I Should…(Says Who?)

*5 minute read.*

[Click here to listen to the podcast of this post.]

“I should really stay back late at work to finish this project.”

“I should do what she tells me to.”

“I should work harder.”

“I should just accept the way things are and not make a fuss.”


Do these kinds of statements sound familiar?

When I was in my fourth year of university, studying architecture, I had a little crisis (love a good crisis!). I was in the middle of a rollercoaster romance and I had recently transferred universities and I was struggling with the change of environment and demands of the new school. So I did something that I look back on now with pride and something I’m proud to say I’ve continued to do since then. In a time of crisis I asked for support.

I was lucky at the time to be able to share a few sessions with a great counsellor on campus called Glen (I’ve mentioned him before on this blog).

During one of my meetings with Glen I was explaining to him how stressed I was with my upcoming deadlines and how I was really suffering from a lack of motivation. On the one hand I wanted to do well but on the other hand I just couldn’t be bothered:

“I know I should really try to do my best with this but sometimes I just can’t find the motivation…”

I remember Glen interrupting me halfway through this sentence with a question:

“Says who?”

“I beg your pardon?” I replied.

“You should try to do your best…Says who?” Glen replied.

I looked at him bemused. I had never been asked this kind of question before! I was completely speechless!

Glen went on to say:

“I’d like you to consider erasing the word “should” from your vocabulary from now on.”

This really challenged me. How could I erase the word “should” from my vocabulary? Surely, we all have obligations, things that we have to do. If we have an obligation then we should do it right?

Glen’s message gradually started to penetrate my confused mind.

At first I started to notice when I used the word “should” in my day-to-day conversations.

Then I started to respond to my own “shoulds” with the question “says who?”

It made me think.

I started really wondering who it was telling me I should.

I started to realise that most of the time the “who” wasn’t me.

I started to realise that a lot of my life up until that point had been spent entrapped, doing things that I thought others expected me to do.

I started to realise that I had been living an unconscious life in the service of others expectations. I had handed my power over to others.


Glen wasn’t trying to encourage me to become an anarchist, abandon the needs of others or ignore beneficial guidance. He was simply asking me to consider becoming more conscious of my behaviour. He was teaching me to qualify my actions.

And this message has continued to reappear at different points in my life, most recently in Robert Glover’s book ‘No More Mr Nice Guy!‘ In the book Glover makes the following affirmation:

If you are an adult you are old enough to live a self-approved life. You are old enough to practice self-determination.

Be Awesome is all about empowering US ALL to make our own choices. It is about recognising that ONLY WE are responsible for our own well-being. Our life is entirely OUR responsibility. To deny this responsibility and hand over our power to others is OUR choice.

Some interesting things have happened for me over the years since I’ve been practicing qualifying my actions. Some things that I thought I “should” do I have realised were just the opinions of others that I didn’t actually agree with.

Other things that I once thought I “should” do I’ve questioned and seen that these messages were based on wise guidance and I’ve chosen to embrace this guidance in my actions. In this qualifying process I have been able to turn something that was once a powerless obligation into an empowered, chosen action. In the process of questioning, while the actions might not have changed, they have taken on greater personal value and reward.

So, I challenge you:

  •  Try re-framing any sentence from “I should____” to “I choose to____, because”. For me, this would go from: “I should start writing the Be Awesome blog for this week” to “I choose to write the Be Awesome blog now because it is a committment that is helping me grow and enriching the lives of others.” Powerful huh?
  • If you hear the word “should” in a sentence, ask “says who?” If the who is not you, then consider the value of where the “should” is coming from.

Til next week, Be Awesome!



5 thoughts on “I Should…(Says Who?)

  1. I’ve been on an anti-should crusade for several years. While it’s fine to catch and correct myself, the brash me now often catches and pauses others – maybe too frequently. But to your post, it’s a noble cause. 🙂 In addition to “should” I believe we also have a similar opportunity with the phrase “have to…” In this case, I “choose to” is equally appropriate. Excellent post, Christian. A good lesson for all.

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