‘Should-ing’ isn’t a word that’s made it into the dictionary yet, far as I know.
Yet should-ing is probably one of the most useful words I know, part of my vocabulary for a dozen years or so, thanks to Marcus Buckingham, the gentleman who champions the strengths management movement.
Should-ing is a cautionary word about what not to do.
As Buckingham defined it, should-ing is living your life by working within others’ expectations, instead of within your own.
Most of us are beset by the should-ing expectations of others while still in school and in new jobs. We’re vulnerable then, extremely unsure of everything, and we’re starting to realize we live by this ticking clock which counts off the years until we’re “all grown up” and have become “valued contributors.”
Being a grownup is a scary prospect, even to a so-called adult. We haven’t had many experiences to draw from yet, so rather than make our own choices, we listen to our parents and teachers, our coaches and clergy, our bosses, our peers and others — all very well-meaning and genuinely sincere — who give us direction and their counsel. We allow them to do our thinking for us and chart our course.
“Follow in our family footsteps: It’s your destiny.”
“There’s a reason people say you should be a doctor or lawyer.”
“Go to college, and you can figure things out there.”
“Find one of those jobs that still offers a pension, or at least a 401k plan with maximum matching and vesting.”
“We’ve always done it this way, and it’s worked: No one expects you to reinvent the wheel.”
This one is usually within the cacophony too: “Do what you love, and the money will follow.” [If you still believe that, I highly recommend you read this.]
All that direct advice, bluntly telling us what to do, robbed us of crucial practice in telling ourselves what to do, or what to try, or how to dream our impossible dreams. We ran out of time for dabbling or learning the ropes (or so we think) and we just listened to others and buckled down to whatever the task at hand, believing we simply had to learn to do those things better.
‘Whatever’ is pretty yucky stuff. Well-intentioned advice turned into unfortunate limits.
We earn our chops, we do, yet we find we’re saddled with “being reasonable” or “being responsible” when we should do the exact opposite, and push the envelope as hard, and as relentlessly and creatively as we can now that we’ve arrived in our next places. However, we discover that we can’t work within our own expectations, because we haven’t really set any to begin with. No wonder goal-setting is so tough for so many!
And that’s where ‘Should’ comes in.
There is a definite place for “Should” in our vocabulary, when Should means we’ve finally broken free from what others think. We have arrived at the understanding that we are adults now — we’ve become the grownups — and we work on what matters because we can.
We work on what matters.
Deep down in our gut, we know we should, and so we do.
It hasn’t been easy, but that makes it all the more sweet.
Sometimes, this sweet spot in work isn’t necessarily what we’d say we love to do… we work on it because we want it to get done, or we want something catalytic to happen. We have picked ourselves for handling what we deem most important.
We genuinely, and passionately want to accomplish this work of our Should. We want to be able to say we nailed it, and it made some kind of difference in our lives, or the lives of others, because we were the ones courageous or smart enough to do it.
I wouldn’t call it a passion or purpose; not exactly. It may not be a career, or a person’s final destination. Sometimes it’s not that big and all encompassing, but it’s a key part of something else — your Should is tipping point work, or your connector to your next important step.
The key difference between Should and Should-ing is this: The work of Should is the work of personal insight, and self-propelled choice. It can be tough if others don’t like it, or they want to remain connected to you, and likely won’t if you pursue it, but you know you must forge ahead. You must if you’re ever to be true to your own spirit, and your own gifts.
Ho‘ohana and Pa‘ahana
In Managing with Aloha, we call this work our Ho‘ohana: It is the intentional work of what a person has deemed to be important and worthwhile — to them, to their values, and to their Aloha Spirit, no matter what anyone else might think about it. Yet it’s about way more than personal satisfaction: The work itself matters.
Ho‘ohana can often require pa‘ahana — the diligence and perseverance of really hard work, and work where progress doesn’t come easy. Pa‘ahana is often a crucible, a personal test or trial that serves to make people stronger and better for having achieved it. There is growth and reward in the striving.
An affirmation to remember and repeat – loudly!
“I will Ho‘ohana:
I am stronger than this challenge, and
this challenge makes me stronger.”
January is drawing to a close, and like you, I’ve read a lot about resolutions, goal-setting, and list-making. As I’ve previously shared with you, I’ve done coaching on mission and vision as well, weaving what I know to be good business practices into these early weeks of the new year. When I put it all together, this is what I want to leave you with, and have these waning days of January propel us forward with:
Absolutely no more Should-ing.
Do your Should, even if a list of small-kine practice Shoulds for now: They will steadily make you stronger and more confident in the weeks to come, and your goals will grow.
Let’s stop Should-ing all over ourselves, and be selfish in the best of ways.
Let’s define the Should of our Aloha Spirit, and go for it in the months to come.
Then, and only then, will 2015 be the year you’re genuinely hoping it will be for you.
Related Reading: Banish your Possibility Robbers.
“Finding your passion isn’t just about careers and money. It’s about finding your authentic self. The one you’ve buried beneath other people’s needs.”
— Kristin Hannah, Distant Shores