Please note: This article originally appeared on Virgin.com.
“A man should look for what is, and not for what he thinks should be.” – Albert Einstein
Ten years ago I thought I should put my MBA to good use and work on Wall Street. I thought a corporate job in finance where I got into work by 7am and was at my desk until 6pm was what I should do. I wrongly believed that all of these shoulds would make me happy and bring success.
The problem was that my life was filled with so many shoulds that there was little time in the day to do the things that were fulfilling and made a difference in the world. I eventually changed my life and left my finance and corporate job and decided to leave the shoulds behind.
As a coach, I now work with many clients who often feel overwhelmed by all the shoulds that fill their day – volunteering at their kids’ school, being part of a book club, getting involved in the recruiting process at work, attending unwanted social events, working in a corporate job when they would love to have their own business, and giving up valuable personal time for others.
The should factor takes many people off course. If you find yourself living with shoulds there is still plenty of time to change paths.
One day someone will write a book about the should factor. It’s about someone who is full of potential but never has time to focus on his top priorities because he is too busy expending time and energy on all the things he should do. For most of us, a life filled with shoulds will not excite you or leave you feeling fulfilled.
Take the should quiz to find out if you need an intervention. Do these phrases sound familiar?
1. Workout more often
2. Have a corporate job
3. Spend more quality time with my kids and spouse
4. Be more involved in the community
5. Eat out less
6. Attend a social event when I really need to sleep
WHAT IT ALL MEANS: If you answered yes to two or more of these questions you may want to examine how you invest your time and energy in people, ideas, and projects. Are these things you want to do or should do?
Don’t confuse responsibilities with things you should do. Responsibilities stem from choices you have made that require certain actions to sustain.
Here are four ways to minimize the should factor in your life and step into a world of possibilities and potential:
1. ASSESS YOUR WORDS: listen to the words you use and be mindful when you say you should do something. Is it something you want to do or what someone else wants you to do?
2. SET A GOAL THAT MATTERS: When you are honestly pursuing a goal that excites you and adds meaning to your life, you have less time to spend on shoulds. Ask yourself how important your goal is to achieve? If it’s really important and a top priority, it will take priority over any shoulds.
3. SCHEDULE YOUR PRIORITIES INTO EACH DAY: Double check what’s on your schedule each day to confirm that you are focusing on YOUR top priorities. I encourage my clients to do at least one positive thing a day for themselves.
4. BE THE CEO OF YOU INC: You are responsible for running one very important business and that’s you. To do and deliver your best self into the world you need to make sure you are meeting your needs and making yourself a priority. There is not a lot of time to focus on shoulds if you want to deliver your ‘A game’.
TOP 1% BOTTOM LINE: Living in a world of ‘shoulds’ will take you nowhere quickly. The should factor is one of the most widespread terms that prevents us from reaching our greatest potential. Don’t be afraid to take ownership of your actions to determine how they help you share your talents with the world. And most importantly, say goodbye to shoulds.
Alissa Finerman is an Executive Coach and Gallup Certified Strengths Coach, speaker and author of Living in YOUR Top 1%. She works with managers, C-suite executives and teams to leverage strengths, shift beliefs and achieve meaningful goals. Alissa has an MBA from the Wharton School and a BA from the University of California, Berkeley. She has worked with Ross Stores, Petco, BNP Paribas, Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, Brookfield Property Partners, Neutrogena, Bristol-Myers Squibb and Dress for Success. To learn more about coaching with Alissa, please visit her website and follow her on Facebook