Should Monster

Refuse to listen to listen to the inner chatter of reasons. I sometimes find when I do this the voices get more insistent. Aha! That’s when there’s something juicy to dig into. This is the land of the shoulds. Notice what the should voices are like. Are they screaming or whispering, desperate or sly, honest or manipulative?

The should voices have become a bright, red, blinking arrow. For gawdsakes, how can I have a prayer of trusting my gut instincts on the big stuff when I can’t even trust it to buy pasta sauce? I am stunned how much I’ve learned by paying attention to the shoulds that pop up when I’m out for a wander. They sound like “I should walk up the hill and get some cardio in.” “I should use this time to grab my shoes from the repair shop.” “I should go straight because (fill in the blank reason).”

The red blinking arrow of hearing the word “should” in your internal monologue tells me to stop and ask what’s up. I have to find out who thinks I should do X or Y. Do I think I should or does someone else think I should? Again, our cut-through-the-bullshit question comes to our aid-- do you want to do this? Pay attention to the immediate feeling you get in your body. Is it light or heavy? If it feels heavy like lead, ask yourself who it is that wants you to do X. If someone pops up immediately to mind, well that’s who it is. You might not like the answer. Not this information for later and do not, I repeat, do NOT do whatever you imagine that person wants you to do, at least, not in this moment. Remember, your only assignment on a wander is to follow your own gut, not someone else’s.

The only way to succeed at a wander is to do precisely what you want. For the wander to be most effective, it starts the moment you walk outside your front door and ends upon your return. Chopping it up into pieces adds unnecessary mental filters. Finding and listening to your gut is a process of clearing off layer upon layer of gunk that’s clouding up the picture. Don’t make this any harder than it has to be.

We’ll have to come back to the topic of dealing with what to do with the Should Monsters that originate from other people wanting you to do things. There’s too much to deal with there and if you get bogged down, you’ll lose your energy to keep wandering. If you need to, make a little note of who wanted you to do what and let the thought go for now.

The second kind of should is something you want. Well, not exactly. It’s something you wish you wanted, like “I wish I wanted to climb the steep hill to get in some cardio.” Some days chugging up the hill feels exactly like what I genuinely want when my body’s feeling all angsty and aggro or over caffeinated. If I look up a hill and it looks good, I charge up it. If not, I don’t. The end.

We’re laying down new reward pathways in the brain. We’re asking the brain to pay more attention to the gut instinct. Then we do the thing the gut says. Each time we do this we strengthen the gut instinct. If you want your gut to speak louder, first ask it what it has to say. Then listen to it.

Today I shuffled the deck and pulled the Should Monster. Oh how appropriate. It’s the end of June. I finished up my consulting gig that was paying nicely so I could focus on writing this book full time. I had so many ideas for how much I wanted to get done by now.

I should reconcile my 2017 books.

I should set up auto-pay so Sprint will stop charging me an extra $$ a month.

I should sublet out my room for the two weeks I’m in Mexico.

I should read my unopened scary notice from the SF tax collector.

I should go down to the grocery and buy something nice to cook.

I should spend all day editing.

I could go on and I’m sure you could fill up this whole page and then some with your own to do’s. Let's look at another list, the want to’s.

I want to have a nap.

I want to repot the plants before I leave.

I want to take a walk.

I want to go to Berkeley Bowl.

I want to mail out the rest of the card decks to Patrons.

I want to go get takeout.

It’s a different list, for the most part. A lot of the shoulds are things I wished I wanted to do, but actually don’t. Watch out for the shoulds that have the power to really make you feel shitty about yourself. These speak to some wounded belief we’re carrying about how terrible of a human we are. The one that is the most power in this list is going to the grocery. Now, let me first say I love to cook most of the time, but I’ve been half-heartedly transitioning to eating mostly vegetarian food and it’s not going so well. There’s a voice in my head that says “You’re a rich white lady who spends her money on organic papayas in an outrageously-priced Piedmont Grocery instead of buying beans and franks and sending the rest of the money to the starving kids in Africa.” Another voice says “Vegetarian, huh… Do you know tempeh costs more than chicken?” Another pipes up “You’ve eaten enough already today. Eat a spoonful of peanut butter and skip dinner. You deserve to be hungry anyway.” On and on my ruminating mind churns on such a simple task as finding dinner. Deciding how to get dinner sometimes feels like more effort than the actual act.

There is a class of shoulds which feel like necessities, such as eating, paying taxes and the like. Our worry about doing them can far exceed the actual bother of doing them. How then do we get on with getting on with them?

Firstly, let’s sift out which ones truly are necessities. Then cast a critical eye to whether the way we’re going about them could be gentler. Yes, we do have to do our taxes, but we don’t necessarily have to do them by April 15. You can file an extension without guilt.

What if there’s something standing in the way of the things you have to or want to do?

See the light reversal > HIGHER SELF