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This One Word is the Biggest Thing Holding You Back

There is one word that as a Career Coach, I hate more than others. One that I’ve obliterated from my vocabulary. One that I call out every time a client mentions it.

It’s a word that speaks the truth about intentions, is self-defeating, and tells me that change will NOT happen today, tomorrow, or potentially ever. It tells me that a client is not mentally ready to put in the effort to achieve the success they want.

That word?


Why is the word should so harmful?

As soon as we put the word “should” in our sentence, it’s indicting to ourselves (and others) that we are not going to prioritize or place importance on that idea or action, although we recognize that it has value and merit.

“Should” is sneaky, because the word “should” indicates that there is an action and a level of priority that we need to assign to the idea, BUT that priority is low compared to what else we’re doing.

Should is the coward’s way of passively not taking responsibility or putting in the effort for items they know would be beneficial to them.

Here’s what we’re saying when we say the word “should”

  • “I should do that” = “I won’t do that”
  • “I should know what that means” = “I won’t learn what that means”
  • “I should read that book = “I’m not reading that book”
  • “I should lose 10 pounds” = “I don’t think I can lose 10 pounds”

What’s worse than our inactivity when we say we “should”, is the value we still ascribe to the idea or action. When we put actions and goals into the “should” category, we recognize that there is VALUE – but when we don’t do it, we allow ourselves to feel GUILT because, well, we SHOULD have done it.

Guilt and should go hand-in-hand and are a huge trigger for negative self-talk, doubt, anxiety and depression. Should invariably leads to “why didn’t I…”

So, how to get around the toxic outcomes of “SHOULD”? Start taking active voices when handling actions and ideas. It takes some internal listening, but decided, in the moment, whether you can take it on “I will” or if it’s not worth your time “I won’t”.

  • “I should do that” = “I will do that”
  • “I should know what that means” = “I will learn what that means”
  • “I should read that book” = “I going to buy that book.”
  • “I should lose 10 pounds” = “I going to lose 10 pounds”

Be honest with what you can and can’t take on. You only have so much room in your life, and if something doesn’t fit, assign value to it, but understand that you’re not in a place to take it on because you are choosing to prioritize other things. This is how we stop the guilt monster.

  • “I should do that” = “I am focused on other things right now”
  • “I should know what that means” = “I don’t care enough to know what that means”
  • “I should read that book” = “My reading list is already backlogged”
  • “I should lose 10 pounds” = “I’m going on vacation and want to enjoy my time”

This is how we take ownership of our thoughts, actions, and outcomes.

But first, we need to kick “SHOULD” out of our vocabulary.

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