Are you “shoulding” in your career?

Photo Danilo Alvesd on Unsplash

“Guilt can either hold you back from growing or it can show you what you need to shift in your life.” - Anonymous

Must, should, ought to, have to, and need to…they seem like simple words. But surprisingly, overusing these words can lead to guilt, frustration and resentment in your career and your life. Known as categorical imperatives, these words create self demands and obligations that are largely inflexible and place unrealistic expectations on oneself and others. The result: your self-worth is determined by factors other than your own wishes, desires, values, or interests.

Without paying attention to your word choice, you could be “shoulding” all over the place. Here are some examples:

should take that promotion. 

have to stay in this job.

must have a career that is respected by others. 

need to make more money to be successful.

By using this language, you are inadvertently creating a belief bottleneck that is both inefficient and ineffective. “Shoulding” expects you (and at times, others) to be perfect. This type of language will likely leave you feeling less confident, less motivated, and perhaps sad or even depressed. Instead, kick “should” to the curb, and rephrase it as a desire (e.g., I want to take that promotion). If this statement still isn’t sitting well with you, try rephrasing it in a way that makes you feel excited and pulled towards it (e.g., I want to take a job where I am a technical expert, not managing others). When you rephrase the statement in a way that identifies what you truly want, not only will you feel more authentic, but you will be more in control of yourself and your goals. Spoiler alert! This will likely lead to increased motivation versus a desire to avoid and procrastinate.

Don’t get me wrong, simply saying you want to do something versus “shoulding” isn’t sufficient on its own to achieve a goal. Through action, you also need to cultivate a corresponding identify that is consistent with your belief. For example, if you want to become a technical expert but you do not apply for jobs or pursue experiences that align with this, your behaviours and beliefs will be at odds instead of an alignment. Challenging yourself to examine if your beliefs and behviours are oppositional or complementary is important. Ask yourself:

“What actions do I take that align with this belief?” and

“What action do I take that undermine this belief?”

Remember that your own language can be an important vehicle to facilitating the outcomes you desire. So, instead of “shoulding” all over the place, redirect yourself with authentic statements about what you truly want, wish, or prefer. Pay attention to your language and stop “shoulding” all over the place!

Do you have any tips or strategies you use to stop yourself from “shoulding” all over the place?

Leave your thoughts below for the Career with a View crew.