While seeing a counsellor in 2006, I decided it was time to remove the word ‘should’ from my universe and start following my own dreams. For far too long, the things that others thought I ‘should’ be doing had ruled my life and had left me feeling tired and uninspired. Removing that word from my vocabulary and those who used it towards me, has set me free. I was then able to uncover my dreams and start chasing them. Then, a few months ago I noticed that word creeping back into conversations I was having with the Teen Techie. The end of year exams were fast approaching and the school’s senior management started trying to fill the boy’s heads with the schools ‘shoulds’. Then a few weeks later it was the senior boy’s parents turn, and we were bombarded with these same ‘shoulds’ in the school newsletter. As you can no doubt imagine, this newsletter was met with very colourful mutterings and then deleted from my computer. I get that in some misguided way the school was trying to motivate the boys to do well, but swamping them with ‘should’ is not the way to achieve a positive outcome.

you should



  • It sets unrealistic expectations, obligations & sense of duty
  • Induces guilt
  • Decreases the desire to do things
  • Disempowers the person it is said to
  • Doesn’t provide the space for people to make their own decisions
  • Prevents people from accepting reality
  • Instead of motivating to achieve, it makes the person feel as though they are not good enough




Next time the chatter inside your head starts up, telling you that you should be doing something. Start a new conversation, asking yourself what kind of life you want to lead and why. This is your personal philosophy and what drives you to achieve the things you do.

When talking to others; offer information and suggestions rather than stating that they should do something. Then, it is up to them what they do with that information.


Jenni XXX

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  • LydiaCLee

    Interesting – I;’m good at ignoring the shoulds but I am guilty of using to to try and motivate the final year teen!

    • We also have a final year of high school teen in our house, so I know how frustrating it can be. If you ignore the should’s why do you expect your teen to follow them? I’ve found that actions and consequences get results and it’s a good lesson for them to learn.

  • Sue Loncaric

    It took me until I was 50 to discard the word ‘should’ and I still have trouble sometimes. Thanks for the reminder. Visiting from #lifethisweek link up.

    • Better late than never Sue, maybe it’s a lesson you could pass onto the next generations?

  • Ooh I like that “in place of” idea. Sometimes I need “should” so that I’m not laying around doing nothing all day and regretting it later, but I think it’s good to keep everything in perspective too.

    • If you need to be laying around recharging, go with it. It’s not doing nothing, your body and mind need down time.

  • Should is such an excuse ridden word. I wrote a children’s book once (unpublished) that goes “Should will keep you standing still; instead say could, then can, then WILL!” I really should (LOL) get that book published!

  • I have an entire (ok half!) book written on this blasted word!

  • Alicia-OneMotherHen

    Do what makes you happiest. I have had this mantra for a while now in my life. I am quite often telling people, “but I am not you”, when they tell me what I should be doing if I was them.

  • Funnily enough, I mentioned this to someone at work today when they said they ‘should have’ done something. I commented that ‘should’ was a word I tried to obliterate from my vocabulary as it only led to stress and comparison most of the time.

  • sydneyshopgirl

    That’s a great way to rethink the situation, Jenni: to ask ‘what kind of life you want to lead’.

    SSG xxx

  • Oh yes, it is a word I find myself using when I am low…and then I realise and change it to could!! Works for me. Good luck to your son. Thank you for linking up for #lifethisweek 44/52 Next Week: Taking Stock (last one for 2017)

  • Oh yes, this is a big one for me. I use SHOULD, MUST and OUGHT TO way more than I ‘should’. And yes, with it comes guilt and remorse. And usually dysfunctional behaviour acted on out of guilt! #teamlovinlife

  • It really is SO disempowering. Great article, Jenni! I’ve been reframing ‘should’ for a while now, it’s certainly something that takes practice and being present. But, worth it!

  • Kathy Marris

    I’d never thought of the word ‘should’ as being a negative word. It now all makes perfect sense that it is a word that puts so much pressure on us to keep up with the Jones’s. I am a lot better at disregarding what other people think I ‘should’ be doing now that I am older and wiser. I generally do as exactly as I please! #TeamLovinLife

    • Kathy, sharing your wisdom with the next generations of your family about the negative impact of Should, would be a great legacy.

  • I say should a lot. I should be painting the downstairs bathroom right now but instead I’m working on my blog. I know that that’s because one I want to do (the blog) and one I have to do. It does make me feel guilty I have to say. I wonder if the best way to look at is I’ll work on the blog then work on the bathroom?

    • Emmal, when you have lots of things screaming out for your time, prioritize each thing and then tick them off one after the other.

  • I saw a counsellor a number of years ago who said I *should* replace should with why not. It was a lightbulb moment for me. These days I live completely against most expectations, but every so often – usually when it comes to having to go back to Sydney for work or family responsibilities, the old patterns raise their ugly heads.

    • I find that being clear about what your priorities are, is a great way to remove the should’s from your universe. Small unfavourable things that are along the way to achieving something you want, then reframing is a great tool.