Monday Debriefing

•05.31.2011 • Leave a Comment

Yes, I realize it’s Tuesday today, but I was traveling yesterday, so.

My weekly metalist for 5/23 through 5/30


It was going to be a shortened week, work-wise, and I knew that going in.  On Thursday, my mom and I drove eight hours down from the Bay Area, where we live, to Palm Springs, where one of her sisters lives, for my cousin’s wedding.  The whole family was gathering, and I hadn’t seen them in awhile, so I planned to make the trip too even though I didn’t really *have* to.  We left Thursday at the ass-crack of before-dawn – 4:30 AM, bleh – and came home yesterday afternoon.  A busy three days with family and two days of transit, leaving me really only a few days for my workweek this past week.  I tried to reflect that reality in my list when I wrote it.  So how did I do?

My list had seven things on it – only one less than on the previous (full) workweek – which may have been a bit much.  This past week, I intended to…

  • Write four posts on Witch.Words
  • …and one here.
  • Move a bunch of stuff from cardboard boxes into better long-term storage in plastic tubs
  • Spend 2 sessions on jewelry-making
  • Incorporate physical movement three days out of the week
  • Retune Kari, my harp (yes, I name my instruments)
  • Write my personal mission statement, an assignment from my work with Molly Mahar of Stratejoy.

And how did it go?

I wrote three substantive posts, and one “be back next week, have a good holiday weekend!” post at W.W.  That little post probably shouldn’t count, but hey, it’s a post.  So that was a mostly-success.  I did write the one post here.  I got my stuff moved into better boxes, and in the process found some awesome stuff I’d been looking for – namely, my old incense tray for stick-style incense, a milky glass with oil-slick sheen and a pent on the stick-holding end.  Yay!  I spent rather more than two sessions on jewelry, though I didn’t get the piece finished I wanted to make for the wedding.  Oh, well.  I did two sessions of yoga, but didn’t have time Wednesday for a session, and the whole weekend was taken up with family, so I didn’t quite meet that goal.  I did get Kari retuned, but got no work at all done on the mission statement.

Score: 5.5/7, or just under 80%.  Not bad, but not great, either.

I think the problem is, I overestimated how much time and energy I would have for working on a week when I had to get ready for a trip – choosing outfits, doing extra laundry, getting the suitcase out, packing, going to hair and nail appointments, and making sure everything else is taken care of before I leave requires more of my energy than I remembered.  So I had to push myself *really* hard Tuesday, to get most of my list accomplished, and Wednesday, to finish off and get ready to leave Thursday morning.

Moral of the story being:  Self, next time remember to only list as much stuff as you can comfortably accomplish if you give yourself an *entire* day for trip prep.  Trying to cram four days’ worth of work into two and a half days does not make you a happy camper, and travel takes a lot of spoons, so you can’t afford to have spent them all working to have a “normally” productive week before you left.

But hey, it was nice to see everyone – if a bit exhausting; sucks when you’re the only full-bore introvert w/social anxiety in the family, so nobody understands why you start getting twitchy and asking if you can take one of the cars and go back to the hotel mid-afternoon for a solitude-recharging break – and I’m glad to have learned this lesson.

Also, I’m very glad to be home.  How was your holiday weekend?



Monday Recap

•05.23.2011 • Leave a Comment

You may recall, in the second part of my Contain Yourself post, I talked about experimenting with a new system this past week. Having finished the first week with it, I thought I’d recap here and see how it went.

A photo of my whiteboard and weekly list for the past week

My weekly list for 5/16-5/22. Written in multicolored dry-erase markers, of course. Color!

The list for last week had 8 items, some specific, some more general.  I wanted to:

  • Email one specific friend
  • Do a specific journaling exercise
  • Put up five posts on Witch.Words…
  • …and two posts here
  • Do the first lesson of How To Think Sideways (a novel-writing-career-course by Holly Lisle, professional novelist)
  • Incorporate some kind of physical movement (belly dance, DDR, Wii Fit, or yoga) every day
  • Do 3 “sessions” of jewelry-making
  • Three “sessions” of what I call self-work, which might include journaling on prompts, reading and taking notes on one of the personal development books I’m currently reading, or working on something like my Goddess Year Planner/Workbook for 2011 (yes, I’m still working on it.  Shush.  Don’t judge.)

