This week - a video AND a blog.
This week I'm trying something a little different thanks to a suggestion made by my friend Bruce (thanks Bruce!): I'm posting both a video and a longer blog on the same topic.
The video highlights the same general concepts you'll find in the written blog, so if you have limited time, watch the video and you'll be just fine.
The blog; however, includes some additional information around how to detach from one of the bigger snags we can encounter when attempting to commit fully to something (this concept of full commitment will be explained in both the video and the blog, but what that snag is and how to detach from it will only be found in the blog).
The shoulds is a topic I've touched upon in the past, and if you're interested in reading my original blog post about this topic, you can find that here. What I've included this time around includes my updated thoughts about 'the shoulds', so even if you've read my earlier post, you're sure to gain some additional insights by reading the blog and/or watching this week's video.
Managing 'The Shoulds' and Overcoming The Commitment Snag
It’s the holiday season, a time of giving. Your good friend Jessica calls you Friday night and asks if you’d like to go shopping with her over the weekend. She’s had a rough year and told you she’s having a hard time making decisions around gifts because she’s just not in the mood to shop, and is hoping you’ll be able to offer her some focus and guidance.
You had been looking forward to one of the first free weekends you’ve had in months. No work, no sporting events for your kids, just two days of space and time to get one final breather in before the chaos of the holidays kicks into gear. What do you do?
Enter ‘The Shoulds’.
This scenario represents one of a gazillion potential situations where ‘the shoulds’ can enter the picture and take over our life.
In this situation, you really don’t want to go shopping and provide guidance, insights and focus for your friend. Instead, you’d rather stay home and relax. But is that a good enough reason to say no?
I say, yes, it is. And to some, this might sound like a really selfish answer. And, well, it is.
What Does It Mean To Be Selfish?
We each have our own definitions of certain words, especially loaded ones like the word selfish. For me, selfishness means to tend to one’s self.
This definition differs from many of the conventional definitions of the word. These other definitions, to me, demonstrate the amazing power of societal norms and how they can affect our mindset. Most definitions suggest that to be selfish means to care only for oneself, where I believe that it means that we take care to consider our needs as well as those of others.
I bring this up here because one of the best ways to practice my brand of selfishness is to exercise our freedom of choice. And there is no better place to do this than when having been hooked by the lure of ‘the shoulds’.
What Are The Shoulds?
The shoulds are when we feel compelled to do something we don’t want to do because of a sense of obligation or perceived expectation. I say ‘perceived’ expectation, because some times, that perception is self-created; meaning, the only one who expects a certain outcome is often ourselves.
Yes, sometimes certain people who hold a place of authority or power in our lives may actually expect a certain outcome. And it’s likely from those experiences that we began predicting such expectations in others when they never actually existed.
The problem with the shoulds and operating under a sense of obligation or expectation is that we give away our power. We say yes not because we want to, but because we don’t want to let others down. And then a multitude of other issues begin to emerge:
How to Minimize The Shoulds and Start Living Your Life.
The way to minimize the shoulds is incredibly simple:
It's about making the conscious choice.
Instead of feeling we should do something because it's some sort of expectation or obligation, we choose whether or not we want to do it.
If we choose to do something we're not completely jazzed about, we're committing to following through despite the fact that we're not that jazzed. If we choose not to do it, we do so with full awareness of the potential consequences and are willing to face them. The challenging part here is saying 'no.' More on this in a mo.
The hitch with making either choice is is that regardless of whether we’ve said yes or no, once we've made the choice we must commit fully.
Most of us commit, with some vague recognition that we either don't want to do something or aren't that into it but are doing it anyway. The problem with his is that we go into our choice half-assed instead of full-on.
Doing this keeps us in a purgatorial state where we're neither in nor out. When we do this our energy becomes divided and segmented and can be a). draining, b.) frustrating to us (when others try to convince us to change our minds when we've said no), or c.) frustrating to others (if we're in a situation where others would like our full presence).
It can also be counter-productive because we're either worn down by persistent people and ultimately change our minds (but not our level of commitment) or we're not performing at our best.
Some of this is sort of like multi-tasking but with perceived obligations. We might be doing one thing while thinking about doing another, and when we do that we've split ourselves in two (or more if there are more than one thing we're thinking about while doing the other thing).
That’s it! Fully commit! Easy peasy, right? Yeah. Not so much.
Full commitment is a really simple solution but not so simple to execute.
How To Reach Full Commitment.
What does it take to commit fully? Complete alignment.
And to get complete alignment we have to make a conscious decision to make the thing we've agreed to (that we don't really want to do) the top priority when we're doing it.
That means saying no to all of those nagging thoughts tugging at our attention, and reminding ourselves that this is what we’ve chosen to do above all else.
Just recognizing that these things are required is a big first step towards full commitment.
Another is to understand that the only real way out is through. Of the various ways we tend to receive thoughts and information, the one that may seem the most counter-intuitive is also usually the most effective.
How We Receive Information - you guessed it - Is Also A Choice.
There are typically three ways we respond to unwanted thoughts:
Sure it sounds easy enough, especially in the physical world, but how do we let unwanted thoughts pass through (or thoughts that we've deemed unwanted but represent something we desire)?
By acknowledging their existence, and then releasing them. This takes mental discipline both in shifting our preliminary reaction when we receive thoughts we don't want to have, or secretly do want but don't want to admit it, and in releasing them rather than letting them attach themselves to our larger thought processes (aka rather than dwelling on them).
This is something that can be practiced:
You might be asking why would we ever want this level of precision with our thinking process? Certainly splitting our attention isn't that big of a deal. The thing is, that when we split our attention we are also splitting our energy. And when we split our energy we expend it twice as fast (or maybe faster). We become mentally exhausted too. So if you're wondering why you're always so tired, this could be one of, or maybe THE reason.
All of this because we've gotten trapped in the shoulds, something we can be especially susceptible to during the holiday season, just as we are more susceptible to losing our joy.
Are the two related? Quite possibly, but I don't think exclusively. We can lose our joy for any number of reasons, but it's hard to stay in our joy when we're saying yes to things we really don't want to do and haven't fully committed to them, or saying no and then allowing our minds to be changed (it's different if you change your mind because you want to).
So even though full commitment may take a little practice if you are someone who hasn't done it in a while, it's certainly worth the effort if you want to feel aligned, and have more energy this holiday season.
But What About Jessica?
Going back to the scenario at the beginning of this post, am I saying that it’s best to say no to requests from needy friends when we’d rather do something else with our time?
What I am suggesting is that you put yourself in the driver’s seat by making intentional choices that you can fully commit to.
And if we change our minds? Well, that’s okay too, as long as we do so because we want to (and not because we were persuaded) and can fully commit to our new choice.
May your holidays be merry, intentional and bright!
Here are a couple of resources to help you on your way to living a should-free life:
About the Author
Megan Rounds, Ed.D. is owner and principle perculator of perculcha, llc.
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