Women leading women

A simple solution to get more clarity on a problem

Forget the should and focus on the wants

Today I was working with a coaching client who is at a crossroads and unsure what direction to take. We all have those moments in our lives where that question arises ‘ what do you want?’ It often seems far easier to know what we don’t want. Or if it is what we want, somehow we are holding back. Perhaps you’ve started your business after being made redundant, or you’ve been in business for a while and now you’re wondering about your next step.

As Lewis Carroll wrote, ‘if you don’t know where you’re going, you’ll never get there’.

The voyage of self-discovery

As we grow up we don’t really get a lot of help on those fundamentals, so we end up where we end up…. until that doesn’t work anymore and it becomes so uncomfortable that we want to make a change.

What happens when we’re not sure about who we are, is that we live for other people’s expectations; our families, our boss, our clients.  While this can work for a time,  inevitably we end up frustrated because our real needs are not being met.

Beware the shoulds

You know you are in trouble when you find yourself ‘shoulding’ yourself.  “I should have a career” “I should be a better mother” “I should have more clients” “My house should be cleaner” “I should be a success by now” …

Telling yourself you should can actually get in the way; you put yourself under pressure and because it’s not what you really want you just end up feeling bad.

We all have those times when we are unsure or confused but actually part of getting clarity is acknowledging that you don’t know. All too often we are in rush to get the answer when we don’t even know what the question is.

So what steps can we take to help to get that clarity?

Forget the should and focus on something you want. Simple right?

A simple clarity building exercise

Write on a piece of paper an issue you are struggling with three different ways:

I should invest in social media

I want to invest in social media I choose to invest in social media.

I choose to invest in social media

I don’t want to invest in social media

Say each statement out-loud. For each step notice your reaction, how you feel.

It’s a really simple and quick process but it will help you clarify if it’s your issue or someone else’s, where your motivation is and whether it’s actually something you want at all.

Remember you may not get the whole answer immediately, especially if you are looking at a big question but what you get is information about what you feel and think and new information gives you a next step.

Sometimes it helps to think about the opposite of the problem you have to start to get a clearer outcome.

Then the more specific we can be about that outcome, what we will see, hear and feel helps to connect with both how we evaluate our experience and reinforces our desire to achieve it.

And remember you have experienced success in your life both in business and in general, so think about something similar where you did achieve your outcome and all the skills and qualities that enabled you to do that. You may find a whole new perspective where you feel more confident and are able to see what is possible.

After all, the clearer you are about what you want, the more likely you are to achieve it, the alternative is a bit like a car without a driver – where is it going and where will it end up?

Let me know in the comments if you’ve managed to turn off your ‘should’ button.

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4 Comments
  1. Farrell John Conejos says

    Hi Philomena, Your post hit me as if it was cold water poured into my head. I personally have my doubts about myself and the decisions that I have made in my life. Thinking about the “should” in many things gave me a feeling of temporary ease before realizing the mistakes I made. My confidence broke down when I made a habit of over thinking things first before doing them. I guess that is the reason why many opportunities have passed by my life. I know that I am not the only one with what I personally call “Should Syndrome”. This is why I decided to spread the word about this post. Personally, I would like to thank you for writing this post. May you continue to write inspiring and personal development posts like this in the future. Cheers!

    1. Philomena Hayward says

      Thanks for the feedback, hope it helped.

  2. R Tours Photography says

    Thanks Philomena Hayward for sharing such an inspirational post. Really this post made me more confident.

  3. Therese says

    Hi Philomena, great article!
    I have always struggled with truly believe in myself and do thing I want to do rather than other people want or telling me to do. Also I have these “ghosts” in my head who telling me that I’m not good enough, others can but I can’t etc. Now I’ve decided to really put myself out there and be more of a yes sayer (not to other peoples tasks though) to opportunities!