Give Up Your Shoulds

Throughout life, many of us are weighed down by things that we should do. I should lose weight. I should make changes. I should go back to school. I should be in a different place in life. When we take a major step back to examine all of our shoulds, it can be an overwhelming experience because we look at all of the things that we want to accomplish…but haven’t yet.

On November 1st of each year since 2008, there is a little-known observation called “Give Up Your Shoulds Day.” Coined by licensed therapist and author Damon L. Jacobs, the concept is meant to encourage giving up the guilt, not the plan. Jacobs believes that “people generally live more calm and fulfilled lives if they give up the word should.” Even if only for a day, giving up our shoulds provides us a sense of relief, if just for a short period of time.

Giving up your shoulds makes room for other things. Years of shoulds can weigh a person down. Imagine not being burdened by your thoughts and feeling the mental freedom to take action, like mustering the bravery to start something you’ve been putting off or finding that buried willpower to get something done. When you give up your shoulds, you make room in your life to act on the things you’ve been putting off, granting a moment of reprieve, while you concentrate on so many other things in your life.

Giving up your shoulds gets rid of unnecessary guilt. Giving up your shoulds involves getting rid of your shouldn’ts, too. Telling yourself “I shouldn’t have done that” or “I shouldn’t have said that” can result in self-inflicted distress and despondence because you are dwelling on things that have already taken place and can’t be changed. When you’re in control of what affects you, you react in a more controlled manner and base your decisions on rationale, not emotion.

Giving up your shoulds doesn’t mean that you leave those things behind. Just because you give up your shoulds doesn’t mean that you give up on achieving your goals. Doing this helps you to focus on the now rather than the latter. When people apply too much focus on what they should be doing, they can often get caught up in trying to achieve perfection because they put too much pressure on themselves. We all have to start somewhere so instead of telling yourself that you should do something, take the dive and tackle that first step!

National Give Up Your Shoulds Day is all about getting rid of the thoughts that burden us because whether we do something or not, we deserve to have our minds at ease. We have enough to think about with work, school, families, recreational activities, and general life so letting go of these thoughts, if just for today, allows us to hit the reset button so that we can gather our thoughts without pressure or guilt. Give up your shoulds because when there is really something worth doing, do it!