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The Word "Should" Has No Place in Goal Setting

How many times a day does the word "should" come up in your daily conversations or self-talk when it comes to your goals?

I'd guess that it happens so often that you don't even realize it. I should make more calls.

I should go to the gym.

I should pursue more certifications.

Or, maybe you experience the opposite of should, shouldn't.

I shouldn't take the afternoon off.

I shouldn't ask for help.

I shouldn't say "no" to yet another project, even if I don't really want to do it.

Just thinking of the word "should" often brings on feelings of stress, resentment, obligation, and guilt.

And rightfully so.

We've been told what we "should" or "shouldn't" do for our entire lives and while some of what we've been told IS important and true and deserves to be followed, we accept many more of the "shoulds" that we are given without question.

Raising Awareness of Shoulds in Your Goal Setting

When it comes to your goals, this is a tricky road to navigate.

Goals are extremely personal. The end result each person aims for is unique as is the path they follow, making many "shoulds" not helpful.

So while there are tried and true 'tips' that one can consider from those who have gone before, deciding what actions to take must be the decision of the goal-setter alone.

Becoming aware of the times you use "should" in your self-talk around your goals is the first step to taking your power back. Powerful decision-making leads to powerful goal-getting because you take ownership of the actions you want to take instead of simply doing them because you feel you "should".

Becoming aware of the times you use "should" in your self-talk around your goals is the first step to taking your power back.

Empowering Alternatives to "Should"

Once you become aware of when you use the word "should" or "shouldn't" in your goal setting, try to replace it with more empowering language.

Here are seven alternatives to "should" to consider:

  1. Could: Provides choice and flexibility and personal choice. ("I could make a few more sales calls today.")

  2. Can: Expresses capability and control (I can make a few more sales calls before my next team meeting.)

  3. Want to: Indicates personal desire and motivation instead of obligation ("I want to make a few more sales calls today.")

  4. Choose to: Emphasizes personal responsibility and active decision-making. ("I choose to make five more sales calls today before calling it a day.")

  5. Prefer to: Reflects individual preferences ("I prefer to make my sales calls in the morning."

  6. Will: Asserts future actions with a proactive mindset ("I will make 10 sales calls each day this week.")

Should (crossed out), Would (crossed out) Could (crossed out), DID

A Simple Change for Success

The word "should" has no place in goal-setting. It is very difficult to make progress toward your goals when you feel weighed down by the obligations of "should".

Feeling resentful of the things you tell yourself you "should" do creates a heavy obligation that often chips away at your desire to even continue on your goal path.

Making this simple change in how you talk about the things you want to do in your goal work encourages you to take action and from action-taking, come results.

Jen Laffin wearing a brightly flowered dress, glasses, smiling at the camera

Jen Laffin is an Accountability & Success Mentor for people who like to meet their goals, a master teacher, host of The Flight School Podcast, a possible thinker, and a recovering procrastinator. She helps goal-SETTERS become goal-GETTERS. To learn more, visit, or find Jen on Linkedin.


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