” for “sh” can free one from guilt and open the door of endless possibilities.  Could you possibly give it a try?

The main difference between choosing the “sh” and the “c” is “should” requires a value judgment.  All too often, I have discovered that the values being used to judge if something “should” be done are someone’s other than my own.  Many of one’s “shoulds” are the world bossing one around and trying to guilt one into doing the world’s bidding and to color in the lines of false responsibilities.

Asking oneself if it is really a “should” situation based on one’s own priorities, goals, responsibilities and values is very effective in unmasking false “shoulds” that are actually only possible “coulds.”  Are we brave enough to challenge each “should” by asking, “According to whom?”

For example: I see that someone in my family has left the milk out on the kitchen counter.  I judge this an undesirable situation because I do not want to take a big swig of potentially spoiled milk nor do I want to have my hard-earned  money wasted by having the milk spoil instead of being able to drink it.  Someone in my family “should not” have left the milk out of the refrigerator.  She (I’m the only male in the family and I didn’t leave the milk out this time.) “should” have been more responsible and “should” have returned the milk to the refrigerator!  I am now faced with a moral dilemma, “should” I forgive this blatant carelessness and put the milk in the refrigerator or “should” I interrogate and find the guilty party and force her to put the milk up after a stern chastisement?  I “could” do that, but “should” I do that?  Not if I desire love and peace and to avoid stupid confrontations, so I choose to think of the milk as a friendly reminder that I live with very busy people who sometimes eat on the run and choose to put the milk back into the refrigerator as an act of love and  service in support of my family.

The challenge with “should” is that once one’s wishes, hopes and preferences move from the mental storehouse of possibilities into the condo of expectations, they pass through judgment’s door and move from a “could” into a “should” and sometimes they become solidified to the point of transforming from a “should” to a “MUST!”  Should’s that hang around too long in our condo of expectations become “musty.”  When our “shoulds” and “musts” go unfulfilled we mentally slide down the slope of emotional control from disappointment to anger.  We feel like something “should” have happened and so since it “should” happen it “must” happen or else it will be mean, nasty, unfair and wrong.  We don’t like feeling disappointed and wronged so we get angry and mad.

Should we do this to ourselves?  Could we keep this cycle from happening?

Swapping the “sh” of “should’ with a “c” transforms a guilty “should” in to a beautifully possible “could.”  I should wash the hounds transforms into I could wash the hounds if I choose to do so.  If I choose not to do so, then it was my decisions and I am willing to accept the responsibility and consequences of my freedom of choice!

“Coulds” are the antidote to many guilty, disappointed, and angry feelings.  It prevents one from becoming “musty.”

Psychologist Dr. Albert Ellis, PhD., wrote extensively on this subject in his theory of Rational Emotive Behavioral Therapy, (REBT). You can discovery more about REBT at the Albert Ellis Institute. http://albertellis.org.

If you want to be free from guilty feelings for procrastination, then you “SHOULD” visit his site.  See how easy it is to “should” someone.

Try creating new possibilities through letter exchange.  You “COULD” experience an amazing freedom of personal choice. One letter, “c” could make a tremendously positive difference in your life.

It could help you to choose to live, “FIRED UP!”

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About Andrew W Dix, M.S.
Author, Motivational Speaker, Performance Improvement Specialist, Executive Coach, Trainer, Reiss Motivation Profile Master and Private Pilot. Expertise in motivation, leadership, strengths, management, coaching, advertising and sales.

2 Responses to Swap Could for Should for More Possibilities

  1. las artes says:

    But knowing it’s free will kinda spoils the complaining and feeling put upon, doesn’t it? Even without any change in behavior, just a new awareness of how dominated our thoughts are by perceived obligations and obedience can be transformational. In a profound way, saying “choose to” rather than “should” is more honest, and speaking truthfully will gain you the esteem of others, and self-esteem.

    • Andrew W Dix says:

      Thanks for your comment! I couldn’t agree more.

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