When I talk about “sessions”, btw, I’m referring to my use of Focus Booster, a timer that counts down a work period, rings at the end of it and immediately begins counting down a break period, then rings again to let you know it’s time to go back to work.  It comes default set for 25 minutes of work and 5 minutes of break, but you can alter the settings.  I was using a 30-15 split for awhile, but I’ve gone back to the 25-5 recently.  I can’t recommend this enough if you have trouble with getting distracted!  Most of what I do takes place in some way on the internet, in my browser window, and before I started using this timer, I had the *worst* time trying to stay focused on writing a post instead of checking email or twitter or tumblr or whatever else was interesting at the moment.  Having defined periods of work and break gives me a way to remind myself that it’s work time right now, darling, you can check tumblr on your break, okay?

So.  How did I do?  Well, I did the email and the journaling right on Monday, and it was quite satisfying to cross those off so quickly after writing the list.  I blew my posting goal out of the fucking water – 6 posts on W.W over the course of the week, and while that’s only +1 from my goal, I was so much on top of things I was able to do a lot of prewriting and scheduling posts, which I normally don’t do, and it was nice and relaxing to not have to wake up and go “OMG MUST WRITE A POST RIGHT NOW” every morning.  I met my two-posts goal here, too.  I did the first lesson of HTTS, which…it was an experience, because I ran across some really nasty “YOU MUST DISAVOW ALL CONNECTION TO ANY COMMUNAL IDENTITY IN ORDER TO BE A REAL WRITER” sentiment – the phrase “victim mentality” came up in the context of advocacy groups and politics.  Which, y’know, fuck a whole bunch of that noise.  But I’m going to try again with weeks 2 and 3, and see if maybe this was a one-off issue.  I hope so, or else I’m canceling the fuck out of that subscription.  I did three sessions of jewelry work, finishing a necklace that had been hanging over my head (pun absolutely intended ^_^) for weeks, and starting and completing a rainbow-and-silver choker.  I did two sessions of self-work, so that wasn’t a totally-failed goal, but I didn’t quite make it, either.

Sadly, I completely failed at incorporating physical movement*.  I do my best work on writing and cleaning and overall concrete productivity in the morning, so I’m sort of loathe to interrupt that with dance or whatever, as much as I love it.  But immediately after lunch, I’m not wanting to move around too much, and often by the time I go “Hey, I should probably do something…” my fiance, Ozz, is about to get home from work.  And I’m weird about being seen doing physical stuff, and we live in a studio apartment, so him being home = I’m not doing anything of the sort.  Which means every day this past week I reached the late-afternoon point without having done any physical movement, going “Oh, damn it, it’s too late now, isn’t it?”  I’m not sure how to fix this.  Suggestions welcome!

Overall, I’m calling this first week of the new system a win.  It gave me structure and goals, a wider context for every day’s work, but left me plenty of flexibility on a daily basis.  A+ so far!  Now to figure out that pesky movement problem…

*I will not call it working out, because for me, “working out” carries nasty connotations of weight-loss and fat-shaming.  So I use “movement” and “physical stuff” instead, because those accurately describe what I’m talking about without the triggery-to-me connotations.

The Wonderful, Amazing, Gorgeous, Life-Altering Power of Words

•05.20.2011 • Leave a Comment

In another life, in my pre-fuck-up life as a college student at a University of California campus, I studied linguistics.  I loved it.  I loved to play with sounds – there is nothing quite so entertaining as an entire class of fifty or more ling students quietly experimenting with trying to make phonemes not native to their language, all muttering some random sound or other under their breath to try to figure it out – with language, examining how we put words together from component parts, how we put sentences together from words and meanings – I particularly loved the idea of adjective order; why do we say “big yellow car” instead of “yellow big car”, when “yellow” and “big” are both just adjectives modifying car? – and studying how all these things have changed over time, different languages melding and separating and evolving like living things.  I believe that how we think about things shapes how we perceive things.

