How to Stop Living by the "Should, Must & Have To's"

Have you ever felt anxious and unsettled about where you are in life or who you have become? Likewise, when it comes to your relationships do you feel more anxiety maintaining your current ones or considering the possibility that it all could be too much? You are NOT ALONE! These are just a few examples of ways we lock ourselves into believing there is only one good outcome for the direction of our lives. By living this way, we become so stressed out trying to reach that one outcome. It is a very common theme for people to live according to a set of rules and guidelines that at the end of the day they are not even sure they want to follow and in many cases they do not even know where they originated. If you are hearing voices in your head that say, “I should be doing this” or “ I must be at this place in my life by a certain age” or “I have to make sure I’m doing x,y & z” then you are living in a world that is ruled by the “Should, Must and Have To’s” (SMH’s). 

 Let’s break down these SMH’s:

 The Should’s say: “I Should be doing _______ in my life, relationships, career”

“And if I could not, then…”

-       I am less than

-       I am lazy

-       I am a bad person

The Must’s say: “I Must do _______ in my life, relationships, career”

“And if I did not, then…”

-       I am a bad friend

-       I am weak

-       I am selfish

 The Have To’s say: “I Have to be _______ in my life, relationship, career”

“ And if I am not, then…”

-       There is something wrong with me

-       I am a failure

-       I am just a quitter

We have all had these thoughts nagging at us, telling us to change or do it better. Truthfully, CHANGE is NOT the problem. We evolve and change constantly as our worldview shifts and our self-awareness develops. However, the MOTIVATION behind the change WILL MAKE OR BREAK YOU. The motivation for change can be out of a true desire within you to improve or it can come from fear of not meeting the expectations of the SMH’s.

Getting a handle on this kind of mental wrestling match is a GAME CHANGER for anyone wanting to have more of a voice and more control over their OWN identity. 

The SMH’s are usually connected to a familiar voice. This can be the voice of someone or something that you have given power to over the years. If you are looking to create your own expectations and break the power of unwanted voices in your head, you can ask yourself these questions:

1.     Who is the person behind this voice?

2.     Do I trust and respect the person this message belongs to?

3.     What is at the foundation of my relationship with this person?

4.     Does this person encourage my worth and value?

5.     What is my motivation for keeping these rules in place?

If people are not on the journey with you or heading towards the same goal, do they really get to have a say? That should be a BIG, FAT, NO.

Realizing the SMH’s in your life can take time and it can be helpful to bounce all your thoughts off of someone who can be impartial and non-judgmental. A counselor can be a great resource in helping you sort through what thoughts are authentic to you and what thoughts do not belong to you anymore.

Today you can unlock YOUR inner voice and connect to the power of YOUR own thoughts, goals and expectations.

Toni Greco, LPC