As the New Year inches closer, so do our New Year’s resolutions of healthy eating, working out, and speaking up more.
But it turns out one small word may be sabotaging our good intentions.
Although should is a word that implies obligation and expectation, it actually has more in common with guilt, shame, and the “absence of decision.”
Because, while it may sound like a decision, "should" actually describes “possibility rather than reality,” according to Falconer.
For example, saying “I should eat healthy” has quite a different meaning than “I am eating healthy.”
Rather than definitively choosing to embark on a lifestyle change or accomplish a task, the word “should” allows its user to continue to consider other options - such as eating french fries for instance.
According to Falconer, “should” also implies negative feelings about the task at hand.
She said, “We rarely use should when talking about something we’re looking forward to,” which makes sense when you consider a sentence like, “I should clean my room.”
By using should, cleaning your room becomes a chore that looms over you rather than one you have definitively chosen to accomplish.
And as anyone who has put off a responsibility knows, the dread of knowing you will eventually have to get to it can be draining.
According to Falconer, this energy drain actually comes from split focus.
By using should, we are “forcing our minds to be in two places at once,” meaning we never feel fully accomplished - as our brains are still focusing on the other task that we put off.
Although saying should, to yourself or aloud, may seem like you have made a decision, it is actually the opposite because, according to Falconer, “the very fact of a should in a sentence is a red flag that you either don’t want to do that thing or don’t really intend to do it.”
So rather than continuing to guilt your mind over things you should do - just do it instead.
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