Always Well Within

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Overcome By Shoulds? Take Back Your Life

Take Back Your Life

Are your “have tos,” “must dos,” and “shoulds” stressing you out?

We all have real have tos in life like taking care of our children, acting responsibly on our job, and paying our bills.

But we often add another layer of have tos that have been created by our imaginative mind from seeds planted way in the past.  These have tos may be unconscious or semi-conscious.  They can make you feel like you’re living inside a pressure cooker.

For example:

  • Feeling like you must stick to a deadline you’ve created in your own mind when it won’t really hurt to give yourself a few more days.  And, in fact, the extra space might make you more creative and productive.
  • Feeling like you must complete your to-do list every single day although it’s a mile long and takes you till 10 o’clock at night.
  • Feeling like you must clean every nook and cranny of the house before your dinner guests arrive, when an 80% job would be just fine.

Do you have your own versions of have tos, must dos, and shoulds?

These internal rules can make you feel constantly under the gun. They can also adversely effect your self-esteem when you’re not able to live up to your own self-created expectations.

Often, when you feel a have to, must do or should, it indicates something you really don’t want to do.  That’s interesting, isn’t it?

These internal demands represent a mix of obligations, habits, and expectations that have hardwired themselves into your identity.  But are they still valid right now, reasonable, and enriching to your life?

Imagine how relaxing it would be to let go of a few of the artificial have tos in your life!

Question Your “Have Tos”

Make a list of your “have tos.”  It doesn’t have to be exhaustive, just list the most pressing items that come to your mind that feel more like deep-seated habits, patterns, or expectations that may no longer be relevant or helpful in your current life.

Also, in daily life, pay attention to each time you tell yourself “have to,” “must do,” or “should.”  Jot a note and include those on your big list.

Then, question each have to on your list.

  • Ask: “Why must I do this?”
  • Explore: “Is there a better alternative?
  • Consider: “What would happen if I didn’t do this?”

At the end of the process, select the have tos that can take a hike, and eliminate them from your life one-by-one.

This process may excite you.  Or you might find it challenging since these have tos have been some of your personal laws for years.  If you find it difficult, be gentle with yourself and keep at it.  It will get easier with time, and you’ll find more ease and space with each step you take.

Thank you for being here! Join me for daily inspiration on the Always Well Within Facebook Page.  Sign up for free blog posts by email.  And, if you have a moment, please share this article and make a difference in someone’s life.  Thank you!  May you be well, happy, and safe – always.  With love, Sandra


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  1. Hey Sandra, this is timely—-I am getting ready for a big house cleaning in the next several weeks, and figuring out what to do and what to leave is something I want to think about now! I like your “evaluation” list—-yes, what WOULD happen if I left dust on the ceiling fan! 🙂 🙂 Seriously, I do need to consider what to do and how thoroughly to do it so I can get the major things done and not get caught up in some little thing (like reading books I “discover”) which has happened before. Wish me luck!

    • I do wish you luck, Jean! A big house cleaning would be challenging for me even though we have a small house. You would probably find me lost in a book although I do get things done, it just takes time. I know you can do it though to your personal satisfaction. I hope my evaluation list really does help!!! I love your question about the ceiling fans. Could to question everything that’s not obvious.

      • I worked a trick, Sandra! I am not officially on break yet so the cleaning has not officially started. Today I did the book thing, and allowed myself to do a little reading —-and I got rid of a bunch of books and old Videos that we can’t even play anymore. So I got a head start and am feeling right proud of myself! 🙂 🙂
        And I have a tiny house but still a challenge! 🙂

  2. Hi Sandra – I had to laugh at your “cleaning every nook and cranny” mention. That is definitely how I used to live my life before becoming a heart patient in 2008. Since then, however, I’ve had to learn the fine art of p-a-c-i-n-g (something I’d never bothered to learn ever before!)

    For example, a simple summer day trip out to the farmers market for fresh produce is now a 3-day job:

    – Day One, clean out the fridge crispers where the incoming veggies/fruits will be heading. Toss any slimy compost therein. Take nap to recuperate.
    – Day Two: drive to the farmers market, shop, carry the bags into the kitchen. Take nap to recuperate.
    – Day Three: unpack the veggies (which have been sitting in their bags on the kitchen countertop all night. Clean/chop/prep/bag/arrange in fridge. Take nap to recuperate.

    The funny thing is, once I figured this out (after slowly realizing that doing all this on the same day was apparently impossible!) this became my new ‘routine’ that now feels perfectly normal and best of all, a stress-free 3-day way to enjoy a lovely outing.

    Thanks Sandra for this wonderful post!

    • I’m sorry you’ve been struck by heart problems, Carolyn. At the same time, I deeply appreciate the practical wisdom you’ve shared. So many of us could benefit form the “art of pacing” and be able to live with more ease for having done so. I’m glad it’s become routine and feels good for you! Enjoyment is so key to being able to relax and be happy despite our life challenges. Thanks for sharing the details. It helps to learn exactly what pacing means!

  3. I laughed out loud at this Sandra…thinking back to the times I’ve been under self-induced stress because I decided I needed to do something or put myself under the clock to because ‘I had to’ finish a project.

    All made up in my mind of course. It’s amazing how liberating it is when you say to yourself, hmmm, remind me again why it has to be this way…and discover because somewhere, at some time you mentally decreed it to be so.

    We are funny creatures indeed. lol


    • Oh yes, Elle! This has been one of my automatic patterns too – creating intense deadlines that are preferences rather than musts. We are funny creatures, but happily learning to go with the flow. I always love “seeing” you and appreciate your thoughts.

  4. Love this – I tend to go with the flow too often so I have started a daily love list in colour that makes me smile when I check it off, I am now going to apply your 3 questions that maybe are shoulds rather than empowering to loves:) xx

    • Beautiful, Suzie! I adore the idea of a daily love list in colour. I’m glad you feel the “should” test can fine tune the process a bit further. Hugs and love to you!

  5. Oh boy! Can I relate to this one. I find that it is a double edged sword. Because of my “to-dos” and “shoulds” I push myself pretty hard and have accomplished some amazing things. But they can also manufacture anxiety and unhappiness.

    I’ve learned to scale back and have three priority things on my priority list for that day. This helps me focus and prioritize. Sometime (heck, most of the time) some part gets held over and added to the next day’s list. I’ve learned to be OK with that.

    • You’re an amazing woman, Debbie. You have accomplished so much! I can imagine how those shoulds can get intense. I’m glad you have a good system worked out so they no longer dominate your life. I love the 3 priorities a day idea! This is such an inspiration and really shows us that we can all make positive shifts.

  6. This is perfect for me right now as i looked yesterday at all the things I feel I must do before i start my day and was just deciding to let of of a couple to free me up to experience more joy in what i do.
    I love the clean every nook and cranny- I have developed a much more Laissez-faire approach , although at time I hear my mother’s voice and do a quick tidy up

    I feel once we truly love ourselves and accept that we are perfect ALL THIS BECOMES EASIER AND WE FLOW XXO

    • I think we’ve moving in sync, Suzie – always looking at what we can subtract to feel more joy and ease. The clean every nook and cranny before guests arrive is one that stresses me out so I thought others might related! I so agree, when we have a deep love and understanding, everything becomes easier.

  7. Wonderful tips and advice Sandra. The questions are really helpful. It’s hard to change old scripts, but often well worth the effort. I’m so glad the Google goddess led me to your blog. I love the energy here.

  8. Really something that would help me a lot. Thanks for the list of questions that you shared with us, it is very helpful indeed. Great Read.

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