Monday, May 2, 2016

Hacking My Brain [Shoulding All Over Myself]

After reading THIS POST from February on Gretchen's blog, I realized I really do should all over myself. The phrase 'Don't Should All Over Yourself' came up in the comments and I think its apropos. How often do we say we should or shouldn't have done something when it comes to things that we want to do? I forget which chapter of procrastination expert Neil Fiore's book "The Now Habit" deals with the problem of Should (despite having listened to the audio book quite a number of times, I find the narration soothing) but it comes up as something that makes us feel bad. Whenever we tell ourselves we should or shouldn't do something, we're taking a model of perfection and overlying it on our now which is by default not perfect. It's just another way for us to end up not wanting to do anything because we can't reach that perfect person or situation. Case in point, as a writer, I should be able to write everyday. That RARELY happens for me. Not because I don't have the best intentions but because I, as a person, have a tendency to prioritize too many other things over my writing. (This is something I'm working on, slowly.)

Another thing I have a hard time with is managing my social calendar. I have friends, a number of them. They like to do things. I like to help them do things or at least go sit in the audience and be in awe of the things that they do. However, I'm also an introvert who needs a certain amount of me time in order to not be a triple A terrible human. Plus I recently started a job where my go time is between 6 and 730 in the morning, not conducive to late nights. Facebook events make me feel like I'm always missing something, mostly because I am. I'm choosing sleep over interaction on a lot of cases. But the missing of things I want to go to and can go to is the problem. Until recently, I didn't really do well managing my calendar. I had one calendar over here which I barely updated and Facebook events reminding me of something else over here and while I should have been able to manage those things and keep track of everything, I was failing miserably. So finally, in an effort to not be completely lost about what is going on I instituted the habit of updating my calendar on my phone whenever I agreed to do something. That automatically syncs to my IPad at home which is where I keep my writing schedule and workout schedule. Plus I have a handy wall calendar (yeah, analog) so that I can see the entire month and make sure I'm not overscheduling myself without realizing by saying yes to too many things.

If you know that should is not helping, how do you deal? Having expectations for yourself is a reality. They have to be phrased somehow. If 'should' doesn't work, what does? Fiore's book deals with procrastination, contrasting between the language of the producer and the language of the procrastinator. Procrastinators unfortunately set themselves up to feel the need to procrastinate through the use of 'should' messages. On the other hand, producers use different language to feel empowered to make decisions. Things like 'I am', 'I choose', or 'I will' communicate a sense of choice and a possibility of accomplishment. They are not panacea however. You can say these things as much as you like without moving forward to actually doing any of these things. Trust me, been there, tried that. You still have to do the work, not just make the choice to do the work.

One of my other favorite blogs, Nerd Fitness likes to point out that the exercise program of the most worth is the one that you do and stick with. It doesn't matter what your intentions are, it matters what you do. If you can't get yourself to the gym everyday, but can manage three days a week, stick with what works. Don't beat yourself up over the 'shoulds' of life. I recently started going to the gym and told myself I would go to the gym three times a week. So far, so good. I didn't tell myself I should because as far as I'm concerned going to the gym at all is an 'I should'. How many times I get there is dependent on the week. (I schedule three times a week, but if I don't make all of them, I don't hamstring myself.)

What's the current should weighing you down? Are you shoulding all over yourself in an attempt to work toward a goal? Would a change in vocabulary perhaps add the spark needed to move from 'I should' to 'I will'? Oh and if you're into Gretchen's podcast, you might listen to the Little Happier 'Don't Let the Perfect be the enemy of the Good' available now. I listened to it earlier at the gym, it is, as usual, a little ray of hope in my day.

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