Want More Confidence at Work? Use Key #14: Shirk 'Should'

When I sat down to write the Ultimate Guide, "How to Be Confident at Work," I picked key behaviors that great leaders know and do from a running list I'd collected from personal observation over the years. 

Not everything made the cut for the Guide, and what didn't is for another post. 

Confident Keys at Work

One Key that definitely made the cut is one of the most common...what should I call this...crutches?...I hear from clients: their 'shoulds.'

"I should know how to do this."

"I should do this differently."

"I should have done that."

"I should have stood up to him."

Confidence at Work: Shirk Should

Why is it a crutch?  From what I observe as a coach, "should" is a word that keeps people stuck. 

It's a word that promotes a pattern.  Not patterns of change, but a patterns of non-productive way of feeling that self-perpetuates.

Think about it.  What does should connote? 

Obligation.

Regret.

Guilt.

Nothing motivating about those.  Which is why it's a great habit to break.

"Shoulda, Woulda, Coulda..."

When we're so used to a pattern we often can't see the crutch and comfort it's become.  The reason we hang onto it.

How we benefit from not changing.

Those thought patterns are no longer serving us, motivating us, creating desire for change, yet they're so reflexive we often stay stuck with them and don't know why.

So how do we get unstuck from here?  With a pattern so deeply ingrained?

Here's What to Do to Shirk 'Should'

The first step I often start with is "Just Notice." 

Sounds absurdly simple: just notice when you're saying 'should' to yourself. 

Make a note when/where it happens. 

Do it for a week. 

Keep track of commonalities...do you use 'should' more around certain people, projects, things, meetings?  What patterns did you notice? In what situations did you find your 'shoulds' multiplying?  What did you feel?

Next, we'd work on creating more productive language off of the situations that were noted.  How might you change a 'should' to a future tense or something that serves you more fully?  

For example, "I should know how to do this," becomes, "I want to learn how to do this."

"I should do this differently," becomes, "Next time, I'll do this differently."

Wow.

What a difference.

And then we'd practice.  Practice. 

And practice some more. 

Make new neural pathways.

What 'should' happen...

What happens when you practice?  Your brain presents you with more possibilities as a reward. 

You stop feeling that guilt, and regret around things you don't want to do, and instead feel empowered to choose based on desire.  Not obligation. 

Oh, this one takes practice, all right.

But the rewards are fantastic. 

If you're curious, here's how "Shirk 'Should'" is phrased in the Guide:

"You’ve stopped using the word ‘should’ to generate your to-do list, priority and voice your guilty regrets.  Yo’ve replaced that ambiguous word with ‘will,’ won’t’ or ‘want to.’  You speak your intent, not other’s obligation.  You are guilt-free as a result."

Just notice.