Given that, it’s perhaps a little surprising that it’s taken me this long to catch on to the awesome (in the literal sense of awe-inspiring) power of reframing one’s thoughts about an issue.  But in the past couple weeks, a couple really big ones whacked me over the head – that Universe, never shy with the mighty thwack of the clue-by-four, is she? – and I wanted to share them with you.

“Disgustingly Healthy”

I was doing a group coaching teleclass with Molly Mahar of Stratejoy this past month, and the first daily-practice challenge she set us was a daily self-care practice.  Ten minutes, of whatever self-care speaks to you*.  I figured it would be pretty easy to me, I’m quite used to indulging my whims on a nearly-daily basis, and that’s basically the same thing, right?

Haha, no.  Wrong.  Self-indulgence and self-care are not the same thing at all, and I kept tripping over this confusion every time I tried to perform my little acts of self-care.  Was it self-care, to drive to the Starbucks down the hill and get a coffee on a warm afternoon?  Was it self-care to go to the store and get the horrible-for-you processed boxed-pasta-dinner meals that are a guilty pleasure of mine, and make that for lunch?  Or was self-care supposed to mean having iced tea instead of a frappucino, having brown rice with teriyaki sauce instead of rehydrated butter-garlic sauce?  I realized I had a very basic problem at the core of the idea of self-care:  I had no idea what self-care meant to me.

So, as is my wont when I’m upset or needing to think, I went outside.  I went for a walk down to the overlook that gazes out over the water and the refineries, and sat on a bench, and thought about what “self-care” meant to me.

What I discovered was that I had tangled up the notion of self-care with self-indulgence, as a personal backlash against a culture in which there is this overwhelming, dictatorial notion of “health” – in this usage, “health” is code for “thinness/weight loss” – as a moral duty to which I was beholden.  I had spent years on one diet or another, and so my whole idea of “good” and “bad” foods had moralistic tags related to calorie count and fat grams, rather than how a given food made me feel or how much I enjoyed it.  So when I thought about “self-care”, I thought about it as an act of temporary self-forgiveness, allowing myself to have the foods that were “bad” without immediately starting in on the self-hate such indulgences were “supposed” to produce**.

The problem is, that those “bad” foods weren’t even always what I actually wanted.  And so having them was an act of rebellion against restrictive diets, and a momentary respite from constant self-policing of food intake, which was definitely an act of self-care.

But now?  Now I am attempting to integrate HAES principles into my life, and I’ve been proudly (and vehemently, and sometimes loudly) diet-free for a couple of years now.  I don’t attach negative judgments to “indulgence” foods like cookies or frappucinos or fast food, simply for being high-calorie OMG-YOU’LL-GET-FAT foods.  So does the idea of “self-care” as a temporary respite from self-policing still serve me?

FUCK NO.  Let me say that again: FUCK NO.

Well, then the question became: How do I define self-care now?  Is brown rice with teriyaki self-care, or simply “doing what I’m supposed to” by virtue of being a relatively healthy food?  And I realized I had a phrase I used any time I made choices of food and drink that were healthy for me, even if I also really enjoyed them (like I do with the brown rice example I keep using):  “Disgustingly healthy.”

I would say it as a joke – “*looks over a plate of brown rice and a side of carrot sticks with peanut butter for dipping, both favorite foods of mine* My, I’m just being disgustingly healthy for lunch today, aren’t I?” – but it reflected a deep-seated bias against healthy foods, borne of my rebellion against diet culture.  I decided, as soon as I realized what I was doing, to drop that phrase from my vocabulary.  Now, I may refer to my food choices as healthy or not, but not even in jest will I attach a judgmental term like “disgustingly” to it.  “Healthy” is value-neutral.  I will not self-deprecate for choosing less-healthy foods, nor will I praise myself for choosing healthier foods.

