Stop “shoulding” yourself

One of the best ways to work on your mental fitness is to understand “cognitive distortions” and how they impact your brain in a negative way. Cognitive distortions are basically all negative biases that we have towards ourselves. We are generally harder on ourselves that we are with others and if we keep training our brains to think that way, the brain gets really good at thinking negatively about ourselves.

This process is called neuroplasticity which is based on the idea that your brain changes according to how you train it. Of course if you don’t know how to consciously train your brain to be helpful, it will generally train itself to be unhelpful. I know – great design for survival but definitely a flawed design to actually achieve your goals.

One of the lesser known cognitive biases is called “shoulding”. Yep it’s an actual thing! This is where you say to yourself “I should (insert activity here)”. So it could be “I should exercise more” or “I should look for a new job” or “I should go for that promotion”. You get the idea. These could be personal goals, or work-related goals.

The problem with “shoulding” yourself

The feeling that you should be doing something but aren’t doing it can lead to feelings of underachievement. In the long term this can play havoc on our self-esteem and we start to think that we can’t accomplish anything we think about.

How to avoid unnecessary “shoulding”

Get real – ask yourself why do you think you should do it? And then ask, why is that important to you. And then ask yourself why that response is important to you. Unless you have a pretty good reason why you should do something, then you should probably take it off your list and stop spending energy credits on it.

For example, I’ve never run a full marathon despite being just outside the top 1% of female runners in the half marathon events. Did the thought cross my mind? Sure – although mostly from other people saying “hey you should run a marathon”. So I never got to point of thinking I should run a marathon because I never had enough of a reason to run a marathon. The training would mean that I wouldn’t have time to teach fitness classes and get in my recovery time on top of full-time work. It’s all about priorities. And running a marathon wasn’t one of those.

So either you are going to do something and you set out a clear path to do it, or you cross it off the list. Again, it’s all about priorities. Of course priorities can change, at which time, put it back on the list of things you are going to make happen – and do it.

A should list is basically just a waste of energy credits. Either do it or forget about it until a time it becomes a priority.

So stop “shoulding” yourself. Either do it, or cross it off your to-do list to make sure your energy credits are being directed towards accomplishing your goals. This is a far better way to build helpful wiring in your brain.

If you would like further help with overcoming your cognitive distortions, please get in touch.