Have you noticed that your work, your relationships, your life would be so much better, so much happier, if the people around you would just pay attention, grow up, and do what they are supposed to do? I certainly have.
People should show more initiative. People should show more respect. They should listen more. They should realize that they are not the center of the universe. Others should understand they don’t know everything; there is always more to learn. Others should exercise more patience. People should see that I have needs, too. People should appreciate me more. They should recognize my contributions. They should appreciate what they have and stop acting as if I, and the whole rest of the world, owe them something. Others should work harder. Others should be more tolerant. People should exhibit more humility. People should give more instead of being so focused on getting more for themselves.
So, what’s the problem? Clearly, the problem lies with others…the people I have to live and work with. Why can’t they see that? It’s so freaking obvious. But they clearly can’t, or won’t.
Well then I guess it’s up to me. If I want to get to a happier place, I’m going to have to do something about all of this. So what do I do? Maybe I should just move on. I should find another job. I should change careers. I should start another company. I should find new friends. I should leave all of this mess behind.
Any of this sound or feel familiar to you? I’d be surprised if you said “No,” because it seems to happen to almost everyone at some point in their lives. For some of us it occurs again and again even after we’ve taken measures and made changes.
Here’s the pattern I’ve seen in myself and in those I’ve worked with who have found themselves in this situation. First, we enter into a new relationship, a new job, or we start a new company. It’s not all sunshine and roses but it’s energizing and gives us a sense of meaning and purpose. Life is challenging but good!
Then, after four or five years, some of the excitement begins to fade, day-to-day stuff becomes routine and seems rather boring, irritants begin to surface. The bloom is off the rose.
After seven to ten years, you go on autopilot doing what you have to do to keep the peace…to keep your relationship together or hold on to your job because you need the money. The faults and foibles of those around your come into clearer focus and become increasingly annoying but what can you do? Life and work becomes a long, arduous slog.
By the time fifteen years have passed, you’re locked in. Behaviors and attitudes have become habits. Ego, money, and fear of change inhibit making any big, bold moves. Life isn’t exactly what you’ve hoped for but it’s tolerable and you can still find ways to distract yourself enough to keep the dissatisfaction from getting out of hand. Or perhaps, if you can just hold on just a little longer, there’s a nice payoff coming. Life becomes a search for a series of entertaining activities designed to amuse you and keep you from having to deal with the “problem.”
Why does this pattern emerge so often? How does it happen?
In my experience, it happens when we gradually, and subconsciously, move from seeing problems as challenges to work on, and instead come to see them as issues that we simply don’t want to deal with anymore. Obstacles that once invigorated and motivated us become boring, distasteful, and mundane. We want to go back to the sunshine and roses phase but we don’t know how.
Is the “problem” becoming more clear to you? While others have their problems, others are not the problem. The real problem is the “shoulds” we place on others as well as the “shoulds” we place on ourselves.
So…where do we begin in our battle with the “shoulds?”
I’ve found the best place to start in trying to solve almost any “should” problem is with me. It’s wise to begin with a little self-examination. Are my statements, assumptions, or interpretations valid? What are the “shoulds” I’m invoking in the situation? Are the “shoulds” I’m placing on myself and others legitimate? Am I avoiding the real issues? Am I willing to have the frank and honest conversations required to get to a resolution? Am I settling? Am I simply afraid of taking action, of taking the risk required? Am I tolerating the situation because of ego and/or money? Am I looking for a real solutions or am I simply looking for an escape?
This is tough stuff. We have a high need for love, approval, significance, and acceptance…even if we won’t admit it. How we live, lead, and work is the way we seek love, approval, significance, and acceptance whether we are consciously aware of it or not…and whether it is working for us or not.
Most of us have a hard time working through our list of “shoulds” on our own. I hired a “coach” to help me through the process and it was one of the best investments I’ve ever made. Having been through it myself, it is much easier to recognize where others are in life and help them strip away the erroneous shoulds, focus on the real problem and find a breakthrough solution. Once you know the real issue(s), odds are great that with a little courage and persistence you will emerge victorious and once again find yourself living and leading on purpose…finding ways to collaborate, create, and contribute…to find love, approval, significance, and acceptance.
Start now. List the “shoulds” you assign to others, then list the “shoulds” you’ve taken on as your own. Examine them. Which, if any, are true? What are you going to do about them? Make decisions. Take action. Live your life, don’t let it just happen to you. Game on. Your move.
Wishing you grace, peace, and simple abundance…and victory in the battle of the “shoulds.”