How do we change habits of a lifetime? How do we stop that infuriating thought bubble that contains the words “You SHOULD…”.It catches you out at the most annoying times. Snuggled on the sofa binge watching “Outlander” and eating chocolate… There it goes again…“You Should be cleaning up the kitchen- going to the gym, calling your accountant etc. (insert your own Should here.) ”How many times a week do you say “I really should …? It becomes a bad habit this “Should-ing” that can leach the enjoyment out of life… At its worst it’s the strong judgmental voice that can run rampant and sabotage a sense of self and life’s enjoyment. So how can we change this Should-ing habit? Let me tell you a little of my efforts in this area and provide 4 key ways to manage your Should’s…
When I retired last year after 47 years of working and “Should-ing” I decide that my transition to retirement would be a year of NO Shoulds. Keeping within the law and using a modicum of common sense I decided to eradicate the Should noise from my head. Press delete! Sure I’d pay the bills because I wanted to keep warm but everything was under scrutiny. In retirement, for one year I would eat when I wanted and what I felt like eating. I’d spend time with those I really wanted to see- no obligations. I would do things because I wanted too. The “S” word had to go!
How did it work out? It was the best year of rest, renewal, joyful play and sheer FUN! My finances did not collapse. I built depth and meaning into those friendships that mattered most and gave them real unhurried time and attention. I let slide the connection with people who I no longer enjoyed being with but had continued the connection out of habit or obligation. I enjoyed new activities and passions such as writing, volunteering and cooking.
I ate as much chocolate as I wanted and sat on the sofa reading instead of walking some days. After twelve months of NO Shoulds what I learned was that I had accumulated habits, thoughts and judgments which no longer served me well. The “worst” thing that happened was I put on 3 kg but I no longer like anything even remotely smelling of chocolate……and the weight is leaving town now as I’ve discovered dance and movement classes.
I saw a great quote last week. “We are human beings not human doings.” Do you need a break from the endless “ Should’s”. Changing habits takes time but here are some tips to free you from the ear-worm of Should’s.
BE mindful in your life. Take the time to eat breakfast without checking the phone, feeding the cat or putting on the washing. Doing these things is important but when it’s time to nourish yourself give it the attention and time you deserve. This can be really hard when, especially in your working life you are used to multi-tasking. Being still and attentive to yourself takes practice but it’s worth it.
Be prepared to turn the clock face to the wall! Work with your time cycle wherever possible. In my year of “ NO Should’s” I found I actually like to eat my main meal at late lunchtime 3-4 days a week followed by a walk or a snooze.( very European!) Binge watching or reading into the night was Ok in this new world and so was staying in bed on a really cold blustering day. I only did this once or twice because it was actually pretty boring! The fact that my “Should” voice was banished meant that I was free to try new ways of time-keeping. Find your new rhythm for this phase of your life.
Take stock of your habits around the people you spend time with. We accumulate relationships in our lives- close family in the inner circle, deep enduring friendships, relationships based on a sporting interest or hobby and then those people who we feel obliged to interact with. Do we really need to have lunch with that old “friend’ who is self- absorbed and negative and just wants to gossip? Are all your friendships currently adding to your quality of life? Some friendships have a use-by date. If you “Should” see someone then you probably don’t need too!
Finally, find new and creative ways of doing the mundane and boring. Even in a world of “No Should’s” the bills need paying, the garbage needs to be taken out, housework needs to be done and meals need to be cooked. Try cooking 2 new meals a week or if you hate cooking have 2 simple salad or soup meals a week or try a juice fast. Reward 2 hours of housework with seeing a movie. “Cake and a Cuppa” were my go-to motivator during my year of NO Should’s. Dancing to loud, fast music is a great way to speed up the mopping and cleaning. Be Bold in finding new ways to make life’s chores less “ Should-y”