What you should do


What you should do, you will not do

The S word —should— has many functions. One of them is to make a statement less direct. And when it is used to express intent, it is often lessening the intent. When something should be done, it is less likely to be done.

Things that are getting done skip the “should” step. They are addressed right away or are on the front burner.

When some task or project comes up, listen to your inner voice. If it says anything like “I should,” scratch it off. The true intent is not there; there is an unsaid wish for this thing to disappear. But there is also an underlying obligation. Dismissing it would not be acceptable. So we file it between statuses. We say we should do it.

Putting that thing on a to-do list will not make it happen. It will only help the mind to forget about it and provide evidence of our good faith in case we need to justify inaction.

Be honest, be realistic. It will be hard to do, but once in a while, dare accept the truth and either refuse or accept the task. Do not add it to the “should do” list.

Same with “could.” When an option shows up, and you say “I could do that,” what you basically say is a polite, soft, non-assertive “no.” It is a way to dismiss something without committing to its dismissal.

Same with “would.” Saying “I would do that” is just a way to say you won’t without honestly saying so.

These words have been created just for that, to leave the options open. “Should” means that may or may not be done. “Shall” is a direct and strict obligation. There is no way out. Such a strict language can be incompatible with the subtleties of real life, so better nuanced wording has been invented. But this nuance invites for a mental state that is often adopted when using such wording. If your words are weak in meaning, your mental state is often weak in intent.

Use these words (should, could, would) wisely. Listen to your body and inner voice when you make use of them, aloud or mentally.

The problem with the “should do” list, is that the items do not totally go away. They linger on these yellowing posts on the fridge or above the desk. They haunt you and occupy space in your mind. They contribute to your worry.

The real remedy is to get rid of them. Let’s be real, let’s be honest. Admit that you will not commit to that engagement. Or just do it.