As a personal development coach I spend a lot of time listening, making connections and asking questions. Asking questions helps me understand, and helps my clients understand and sometimes even question their own statements and assumptions. Which opens up a door to new possibilities.
My favorite question of all? Says who?
I love it because I can be a little bit sassy when I ask it and I can’t help but smile too because my clients are smart people who know why I asked that. I’ll often ask that question after a client has made a statement using the word ‘should’.
The shoulds and I go way back
I first became aware of the shoulds when a therapist introduced me. I hadn’t even realized how far back the shoulds and I went because my entire life I was focused on what I SHOULD be doing. And I thought that was the way (said in Mandalorian).
Get good grades. Get into college. Get a job. Make ‘good’ money. Get married.
Following these shoulds ultimately worked out wonderfully for me – truly. I don’t have regrets. So we could make the argument that listening to someone tell me what to do in my youth focused me and set me on the right path. I’d be inclined to agree given where I am today. But…
The tradeoff to following the shoulds
Getting good grades – that was a struggle when I didn’t enjoy the subjects I was studying. I was (temporarily) expelled from college and was failing classes in high school as a result. I felt ashamed when I brought home poor grades and I felt I couldn’t ask for help because I only had myself to blame and didn’t deserve it.
Get into college – I picked the college down the street from me. I didn’t bother to explore other options or take college visits. I just checked the box on getting into college. I even changed my major to something I wanted to study to something more ‘practical’ – and ultimately began failing classes almost immediately because they just weren’t interesting. Given my high school achievements I could have finished college in three years – it took me four and a half!
Get a job – I got real good at throwing myself at every employer who came to recruit at my college. I didn’t think through if I wanted to actually DO that job or not. I was just focused on getting the job. I excelled at showing potential employers what they wanted to see. My first job out of college I lasted about six months. I knew I hit a low point when the dude at the drive thru at Taco Bell thought we were friends because I came by so much.
Make good money – I definitely did that. Much to my surprise. I sometimes look back on my career and wonder how on earth I managed to make as much money as I did. And I also wonder if I could have made more? The sacrifice I made though for these high salaried jobs were time away from my family, giving up of everything I loved to do – for a long time.
Making my own choices
Nothing comes without a cost, of course. When I look back though, I didn’t make these choices consciously. I did them because I thought I had to (I should). Now, I know how to recognize when something feels not right to me. I do have to sometimes stop and spend time digging into why, but the result is a feeling of satisfaction and happiness that no one can give me but myself!