Shoulding occurs when you dwell on the things that you or others should or should not have done. This often happens when you are unhappy with the outcome of a situation, but can even come when you have gotten the results you wanted, but still second-guess your actions, methods or behaviors. For writers this can be a constant problem. We should work harder. We should promote ourselves better. We should find “a real job”. We shouldn’t end a sentence with a preposition. We should comment on other people’s blogs more often. The list goes on and on.
Here is an example of shoulding:
Poor self talk: I shouldn’t have played Everquest this morning instead of getting started on my guest blogs. I should put work before fun. I should take care of my obligations so that they aren’t hanging over my head. I should make a to-do list and keep working on it until everything is complete.
Realistic self talk: I would love to have all of my work done and feel like I am caught up with everything, but I know there will always more things on my to-do list. I don’t know a single person who has completed everything they want to do, and I don’t know what I would do with myself if I ever did. It is OK to have fun, even when there is still work to be done.
Some ways to avoid shoulding:
- Accept the fact that very few things in life happen perfectly
- Look for ways to improve but don’t punish yourself for your mistakes
- Don’t allow yourself to be defeated because something did not go the way you wanted it to
- Have confidence in your ability to overcome obstacles
Note: The terminology I am using from an excellent textbook called Stress Management for Wellness by Walt Schafer