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!”

A Must Read for a Happy and Satisfied Life!


Image by skampy via Flickr

What is the one word that you wish you could delete from your mind’s dictionary? If you deleted it, you would never think of its meaning again nor be influenced by its consequences. Any word come to mind?

“MUST” is a Dangerous Word

My most desired deletion is the word, “MUST.”

Oh sure, many other words can get me into deep do-do, but no other concept like the one represented by the four letters m, u, s, and t has led me to as much anger and frustration. I believe that “MUST” is very dangerous to your well-being. How about you?

When you think about it, we really have very few true “MUSTS” in life. “MUSTS” by definition mean we have no choice or alternative, so we must do or accept the predicate of a must sentence as fact. For example: “If I want to continue as a human being, I must breathe.”

Make Your “MUSTS” List

Stop reading for a minute and make a list of your own “MUSTS” in-order for you to live a happy and satisfied life. (No really, you “MUST” stop reading and make a list of your musts or the rest of this post is a waste of your time!) Funny huh?

Now that you made  your list of “MUST” have for happiness and satisfaction list, could you defend your “MUSTS” in a court of law? More difficult yet, can it be defended  in a court of logic?

The Magic of Wishes

Most of the time we lie to ourselves and believe that we have discovered a “MUST,” when in reality, we have a “PREFERENCE” or a “DESIRE” or a “WISH.” For example: “I “MUST” have (fill in the blank) to be happy and satisfied.” I might like to have (fill in the blank), but I can think of some other ways I might be happy and satisfied without (fill in the blank.) So it may very will be my preference or even good for me to have whatever I think I might need to be happy and satisfied, but “MUST” it really be so? Most often the logical answer is no. Many frustrations magically disappear if we can simply find and replace our “MUST” with “WISH.”

My problem is that I am not a purely logical creature. I am an imperfect human that is quick to “MUST” in many situations. When I don’t get my “MUST” then I do the childish technique called pitching an internal temper tantrum to express my feelings of anger, frustration, unfairness and righteous indignation of my present world. Because to my emotional mind, when a “MUST” is not happening, then it is “AWFUL!” and “MUST NOT” be that way.

Rational Emotive Behavioral Therapy

Dr.Albert Ellis, PhD, was a noted American psychologist, who is the father of a theory of mental treatment called Rational Emotive Behavioral Therapy (REBT).

Dr. Ellis suggested three core beliefs or philosophies that humans tend to use to think themselves into feeling disturbed:

“I absolutely MUST, under practically all conditions and at all times, perform well (or outstandingly well) and win the approval (or complete love) of significant others. If I fail in these important—and sacred—respects, that is awful and I am a bad, incompetent, unworthy person, who will probably always fail and deserves to suffer.”

(Rational result: Holding this belief when faced with adversity tends to contribute to feelings of anxiety, panic, depression, despair, and worthlessness.)

“Other people with whom I relate or associate, absolutely MUST, under practically all conditions and at all times, treat me nicely, considerately and fairly. Otherwise, it is terrible and they are rotten, bad, unworthy people who will always treat me badly and do not deserve a good life and should be severely punished for acting so abominably to me.”

(Rational result: Holding this belief when faced with adversity tends to contribute to feelings of anger, rage, fury, and vindictiveness.)

“The conditions under which I live absolutely MUST, at practically all times, be favorable, safe, hassle-free, and quickly and easily enjoyable, and if they are not that way it’s awful and horrible and I can’t bear it. I can’t ever enjoy myself at all. My life is impossible and hardly worth living.”

(Rational result: Holding this belief when faced with adversity tends to contribute to frustration and discomfort, intolerance, self-pity, anger, depression, and to behaviors such as procrastination, avoidance, and inaction.)

Source: Ellis, Albert (2003). Early theories and practices of rational emotive behavior theory and how they have been augmented and revised during the last three decades. Journal of Rational-Emotive & Cognitive-Behavior Therapy, 21(3/4)

A Cure for “MUST-ITIS”

There is a simple cure for “MUST-ITIS.” Confront your thinking logically with questions like: “Is it true that I “MUST”…?” “What evidence do I have to support my “MUST” belief?”

Most likely upon close analysis, we have misused “MUST” and will clarify and diffuse our explosive reactions by substituting “WISH” or “PREFER” instead.

Lastly, once we have our wishes and preferences clearly before us, we can choose how we want to feel and respond to them. We can decide that we might wish something were different, but it “IS” what it “REALLY IS” and we can accept it as it really is. We might not like it, but if we cannot change it, we can accept it.

There is tremendous power to battle “MUST-ITIS” in Reinhold Neibuhr‘s untitled serenity prayer:

God, grant us the…Serenity to accept things we cannot change, Courage to change the things we can, and the Wisdom to know the difference Patience for the things that take time Appreciation for all that we have, and Tolerance for those with different struggles Freedom to live beyond the limitations of our past ways, the Ability to feel your love for us and our love for each other and the Strength to get up and try again even when we feel it is hopeless.

Our world “MUST” be as it is because that is the way that it is. We may not like it, but it will ruin us if we believe that it “MUST” be different and to our liking. We can do our part to change our circumstance or situation to be more to our liking, but if we are unsuccessful, we can accept it and live with it.

Here’s to a successful “MUST-ECTOMY!”

I “WISH” you happiness and satisfaction.

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