And you know what?  It hasn’t changed my regular diet, but it certainly has changed my manner of self-care.  I listen to my body, now, and self-care is defined as simply giving my body what it really wants.  Sometimes that’s a frappucino, and sometimes that’s a smoothie, and sometimes it’s simply a walk in the sunshine.  And I care for myself by honoring my own needs and requests.  It’s that simple.

“I can’t afford this”

Money stresses me the fuck out.  It really does.  I’m unemployed, trying to make a transition to self-employed.  This means I don’t personally have money coming in very much.  I earn some money cleaning my mother’s apartment for her – as she says, she’s going to pay someone to do it, and whether that’s me or a cleaning services, is up to me.  So I bring in $65 every two weeks.  This has to provide gas money for wherever I want to go during the month, my subscription fees to a novel-writing course I’m working my way through ($25 a month), and whatever else I want to do that isn’t just “household expenses”, which my fiance covers.

I’m kind of a retail-therapy sort of person.  I particularly love to spend on books/ebooks, personal development/information products, musical instruments, and makeup.  I have a wishlist file, complete with titles, colors, URLs, prices.  It’s frighteningly long.  I add to it, rearrange it, and eliminate items from it as I go.  I like *stuff*, I really do.  But I can’t afford a lot of it.  And I always found it terribly disheartening to have to look at awesome stuff and be like “Oooh! But…I can’t afford that.”  It felt like scarcity.  Tense, worried, insecure, the *feelings* of poverty, even though my basic needs and many indulgences are well taken care of.

But what if, instead of saying “I can’t afford that” and reminding myself of what I don’t have, I say it like this:  “That money is already marked for something else.” 

Saying that acknowledges that I *have* the money – I usually do – but that I’ve made certain choices about what to do with it.  It lets me say, “Is this genuinely more important than having gas to make the occasional trip to the next town over to go to the mall?”  And if it is, I’ll figure out how to rework my driving to conserve a little more gas, and redirect that money toward whatever was important enough to override the desire to drive places.  It’s a feeling of choice, instead of a feeling of unavailability.  It reminds me that I have good reasons for the disposition of funds I’ve already chosen, and I feel empowered to make a decision instead of having to be constrained and forced onto a path.

Oy, how do my posts always get so long?!  I’ll wrap up then, and leave you with a question:  What linguistic habits are holding you back?  How can you rework them so that they serve you better?

*My conception of “self-care” largely involves food and drink.  I don’t have a lot of money; I can’t really afford to treat myself to experiences like going to the movies or something.  Even a trip to a state park or something costs money – the entrance fee, plus gas money to get there and back, and I just can’t afford that.  A $4 coffee drink or $5 burger is a lot more doable on my budget.  And I can’t take long, indulgent soaks either, cause my bathtub doesn’t have a drain plug.  So, yeah.  For me, self-care = food of some kind.

**Just hang around any group of women in a situation where there’s a cookie platter, and listen to the amount of “Oh, I’m so bad!” every time someone takes a cookie.  Immediate self-flagellation is a requirement for indulgences like a single cookie.

Contain Yourself, Part 2: Finding the Fountain

•05.16.2011 • 1 Comment

When I left off on Part 1 of this post, I had run through two different attempts at scheduling myself into productivity, and was listing out the qualities I needed to incorporate into a better structure for my days.  The biggest things were flexibility and focus, and finding a balance between the two.  So here’s what happened next…

I went back to my categories – art, music, fiction, blogging, jewelry-making, personal development – and drew out, on the whiteboard that hangs beside my desk, a scorecard with spaces for each category.  At the top, I wrote the week’s dates, going from Monday to Sunday.  My theory was this: each morning, as I was enjoying my coffee and breakfast, I would write out a little to-do list for the day, incorporating both mundane tasks like laundry or dishes, and specific tasks that fit into my categories.  So a day’s list might include vacuuming, taking out the trash, writing a blog post or two, working on my jewelry, and tuning my harp and running scales for a little while.  When I finished a task related to one of the categories, I would make a mark on the “scorecard”.  That way, I could choose whatever I felt like doing on a given day, but would also have the accountability and reminder to balance my activities.

