How friendly is the little voice in your head?  Are you filled with “I should do write 500 words today.  I should eat healthy.  I should get everything on my to do list completed.”  What would happen if you gave God your shoulds?  How might your life look differently?  Take time to ask God three questions.

What Purpose Do Shoulds Serve?

Often times, until you start listening to your mind chatter, or your self talk, you may not even notice that you are telling yourself you should do this, or you should do that.  Shoulds serve the purpose of getting something accomplished, abeit negatively.  Often the shoulds are pushing us a perfect standardl.

Take time to look at when you are telling yourself you should do something or be something.  What are the messages you are telling yourself?  Are they messages God would say to you?  Are they messages you would say to people you love?

If not, ask God to make you aware of when you use the word should.  You can then begin to replace the word should with, I could, or I will, or I may work on.  Describing your intentions for the day positively allows your brain and body to be less stressed.

Taking the shoulds to God in prayer also lets Him direct your steps. How could you give God your shoulds?  What is the very next thing you intend to do today, with His vision and strength and grace?  Having His partnership frees up so much of your head space.

Where Do Shoulds Come From?

When you fall into the trap of the shoulds, you put pressure on yourself to perform or pressure to put things off because you can’t measure up.  Where did that standard come from?   Is it a message from the past?

Again, taking time to notice those shoulds and your body’s reaction to those shoulds may give you a clue as to the source of the shoulds.  Did your father have high expectations of you and you’ve unknowingly carried those high expectations with you into adulthood?

Or was there a particular comment or incident that has colored how you see yourself and what you should accomplish?  I know for me personally, I should write with depth and understanding.  I was told by a boss over 15 years ago that I didn’t have enough depth in my thinking.  That particular statement can get me into the “should research this, this and this mode” very quickly if I don’t stay aware and close to God in my writing.

How Do You Give Shoulds to God?

Fortunately, or unfortunately, this is not a one and done process.  Keeping in touch with God on a daily basis keeps you aware of when the shoulds pop up.  A prayer practice called The Examen  is a great way to review at the end of your day and give God your shoulds.

The Examen is like taking a movie of your day.  You take a few minutes to review what has happened during the day.  It’s a great awareness tool for your shoulds as well as other things in your life and shows you where you felt close to God and where you felt further away.

Father Mark Thibodeaux, SJ has a great 5-step mneumonic for The Examen and praying through your day:

  • Relish the moments that went well – feeling close to God and express gratitude for all the gifts received today
  • Request the Holy Spirit to lead you as you review your day
  • Review your day  what do you notice?
  • Repent of any past mistakes or failures from the day – where you felt far from God – where might those shoulds have popped up….. and how you might want God to help you change…..
  • Resolve, in concrete ways, to live tomorrow well with His eyes and strength…

How might this practice make a difference in letting go of your shoulds?  How would it feel to let go of your shoulds?

What about you?

As you begin to notice your shoulds, what have you discovered?  Surprised?

I know I was as I began to listen to my mind chatter.  As I began to pay attention to what my mind was saying to me, I became increasingly aware of the shoulds in my life.

By becoming aware, realizing their source and releasing them to God, I no longer carry the burden and stress of shoulds.  When they pop up, I have a way of letting them go.

You, too, can release the shoulds in your life and experience more freedom, hope and peace.  Start now and give those shoulds to God.

I would love to hear about your practice and what you discover.  Take one step today!

Nancy Booth wants to create safe spaces for you, helping you find ways to have two-way conversations with God.  She loves encouraging you to look for ways He is at work. Nancy is a spiritual director and writer.  She would love to accompany you on your journey of discovery to hear and see more of the God who delights in you.  Peace, hope and freedom could be yours Contact her today..