Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Should. Could. Would.

Should, could, would.

I use these words all the time without thinking about the implications.

"I should take the kids to the beach soon..."

"I could participate in that blog link-up..."

"I would come to your playdate..."

Do you say should, could, or would a lot? I use these three words probably a hundred times a week, maybe even a day. I've been thinking about them quite a bit lately, considering if they are appropriate or rather, a sign of dysfunction in my life. At first I couldn't quite figure out why these words were failing me and I didn't understand why I kept using them, despite them not being very helpful. My unhappiness with these pieces of my vocabulary has revealed several areas of my life I am discontent with, but using should, could, and would has never helped me actually do the things should, could, and would always seem to suggest. Rather, when these words encroach on my thoughts and sentences, I find myself doubting God's callings, doubting my convictions, and feeling bad about my life in general.

I use should, could, and would most when there is something I think I want to do, but feel unable to do it, whether it's because of a busy schedule, a conflict of interest, or a general lack of motivation. Sometimes my reasons are legitimate. If my kids and I have been out of the house for lunch three days in a row, it's highly unlikely I will feel up for a picnic at the park - this is my introverted coping mechanism. But other times, the reasons I give after saying should, could, or would are a response to not taking the time to focus on whatever task, event, or desire is in front of me. I am noticing that in taking time to consider more carefully what I should, could, or would do, I am rewarded with greater confidence in my actions and relief from guilt over what I am not doing.

What I want to do is take each of these words and look at what really lies behind how we use them, and talk about how we can navigate our thoughts, emotions, and actions to use proactive words instead of these passive, guilt-loaded words. In this first blog post, I'm going to talk about all three words together, what is not so great about them, and get you thinking about what your life can look like if you use them less. Each week I'll go deeper into one word and see what we can do to stop saying should, could, or would and start saying shall, can, and will.

When I first started thinking about these words, I was in the shower, where all good thoughts pop into my head and 99% of them never come to fruition. However, this idea stuck with me all day, and all through the week. I kept noticing how often I think "I should do this, but..." or "I would do that, but..." and then I spotted a trend. These thoughts I had and these phrases I kept saying were all wishes, or hopes, or desires based on vague ideas of what a grown woman should be doing with her life. They were all things happening in an imaginary realm, none of them being founded on a specific rule, command, or obligation.

Consider the idea that I should drink less coffee. This is not really an actionable statement, not something anyone had suggested as a solution to any problem, yet it was provoking a lot of guilt in me. I would randomly think about how my stomach didn't always do so well with too much espresso, how our budget would be more lovely with less trips to Starbucks, and how I'd have fewer reasons to argue with my children if I didn't drive up to that brown building with them in-tow, but the thought "I should drink less coffee" never went anywhere after that. It hung over me like a little black cloud, following me to that drive-through, torturing me without reason or relent.

All of these thoughts - the should's, could's, and would's - are all statements that invite guilt but offer no solution. I started to think if there was a way to really dissect what is behind each should, could, or would, I could find a way to stop these frustrating phrases from following me around. So, instead of leaving my could right there, I spent some time thinking it through and wrote it down.

Here is the potential that lies in each word, a way we can springboard from each passive word and live it for real.

Should becomes shall.

Could becomes can.

Would becomes will.

I will go ahead and apologize now, because this post will leave you hanging just a little bit. I cannot hash it all out in one blog post (and I'm not entirely sure I can do it in four) but I will let you know where I am headed. We can think about each should we say in a way to help us determine if that thought is worthy of becoming a shall. We can look at each we could that goes through our mind and decide if it's important enough to become a can. We can consider each would we think about and figure out if it needs to become a will.

If I look at why I should drink less coffee I can come up with some really good reasons. Then, I can decide if those reasons are legitimate, if they are a good enough reasons to make a change. When I decide "I shall drink less coffee" I no longer have guilt about what I should be doing, and it's kind of empowering to say it out loud. If you say it with a British accent then it's even more fun. But more importantly, when I get ready to determine if this should really needs to become shall, I see more clearly how important the idea actually is, and I can live more in line with my beliefs, my core values, and my current abilities. It gives me freedom to live in the now, as my authentic self, without any guilt.

Whether or not I drink less coffee may not be very important in the grand scheme of life, but living in freedom every day is. And this is what we all want right? Freedom to decide for ourselves whether we really should do something, and trusting that we are taking action when we know it is right and good.

I hope reading through all my thoughts and insights on these words will be as helpful for you as it has been for me. In a world where everyone wants our opinion, efforts, and attention, this can be a simple way to kill the guilt-monster lurking in your mind. Not only will it help you rid of needless guilt, but you will know yourself better, and trust God's prompting in your life more. Living in this kind of freedom takes effort every day, but hopefully these little insights and changes in thinking will help you win that battle with less effort, less defeat, and more victory.

Come back next week and we'll take a look at should together. I dare you to tally up how many times you say it this week! You might be surprised ;)

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