So how did it work?  Better.  Definitely better, and not “less worse”.  At the time that I wrote the first part of this post, I’d really thought I’d found my fountain – a container that would allow my creativity and energy to flow into a beautiful shape, while keeping it from being wasted making a mud puddle around me.  But I still had a tendency to forget to make marks on the scorecard, and it still always looked oddly off-balance at the end of the week.  At this point, I was out of ideas, so I let it sit for a bit, still making my daily lists but not bothering to cross-reference with my scoreboard.  My personal productivity was better than before, but still not *good*.

Then I read this article on ZenHabits.  Since I was already using a week as my “larger” unit of time to keep me accountable to larger goals, it seemed like it might be a good fit.  So last night, I went ahead and wrote out a list of goals for this week.  They involve blogging, jewelry-making, personal development work, and some fiction writing.  I like having a list of more specific “meta-tasks” instead of just a nebulous list of categories, and so far I’m doing well.  Of course it’s always Monday, so that’s subject to change.  But I’ll be back next week to report on how it goes!

I may have found my perfect fountain.  What does your fountain look like?  Or what other metaphors do you use to talk about structure and purpose?

Blog Note and Apology

•05.13.2011 • Leave a Comment

I realize I haven’t posted Pt 2 of Contain Yourself.  I am deeply sorry for the delay.  I’m working through a painful bout of Depression right now, so writing anything, much less posting, is a struggle.  I’m hopeful that the fog will lift enough that I’ll be back to posting next week.

Again, my apologies.  In the meantime, here, have a picture of the Quick Brown Fox literally jumping over the Lazy Dog:

An image of a brownish fox jumping over a dog, who just stands there as if bemused by the whole situation

Contain Yourself, Part 1: The Juggling Act

•04.25.2011 • Leave a Comment

I have a confession to make:

I am a chronic procrastinator.

It’s a really bad case, too.  There are whole days where I suddenly look at the clock and go “Holy shit, how the hell did it suddenly become 5:00 and I still haven’t done a damn productive thing?”  I think it’s a combination of the perils of being unemployed – no job to impose a structure on one’s days – and being a polymath, that is, someone who has multiple passions competing for hir attention.  So I’m trying to juggle my desired productive paths: blogging here, blogging on my feminism/political blog Witch.Words, writing my novel, writing short stories, photography and photo editing, making jewelry, practicing and playing flute and harp.  And I’m doing it without any real constraint on my time, other than that my fiance is working again, so it would be rather inconsiderate of me to stay up until 2 AM writing when he needs to be up at 7 for work (we live in a studio apartment, and my desk is approximately four feet from his side of the bed, so it’d be pretty intrusive for me to stay up and work even if I were being quiet about it).  But other than that, from the time he leaves at 7:45 AM, to the time he comes home at 4:30 PM, I’m completely free to do whatever the hell I want.

At which point, it becomes a struggle between the parts of me that want to see progress on my various endeavors – my inner artist wants me to sit down with Photoshop and juggle pics between my iPhone and the photomanipulation apps I have on there, and Photoshop where I can tweak them more finely; my inner blogger is fretting about the number of draft posts I have that need finishing and how half of them are going to be days behind the news cycle by the time I finish them if I don’t do them RIGHT THIS SECOND RIGHT NOW OMG RIGHT NOW!; my inner writer wants to put on the soundtrack for my novel (I do my writing with soundtracks, a certain playlist I put together that captures, for me, the mood and feel of the story) and spend some time messing around with characterization; my inner jewelry-maker wants to pull out the necklace I’m still not finished with (I’m in the fiddly boring bit of finishing the chain, so I don’t really want to work on it, I just want it to be done) and throw a DVD on for background noise while I make intricate pretty things come to life in my hands; my inner musician is bewailing how long it’s been since I touched my harp and reminding me that I need to cut my nails so I can play again – and the part of me that just wants to fuck off and wander around the internet all afternoon, playing flash games and reading other peoples’ blogs.

