The Power (and danger) of Should

I believe  the word should is one of the most deceptive words in the English language.  Not by definition,  but because so many of us live our lives by what we feel we should do.  I’m not saying that there is never a reason to feel like you should do a particular thing.  For example, you should say thank you when someone does something nice for you.  That is part of social code that is in place to make life easier among us humans.  There are things we should do to keep us safe and healthy.  That is another part of the good side of should.

Should becomes a problem when we begin to act in ways that are contrary to our core values or beliefs simply because we feel we should.  Because it follows the norm, or what we feel is expected of us.  There are so many people today in jobs that they don’t enjoy simply because they feel that the position fit what they felt they should be doing.  A friend recently told me she took her first job because she felt she should–she didn’t like the company but that wasn’t really important at the time.  It was one of the first jobs offered to her, and she had always been told she should accept a job offer since they were few and far between.   The result?  Years spent in a job that left her unfulfilled and uninspired.

One of the reasons so many of us feel that there is something missing in our lives is that we have crafted lives that reflect what others feel we should be rather than what we believe is important.  We may choose a career path that fits what we feel we should do, even if it has nothing to do with what we want to do.  Climbing the ladder may be fine for a while, but eventually there comes a point when we realize that the Senior Vice President title isn’t as satisfying as it was supposed to be.  If the title and position that seemed so important doesn’t capitalize on our own strengths and beliefs, it will ultimately be very difficult to be truly happy.

Sometimes we do what we think we should because it is actually the easier path.  For example,  I know a man who had started his own business  doing work he found meaningful but was offered a new job in the corporate world.  The problem is  while he loves what he does, it doesn’t have the same prestige, perks, or security of his previous position.  So which is more important–the sense of satisfaction from doing something meaningful or the benefits that come with a more traditional position?  It would be easier to accept the corporate position because it fits with the general idea of what he should do, and the type of job that he should be pursuing.  The fact that it has nothing to do with what he finds important is almost secondary.  It is a question of following the should rather than the want.  A question of a life created from passion or one created by expectation.

That is why should is a very powerful–and dangerous–word.  We can easily end up doing things that we don’t believe in or necessarily agree with because we feel we should.  A life filled with proper rather than passionate actions will most likely end in a rather empty existence.   The challenge is more to blend want we need to do with what we want to do.  By eliminating the idea of should , or acting solely out of expectation when making decisions, we are more likely to live a life in balance with what we find significant and important.

And  that would definitely knock the danger out of should.




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2 Responses to The Power (and danger) of Should

  1. Kristin Barton Cuthriell September 15, 2012 at 12:12 pm #

    Well said. You bring up some great points here.

    • Chris Griffin September 15, 2012 at 7:37 pm #

      Thanks Kristin, I based a lot of decisions in life on “should” over the years, so I’m always on alert when I hear others talk about what they should do…usually not the best choice. Chris