I Had to Stop Shoulding So I Could Start Living

The coronavirus has been a time of uncertainty for so many of us. It has shaken up our lives in countless ways.  I wanted to share a story about how being shaken up actually helped me change my ENTIRE life around. Read on to discover how you can use this time of uncertainty and change for your own benefit...  

For a very long time, I was a financial analyst at one of the big medical device companies. This was the path I had wandered onto after graduating from my undergrad program. 

I love learning. I love school. I don’t remember this particular remark, but my mom remembers clearly when I said I would have stayed for a masters after undergrad. (Which, at that time, would have likely been as a construction major!)

Between my love of learning and my career as a financial analyst, it naturally made sense for me to pursue an MBA in finance…Right?

So, I started taking a class or two per semester. There were classes I really enjoyed, like a marketing class. But there were also classes that made me want to quit on the spot, like statistics – yikes! Overall, though, I’d say that I was much more in love with being on-campus and in a classroom than I was with what I was learning.

I was pursuing my master’s in finance because it was what I should be doing.

Until that moment came. 

My a-ha moment. 

I don’t remember what class I was in, but I do remember it clearly. I was in a classroom on the downtown Minneapolis campus. It was a beautiful afternoon outside and I was happy to be able to see outside from our classroom.

The thing that was different about this day, though, is that it was right after the horrible events of September 11th and I couldn’t seem to stop the visions flashing through my mind as I sat there looking out the window on that gorgeous day.

It was in that moment that it hit me: I was not where I belonged. That was the last class I attended towards my MBA.

As it often goes, it took a tragic event to wake me up to what was going on in my own life. Yes, I loved school and learning. But studying finance? Business? This was not me.

I was living from my shoulds.

That was when I started to wake up to truly living my own life, my right life. But, I had to quit my should life first. So I began exploring the many other things I was interested in, like volunteering and dance. (Yep, I even took hip-hop classes!) I made a few decisions about how to move forward, then I quit my job.

My question to you: What shoulds have you been living?

It’s really incredibly easy to go about our business living by our shoulds without even being truly aware of what exactly we’ve been doing. But let’s get clear on what a should is…

A should is someone else’s expectation or belief about how something should be done. When that should is communicated to and adopted by you as your own choice of how something should be done, and that something is your life, you are living a should life.

A person living a should life may not have considered that another way of living was possible or available, or maybe they hadn't yet developed their own ideas of what they wanted their life to be before adopting the should life...the path of least resistance.

Or, maybe they knew what they wanted, but felt compelled to live the should life, doubting their own ability to know best and not wanting to show disrespect to that person offering their view of how you should spend your life. Listening to advice can be a positive, helpful thing, especially when given by those you care about and who you believe have your best interests at heart, but ultimately it's your life.

Taking your own path can be uncomfortable for a while as you navigate your own feelings and those of others as they respond to your decisions, so keeping your balance during this process is important.

Do any of these situations ring true for you?

  • Delaying pursuing your dream until your kids are grown.
  • Staying in your relationship until the kids have graduated high school and have moved out of the house.
  • Staying in your relationship because you’ve been together for so long and finding someone new will be so hard.
  • Waiting for that magical “right time.”
  • Saving, saving, saving for retirement so you can then begin living your dream life.

The way I see it, there are two scenarios here.

One is that we use these situations to justify whatever the situation is because we’re afraid to step out of our comfort zone and to experience the discomfort of something new and different.

The other scenario is that we simply do not realize that we have been living out of alignment with our true beliefs and desires. After all, it is so easy to get caught up in our daily habits and routines without ever taking time to look at whether or not we’re on the right path for our truth.

So, what to do???

The first step to take, regardless of what your current situation is, is to take some time to assess the main areas of your life – career, relationships, financial, health, social, personal. Ask yourself questions like:

  • What is the status of this area of my life?
  • How did I create this? Why did I create this?
  • Is this what I want?
  • How do I feel when I think about this situation?
  • Does this honor my true self?
  • What is my inner guide telling me?
  • What have I been tolerating in this situation?
  • What are my true, deep down desires in this area?
  • What do I need to do to reach my goals here?

These questions are significant and I believe it’s good to explore the answers on a regular basis. Doing so often can help bring things to your attention so that you can adjust your course faster than you might otherwise.

I strongly encourage maintaining a journal to capture your feelings in the moment, including when you explore questions such as those listed above, as well as when you have a high or low moment. It’s way too easy to forget important details that can provide crucial clues to help guide you.

Honor yourself today and every day. Don’t delay in making the changes you need to pursue your life according to how you want to live it. Stop waiting for the perfect moment because it doesn’t exist. Love yourself enough to listen to and follow the guidance of what your inner self is telling you, and forget all of those shoulds. You deserve to live your best life, and you deserve to start today.

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