So what do I do?  How do I get stuff done – preferably lots of stuff, in multiple areas – without feeling like I’m driving myself too hard?  How do I gently chivvy myself onto a path that balances work with play, so that my passions don’t turn into duties but still all get the attention they need?  How do I calm the procrastinator in me so that I can get things done?

I needed a container for my days, I decided.  A stream of water flowing out of a hose into the garden will just make a big mud puddle.  I had plenty of creativity and energy, but it was just pooling and making a mess and going nowhere.  I needed to give it, give myself, a structure for the water to flow to and through, to put it to work.  So the search for my perfect container began…

First I tried making a weekly schedule.  It was a vast and complicated thing, each day scheduled practically to the minute.  It failed miserably.  I don’t like being that constricted – what if I don’t feel like working on my novel every Tuesday morning from 10-11:30?  What if this particular Tuesday morning, I’m feeling called by my camera?  When that happens, I have a choice.  I either have to buckle down to what I scheduled myself to work on, resentful and grumbling and eyeing the project I really want to be working on the whole time, or blow off the schedule and do what I want instead, but feeling nagging guilt over not following through on my schedule and wondering how I’ll have to re-juggle activities to keep the right balance of everything now that I’ve thrown it off.  Not good, either way, and it only took two weeks to say “This is causing more problems than it’s solving.” and ditch it.  The water didn’t do well in a sealed container and kept springing leaks everywhere, so to speak.

Next I tried a more flexible weekly schedule.  I broke my activities down into categories and assigned two to four categories to each day.  Monday, for example, might be blogging and art and music; Tuesday, blogging and fiction; Wednesday, fiction, jewelry, art, and music; and so on.  It worked a little bit better.  Then I could decide which of a limited subset of things I felt like working on at a given time during the day.  But it still felt pretty constricted – what if I wanted to make jewelry on a day when I was supposed to be doing writing and music?  And when that happened I would have the same problem between resentment or guilt as I did with my deviations from the very-specific schedule.  This also had another unfortunate effect: that because I had it all so loosely planned, I could look at the clock, say “It’s only 10 AM, I’ve got plenty of time, I can fire up the Xbox for awhile and work in the afternoon and still get it all done.”  And come the end of the day, there would always be at least one major category undone because I’d figured I would still have time to get to it later…and then had run out of time.  So after awhile, I conceded that this approach was more “less worse” than actually “better”.  This sealed container was more flexible in shape, but was still springing leaks.  Being sealed in doesn’t seem to suit my flow.

This time I looked at the problem in a lot more detail, wondering if maybe there was something about it I had missed that was causing me to design unworkable approaches.  Was there something about myself I wasn’t taking into account?  Something about the nature of the projects?  I needed openness and variety every day, the ability to change and choose, while still keeping the flow going, not stagnating.  And I needed a way to quiet my insistent inner procrastinator, who kept saying “There’ll be time later to do that; here’s a shiny blog post to read!” until the day was all gone, yet again.

In Contain Yourself Part 2, I’ll show you what I ended up doing, and how it’s working for me now.  If you recognize yourself in my saga, even a little, I hope you’ll come back for the second part and see if my new container might be a good template for you to work from, too!

Refusing “Should”

•04.18.2011 • Leave a Comment

I am a writer, a linguist, a storyteller, a wordsmith. Words are what I do. Language fascinates me. So it’s pretty rare that you will find me banning a word from my world (aside from slurs and such).

But sometimes, it’s necessary. So what, you might ask, is the word I’ve deemed so horrible, so useless, that it has to go?


I got the idea from Pace & Kyeli of Connection Revolution, originally, although by now I couldn’t tell you whether it was a blog post, or their ebook The Usual Error (highly recommended, btw), or in their 52 Weeks to Awesome course (also very highly recommended!).  I can, however, tell you what I’ve learned by giving up should.

