These words are limiting your possibilities, and what to say instead.

The language we use influences how we see ourselves and the world around us and can shift the energy we bring to a situation. Our language can contribute to feelings of overwhelm and a sense of being out of control or it can empower us.

For example, “I am” statements are permanent. It’s who we are – a part of the fabric of our being. So when we say things like…
I am overwhelmed.
I am stressed.
I am exhausted.

These statements feel permanent. The more we say these things (aloud or to ourselves) the more we reinforce them and the more permanent they become. By simply switching “I am” to “I feel” we make statements like these more temporary because feelings don’t last forever. And we give ourselves permission to feel differently later.

I feel overwhelmed.
I feel stressed.
I feel exhausted.
These statements acknowledge the truth of how you feel right now and leave room to feel something else soon.

Other words that have a big impact on our mindset are “should” and “have to”. Do you notice when you say “should” it comes with a layer of guilt because you’re not doing what you’re supposed to? Or “have to” which comes with a layer of resentment because you feel forced to do something you don’t want to? We bring that energy of guilt or resentment to the task we “should” or “have to” do – even if we don’t mean to.

Reframing these words can empower us to make new choices, see things in a different light and show up with greater presence.

Where do you notice yourself saying, “should” or “have to”?

Do you “have to” meet with everyone on your team for an hour once a week as your favorite manager did?
“Should” you reply to every email within 3 hours?
Do you “have to” be available to your clients or your team 24/7?
Do you “have to” clean the house yourself?
“Should” you prioritize everyone else’s needs above your own?

We all have “should”s and “have to”s that feel like they’re driving the decisions we make. But where do they come from? Often, they’re rooted in stories we’ve created at some point in our lives and we may not even be fully aware of when or where they started because they’ve become such a habit.

My Mom is a superwoman. She’s an amazing cook and hosts great dinners. She is a thoughtful wife. She dresses beautifully, and reads voraciously, and often traveled to Europe (before the pandemic). Our house was always beautifully decorated and she effortlessly created gorgeous flower arrangements. She was also our resident handywoman, refinishing furniture, painting walls, and hanging curtains. And she started a successful decorating firm when I was 12. She was also able to stay up late, survive on caffeine and still be cheerful the next morning (something I cannot do). As I said, she is a superwoman.

So when I became a wife and mother I had lots of “should” stories about what it means to be a good mom. One of those stories was that I “should” be cooking delicious dinners from scratch for my family every night.

Now, I love to cook. I would love to make fabulous meals and enjoy my time in the kitchen with music and wine, and conversation. However, the reality of my life right now is that I have two small children (age 3 and 4) who go to bed by 7 PM. I work late 3 nights a week to better support the schedules of the professionals I coach. So on weekdays our meals are simple and put together in less than 30 minutes.

My Mom and I are built differently (no late nights for me). My schedule and family life are different too which means I need to let go of the “should” and decide how I can choose to show up in a way that feels good, honors my energy levels, and takes into account the current season of my life.

What works for us, is to have Saturday morning waffle-making parties where the kids get to help in the kitchen. We put on some music and dance and most importantly, we get to spend time together and make those magical memories.

When my kids get older or my schedule changes I can make new choices. By allowing myself to let go of the “should”s and “have to”s I’m free to make choices that support my life right now.

When we let go of the “should” we create room for so many other possibilities.

A client had an older dog she used to walk every morning with a friend. As the dog got older my client began to stay home. She missed that time with her friend and with long hours at work she didn’t have time to squeeze exercise anywhere else in her day.

I wondered why she didn’t still walk with her friend in the morning? It would satisfy her need for exercise and social connection. She had a story that someone needed to stay home with the dog. When she tested this theory – it turned out the older dog was perfectly happy to nap while she got her exercise and time with her friend. The “have to” stay home story was a choice she was making. And once she realized that she was able to make a different choice.

Start by simply noticing when you say “should” or “have to”.
Get curious about where these ideas come from. What’s fueling the narrative?
Test the theory. What happens if you make a different choice? What choice would you like to make in this situation? What’s standing in the way of making that choice? (If you want ideas on how to lighten the load, read our blog on the 4D’s).

Because the language we use influences the energy we bring, how we see ourselves and the world around us.

A simple shift in language from “I am” to “I feel”, from “I should” or “I have to” to “I choose to” can open up new possibilities and empower us to choose behaviors that will support our lives right now.

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