Monday, December 20, 2010

Beyond Avoidance: The dangers of "should"

This blog is part of a series of posts that chronicle my participation in Reverb 10. Reverb 10 is an online event that encourages its participants to reflect on the past year and gear up for what's to come in the next. A prompt is given each day to fuel some personal reflection. Although I'm a little late on starting the challenge, I'm still looking forward to 18 days of honesty, acceptance, and growth.

December 20 – Beyond Avoidance

What should you have done this year but didn’t because you were too scared, worried, unsure, busy or otherwise deterred from doing? (Bonus: Will you do it?)  (Author: Jake Nickell)

My initial response to this post is, "...ugh." Right off the bat, I'm struck by the word "should." I remember being told in a group therapy session that one step to healing our lives was to erase the word "should" from our vocabulary. At first, I remember being a bit confused and not understanding what this would help. I should be polite to be people. I should clean up after myself. I should send people thank-you cards. These were all positive things attached to that mysterious S-word, so what was the problem?

Now I understand. The problem was that I had only applied "should" scenarios to the future tense. I had neglected to think about the PAST tense. "I shouldn't have kissed that guy." "I should have been more honest with myself and others." "I should have worked harder." When I apply the S-word to the past, all I come up with is regret. And now I understand what the therapists were telling us.

The S-word can be a dangerous thing to play with. In the past, it reminds us mistakes made or roads not taken. We regret our actions and become obsessed with the great "What If's" of life. I try not to think about regret. I know myself and when I start on a regret train of thought, my mind goes to negative places. Instead, I'd rather find the positive in any situation that I may regret. I firmly believe that I can learn something from every experience, even if what I learn is along the lines of, "Well THAT was a mistake, I'm never doing that again!"

As far as future should's, I'm thinking I might want to avoid those as well. They imply doing something that I don't want to do or that other people expect me to do. I want to enter 2011 knowing that I am making my own decisions. Even if my decisions end in a less-than satisfying situation, I can say that I made the decision for myself AND that I learned from it. I want to stop doing things just to please others. I want to continue to push those negative thoughts of regret out of my mind. I want to shed the emotional burden of "should."


  1. Nice post. The S-word does haunt us all.

  2. Oddly enough, I wrote a very similar post right before I saw yours. I completely agree: no more shoulds.