“Should”-ing or Shifting?

“What is really underneath the mask of the Broken Generation?”

Has there ever been a time in your life when you were told that you “should” be doing something? Has there ever been a time where you felt like you “should” be doing something?

The first question implies that someone told you to do something against your will, and you felt you had to do it and felt guilty as a result. The second question implies that you had set a goal, outcome or intention of some kind, slacked off on it and then said to yourself, “I should be doing x because…” to cover up or deal with any kind of guilt.

Do you sense a bit of a theme here?

There is nothing wrong with the word “should” as the word tends to denote an expectation of some kind. Of course when our expectations are not met, we then tend to resort to our lowest emotions – guilt, fear, anger, confusion etc. Now, there’s nothing wrong with having expectations (and using the word “should”) as this is part of energy that drives us to action toward a particular goal. But there’s a wrong way of using “should” that can be very debilitating…

Ever received unwanted advice? “You should be doing x” or “You should be doing y”, like someone was nagging at you to do something without having virtually any understanding of your situation. In other words, people think that they know what they are talking about when they hand you some of their “priceless” advice.

And that happens with millions of 20-somethings – especially when they are confronted with, and perhaps overwhelmed with, a gazillion choices at their disposal. So, these well-intentioned people end up “should-ing”, rather than helping you with your shifting into something better.

When I was in my twenties, I knew what I wanted to do, but I was having trouble “shifting” into what I wanted and the person that I wanted to become. So, I got exposed to the proverbial “should-ing” to help with my “shifting”. Case in point: I was going through, perhaps, a bit of a transition in my life and I prefer to be left alone at times in order to “figure out” of what to do next. Well, lo and behold, that sent a (rather misinterpreted) message to my parents to send me to a psychologist (oh goodie, I thought). I felt that they didn’t understand my situation and as a result I got nothing out of the psychotherapeutic sessions that followed. I just got “should-ed” a lot (both directly and indirectly) and after all that, the psychologist recommended that I see a therapist. Um, no thank you, I thought. Basically, the sessions never helped me…

But what did help me was reconnecting with myself (via listening to and listening to myself) to what I REALLY wanted, and that was to empower others. I treated every experience and every person as a teacher of some kind. I looked back on my life an realized every experience I’ve gone through was a message to respond to my life’s calling.

I do understand, however, that going after what you really want is not always the easiest thing in the world.

Being confronted with choices recommended by others who don’t understand you or listen to you…

Being surrounded by people who are intent on maintaining the status quo…

Doing what you think you “should” be doing, only to regret your decision afterward and suffer serious consequences as a result…

And a host of other distractions that divert you from who YOU truly are.

What do YOU really want out of life? What do you really believe about yourself? What’s in you…that’s unique and special?

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe said it best:

“Whatever you do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius and power and magic in it.”


So, what’s waiting for you….?


Keep the change,

Shawn Bent


One thought on ““Should”-ing or Shifting?

  1. Thank you Shawn for such a great post! I know exactly what you are talking about and it brought me back to some of those memories and how I felt. I wish I listened more to myself growing up because, I remember having a lot of feelings of regret and anger; always feeling pressured into something I did not really want to do. Thankfully as I have grown I have learned to follow my own intuition. You are doing a really great thing to help people understand this.