I have learned that should is a word of tension.  It is itself caused by tension between what you really want, and the price of getting it.  It also causes tension and pain when you apply it to yourself, and use as a weapon against yourself.  How many times have you tried to flog yourself into action by telling yourself “I really should do ___…” and trying to use the guilt provoked by that phrase as a motivating force?

Uh-huh.  And how often does that work?

Perhaps there are people out there for whom guilt, shame, and should are genuinely motivating.  But I have found that loving and gentling yourself into action is A: a lot easier, and B: more likely to work.  Case in point: I tried to guilt and flog myself into keeping a clean house – particularly my kitchen – for YEARS.  It never worked.  My kitchen was a constant wreck!  Then, a few months ago, I started reading The Fluent Self and Goddess Guidebook and treating myself with love and gentleness, even when I didn’t have a clean kitchen.  I stopped treating the kitchen like a should and instead treated it like something I really wanted.  Lo and behold, my kitchen is now more or less clean on a regular basis.

Same thing for my political/feminism blog, Witch.Words.  I was always telling myself I should post more, I should write about this news item or that one.  And yeah, sometimes I did.  But more often, the weight of the shoulds stressed me to the point where I avoided my blog, and any thoughts about it, and any attempts to write on it, in order to avoid the stress.

Shoulds are unproductive, unhelpful, annoying, and hurtful.  So when you find yourself using should, how do you fix it?

First, we start with the basic equation:

desired outcome + difficult or undesirable tasks required to reach the desired outcome = should

When you find the word “should” creeping into your thoughts about a given task, look for this equation.  Here’s what my kitchen situation looked like in these terms:

A clean kitchen for me to cook in + having to do a lot of dishes, which I hate doing, on a regular basis = should

What I wanted was the clean kitchen, so that I could feel comfortable cooking and eating healthfully instead of eating a lot of fast food and highly processed foods.  But to get that kitchen clean, and keep it clean, I would have to first do a lot of dishes (to catch up and *get* the kitchen clean in the first place) and then commit to doing dishes every day, along with wiping down counters and taking out the trash and all that fun stuff.  I hate doing dishes, though.  So I wanted the kitchen clean, but I really didn’t want to do the work required.  And that translated to me looking at the kitchen and going “I should do something about that…”  Which only made me feel guilty, and angry at myself for being so lazy, etc. etc. etc.

Once you’ve broken the should down into its component parts, however, you have the opportunity to refocus your energy.  You can go from saying “I really should clean the kitchen,” to saying “I want a clean kitchen, and I’m willing to do the work to have it.”  Which one sounds more empowering to you?  When you focus on what you want, and make the commitment to do the work it requires even if the work is unpleasant, you’re more motivated.  Positive motivation, versus guilt-based motivation.

Of course, maybe you aren’t willing to do the work.  You don’t always have to turn a should into a yes-I’m-doing-it.  There’s a should I had a few weeks ago, when an ex-boss called me up and offered me a couple days a week working for her again.  I’m unemployed (trying to transition to self-employed, but not there yet!) and could use the money…but I really, really disliked working for her.  I told her I’d call her back, hung up, and started should‘ing all over myself.  “I really should take this,” I thought.  “I need the money.  I should tell her yes.”  So what was the equation here?

A job with steady income + having to work for someone I am deeply uncomfortable with = should

When I looked at it in those terms, I realized I wasn’t willing to deal with working for her.  The job and income weren’t worth it.  So that’s a should I gave up and simply said no to, and that’s okay, too.  Doing this technique helps you gain clarity on what you really mean when you say you should do something.  Sometimes you’ll decide the outcome is worth the cost, and sometimes you’ll decide it’s not.  Either way, having the decision made relieves the burden caused by should.

What shoulds are you struggling with?  Do you find should-phrases helpful or not?  Give this technique a try and let me know how it works for you!