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Quit Shoulding Yourself!

Have you ever found yourself trying to enjoy some “found” time? For example, you were able to get off work a little early or it could even be the weekend and you just want to binge watch the latest season of Stranger Things or whatever Marvel series is out on Netflix.  So you settle into doing whatever you feel like doing and then your mind starts in on you. You have some free time now, you SHOULD be doing your errands, or your chores, or working on that paper or project. This is called shoulding yourself. Yes, I’m having a little fun with the term, and it is true. This is an example of your mind getting in your way. The majority of the time, when you hear the word “should” in your thoughts, I can pretty much guarantee it is what we call in the coaching world, a saboteur or gremlin, one of those voices that we’ve developed to help us survive childhood (even if it was a good childhood) and is now getting in the way.

Let me give you a common example of a potential saboteur for us superachievers. Shirzad Chamine, in his work on Positive Intelligence (you can check out his website at positiveintelligence.com), has identified 10 general categories of saboteurs developed by individuals. One of which is the Hyper-Achiever, this saboteur equates self-worth with achievement. This is also the little bugger behind overachieving. Notice I didn’t say superachieving – overachieving is when an individual is driven to achieve for external validation of their self-worth whereas a superachiever is internally validated and achieves because they want to make a positive impact on the world while growing themselves in the process. Back to the Hyper-Achiever saboteur – if you have this voice in your head, you most likely developed it because you somehow equated your achievements as a child with love received. Maybe you got more attention or massive celebrations when you made the honor roll – you’re the only one that can really figure out why you developed it – either way, let’s look at the results of developing this saboteur. If you have the Hyper-Achiever saboteur, when you sit down to relax after a long week, it’s voice starts whispering that you should be working on your goals – you have things to accomplish. You shouldn’t be taking a nap, you still have things on your to-do list for today. Of course, there are other saboteurs that will do the same thing to you. For example, the Pleaser saboteur is the voice you’ve developed because you have a belief that you should take care of others – even to your detriment. So when you sit down to relax or spend some time goofing off, this one is saying that you should be helping so and so with this or that, or some other form of shoulding.

Hopefully you get the idea – now I really pay attention when I notice my thoughts using “should” a lot. Hmm – this must be a saboteur, what’s going on here? Unfortunately these negative voices that we hear will never fully go away. I like to think of them as toddlers. If you’ve ever spent time around a toddler, you know that if they are having a tantrum, you either ignore them or distract them, because there is no way you can logically reason with a toddler – they haven’t developed that ability yet. I’d recommend you go to positiveintelligence.com/assessments and take the Saboteur Assessment created by Shirzad Chamine. You’ll get a really neat report that tells you which saboteurs you most likely have, how you potentially got them, what they are probably saying to you, and ways you can minimize their impact on you.

The best strategy for quieting these voices is mindfulness. Some sort of meditation practice – whatever best works for you. I recommend you listen to my Quit Bleeping Around® podcast interview with Sam Shelley of Head Trash Anonymous. He took me through one of his mindfulness sessions – I wasn’t sure what to expect since I had already been working on quieting the voices for a few years now, but even he was able to help me free my mind more.

The bottom line here folks is that you need to stop shoulding yourself so much and I’ve provided a few strategies in this blog for you to do just that! Now come up with what works for you to quiet those voices.

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