I find myself saying, "I should..." a lot. I should wash the dishes. I should vacuum. I should fold the laundry. I should play with Bubby. I should make lunch for Hubby. I should buy a gift for [fill in the blank]. I should stop playing with my kids and make supper. Do you do that? I've realized that all of the "I shoulds" in my life leave me feeling empty, and, at the worst of times, worthless. There are so many things that I should be doing, but only a finite amount of time in which to accomplish them all. I simply cannot do all of the "I shoulds," nor do I want to.
A couple of weeks ago, I discovered a helpful tool for dealing with the "I shoulds"--replace them with I choose, or I choose not. I choose to play with Bubby. I choose not to fold the laundry at this time. "I should" degrades; "I choose" empowers. "I choose" returns control of my actions right back to where it should be--with me, rather than handing control over to some vague sense of guilt-induced duty. "I choose" makes me responsible for my actions and attitude; "I choose" enforces my values, as I choose which activities are most important to me. I doesn't seem like changing one little word in your self-talk would make such a big difference, but it does. Try it--it works.