Why, hello, stranger. Today I realized that it has been five weeks since I wrote a blog post. Five. Even though my intensive reschooling period ended in June, I have intended to keep blogging at least once per week. As usual, I have a lot of things I would like to write about on the topic of reschooling. But I haven’t been writing on the blog at all, and in my mind, this means I’m failing.
I think the main reason for my absence from the blog is that I’m frustrated by the feeling that I “should” be blogging. The feeling of obligation nags at me every day, when I read other people’s blogs that update frequently. I think about all that I should do with Reschool Yourself: update the blog, publicize it, monetize it, build a widespread readership for it, and write a book based on it.
And so on. Keep in mind that these are just the Reschool Yourself shoulds, and that I have a lot more of them clogging up my brain, related to my health and household and career in general. It’s so overwhelming that it makes me want to crawl into bed and sleep instead of doing anything.
Sometimes I stop and ask myself, “For what? Why would I do all of these things?” Asking these questions is a good habit to get into when you feel a “should” coming on. Sometimes the answer is hard to discern, especially when you’re used to doing what you think you should and can’t separate it from what you actually want.
I feel fortunate to have a lot of choices in my life. I would like to be grateful for these opportunities and use them well, instead of doing things out of obligation and then resenting them. My goal is to stop “should-ing” — and instead, to do things purely because they bring me closer to what I want out of life.
Early last year, I wrote about banishing “should” from my vocabulary and replacing it with “could” or “want to.” For example:
The statement “I should see the movie ‘An Inconvenient Truth,” makes me feel ashamed for not having seen it yet. If I were to see it, it would be less of a choice than the fulfillment of an obligation. (“I need to” or “I have to” has the same effect.)
On the other hand, “I could see the movie ‘An Inconvenient Truth’,” or “I want to see it” makes me feel excited by the possibility, and free to choose whether I do or not. I could see “Ernest Goes to Jail” instead. It really depends on what I want to do.
For the most part, over the last year I have stopped using the word “should,” and it’s made a big positive difference for me. During those rare situations when it’s the only word that seems to work, I use “should” intentionally and sparingly.
The more difficult challenge is teaching my mind to stop “should-ing.” Even when I don’t say the word out loud, the little voice in my head tells me that I should hang up my clothes instead of tossing them onto the floor, call the friend whom I’ve been meaning to catch up with, and keep up with current events every day. It reminds me of the things I should have done a long time ago. All the time.
I started Reschool Yourself in order to learn to do what I want to do, and do it. I’m still learning. When faced with the daily shoulds, I’m learning to ask myself:
- Do I want to do this?
- Will I enjoy it?
- Will it bring me closer to my most important goals?
Because if the answer is no, I don’t think I should do the thing at all.
Of course there will be tasks that I don’t particularly want to do at the moment, but I do them anyway because they contribute to something that I want overall. I kept going back to my old schools last fall even when it was painful, because I knew intuitively that the experience was important for my healing process. Sometimes I’ll go to sports events or action movies with Darren, because it’s important to him that I go, and he is important to me. Ultimately, I want to do these things. But there are other things that I agree to because I think I should, in order to please people or look good for them in some way, and I usually end up stressed out and complaining about them.
Sometimes sorting out my reasons for doing something makes me see it as an exciting opportunity instead of the obligation that it could otherwise be. This blog, for example: I enjoy it, at least when I do it for my own reasons, on my own terms. I enjoy blogging because I like to write, and I like to share what I’ve learned. I know that my experiences have helped readers cope with the same issues of perfectionism, insecurity, and achievement that I do. It makes me happy to help people.
On the other hand, I can’t find motivation to blog because readers need to see new content regularly in order to stay loyal, or because the site could earn me a living if I grew the audience. I know that I won’t be excited about writing a book just because I said I’m going to. If I let these reasons drive my actions, the writing I produced wouldn’t be authentic.
So while I could blog regularly, and I would like to, I might not do it. I’m learning to be OK with that. Because it would be a little ridiculous if the very tool I’m using to stop “should-ing” became just another “should.”
When I ask myself the question, “What am I doing this for?” I want the only acceptable answer to be, “Because I want to.”
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What are some of the shoulds you’d like to stop?