Bret Burchard 01/27/2021
2 Minutes

Swayed By Shoulds

This is Part 3 of a six-part series on how to recognize if you’re performing with an inferior mindset. The first clue was to notice when you are stuck with no clear way forward.

Clue #2: You’re swayed by shoulds.

It’s a powerful but unhealthy motivator. It drives us to work past the point of exhaustion, feel unsatisfied with the progress we’ve made, or believe that we are incapable. 

It’s the word should.

You’re taking much-needed time off but the voice inside your head tells you that you should be working. Every successful person is committed to taking no days off. 

They hired someone else or recruited overtop of you - again. You shouldn’t still be playing the role of the supporting cast member. It’s time to make them feel the pain of regret. 

You’re making the same mistakes over and over. You should be further along. Maybe you’re just not cut out for this. 

The should statements we use to critique and criticize are born out of a presence of shame. We compare ourselves to a standard someone else has set and it makes us feel bad about who we are. 

Comparison is a zero-sum game that you always lose, but is difficult to avoid. You always lose it because you elevate others above yourself, making you feel bad about your current status or you elevate yourself above others and fail to see the bigger vision of who you could become. Either way, you hold yourself back.

It’s difficult to avoid because two voices constantly amplify it: the voice of tradition and the voice of others. 

The voice of tradition presets the path you’re supposed to follow to your chosen destination. It’s the way it’s always been done. If you break from the path you will surely fail. If you deviate from the consensus then you’ll be outcast from the community. It sets artificial barriers to the unique impact you can have.

The voice of the other comes from an influential person in your life. Whether explicitly or implied, they express expectations for what you’re supposed to do and who you’re supposed to become. You are driven by an inner desire to please them and seek their approval. 

The presence of these two voices creates an anxious tension in our life that clouds our decision making. We can’t relax into who we really are. We can’t make clear-minded assessments of the tools, skills, and challenges that are affecting our success. 

We do our best work from a relaxed state, when our outputs, effort and contributions are an overflow of who we are. When you hear yourself using the word should or shouldn’t, take it as a caution flag for the presence of shame and counter with a question: Who told you that?

Who told you that you’re too good for this role?

Who told you that is a mistake only rookies make?

Who told you that you’re not qualified?

Don’t let the pressures of tradition and others derail your growth forward. Don’t be distracted by comparison. Be a participant in your own journey, not a spectator of someone else’s. 

Shed the shoulds and chart your own path. Clear your mind and take the next best step forward.



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