As this year of all years comes to a close, it is a great time to pause, renew, and reset. This year has been an intense year of surge capacity, running what we thought was a sprint into a seemingly endless (and unsustainable) marathon.

A simple and profound pause is to breathe. (DO THIS: Breathe in deeply through your nose, exhale slowly through your mouth, and see how you feel – do you notice an immediate sense of calm?)

Renewal includes self-care, which is not a nice-to-have it is essential for BOLD leaders who want to achieve or maintain inspiration and high performance. 

The part of self-care that is often missing is the self, which most people forget, ignore, or minimize by staying busy or distracted and prioritizing others. 

One of the practices to sustainable renewal is to reset your relationship with what you think you “should” do – and to reset those shoulds that are not the highest priority for YOU. 

Stop Should-ing on Yourself 

In BOLD leadership sessions with women leaders, the root of many breakthrough conversations is the extent to which shoulds are (often unconsciously) running their lives. 

One way to measure the extent to which shoulds are present in your life is to listen to your language. Most people don’t realize their shoulds until other people point them out. (TIP: The quickest way to measure how often you say “should” is to ask family members to lovingly point out when they hear you say it. It will thrill them and potentially shock you!)

To what extent do you hear yourself thinking or saying, “You should…”:

  • speak up more with _
  • eat more/less of _
  • exercise more
  • get more sleep
  • spend less time on social media
  • etc.

I once suggested a session participant come back the next day with a list of her shoulds and she came back with more than five pages. “I never knew they were everywhere!” she said, admitting she could likely fill an entire notebook.

If you wonder where your shoulds come from and the cost you pay for them, click “BOLD Leadership Part 1: You ‘Should’ Be Thankful.”

If I said, “this article should have been about perfection” or “this meeting should have been in person,” where does your mind go? Out of the present moment to where we are not perfection and in person. Living in the shoulds leads to disappointment, frustration, lack of fulfillment or satisfaction and often, beating yourself up. 

The antidote? Living with the current as-is reality. This is where we have to adult (yes, that is a verb!) When we don’t get what we want, we don’t like it and we feel five years old inside, screaming, “but I wanted … I wish … this isn’t FAIR!@#?%!” 

First, acknowledge how the five-year-old is feeling (resentful, petulant, angry, ashamed, etc.). Without this first step, it is much harder to stop should-ing

Once you are aware, THEN you can access your wise, grown self who accepts the as-is reality as quickly as possible

The Sneaky Shoulds

Sneaky shoulds hide out in your language and stem from the same finger-pointing, shaming place of shoulds in different forms:

  • Always: I always eat _ on Thanksgiving (e.g. I should eat turkey)
  • Never: I never do _ on work days (e.g. I should never nap in the middle of the day)
  • Have to: I have to _ (e.g. I should fold my laundry)
  • Wish: I wish I had _ (e.g. I should have eaten less)
  • How come you: How come you didn’t _ (e.g. you should walk the dog)
  • Don’t you think: Don’t you think _  (e.g. you should exercise)
  • Supposed to: I’m not supposed to _ in meetings with my boss (e.g. I should not admit how hard things are right now) 

As one senior executive client told me recently, “No one is telling me to do all these things — they are all invented by me! One crazy should I’m embarrassed to admit is that until recently, I handmade my gift bows and never used gift bags because I didn’t think I should.” She laughed when she described her progress: “Gift bows! I barely wrap presents now. I also used to cook 27 dishes for Thanksgiving and this year, I ordered IT ALL. It felt so good to stop should-ing and finally take care of ME.” 

Start Speaking with BOLD Presence

When leaders want to stop should-ing on themselves, they have a host of BOLD options from which to choose. Obviously, this starts with Managing your Mindset your beliefs drive your behaviors and language choices. If you believe you are powerless and reactive, that things are happening to you and you have no options, then you will not be able to change your language (or be a BOLD leader). Even if you can somehow change your language without Managing your Mindset (almost impossible), you will appear insincere and inauthentic, pretending to DO one thing while you are BEING another.

Assuming you are able to Manage your Mindset and focus on the as-is reality, there are several BOLD options you can choose instead of defaulting to should:   

  • I get to
  • I choose
  • I will 
  • I plan to
  • I can
  • I want
  • My intention is
  • I do/did not

Shoulds and their sneaky sidekicks result in you leaking leadership and doing the opposite of self-care. Think about it — when others use these words, they do not appear powerful or BOLD and often seem like helpless, reactive victims. 

On the other hand, when you hear others use BOLD options, notice how different they seem to you clear, powerful, accountable, present, and in charge.

When things don’t go our way, staying in the as-is reality of the situation is more powerful than being taken over by it. 

Below are examples of reframes and resulting actions:

*Click here on how to drop guilt

Renewing surge capacity starts with you: 

How you think and what you say has the power to confine, or to set you free. 

Who chooses? You do.   

When you stop should-ing on yourself, it is a key step in self-care, renewal, and becoming a BOLD leader.  Stay tuned for my next post on January 5, 2021 to learn what to do once you have practiced dropping the shoulds.

Ask yourself:

  • What is my biggest takeaway about my shoulds? (Hint – If this doesn’t feel like an opportunity for a breakthrough, reach out to Gisele Garcia Shelley because this one has the power to change your leadership and your life!) 
  • What are the 2-3 main ”shoulds I constantly hear from the vicious voices inside my head? (Hint – Look for mind chatter that you hear, especially when you consider doing something differently than you usually do)
  • What is 1 area where I can stop should-ing that would make a significant difference? What support do I need to make this happen?

Please feel free to reach out to me and my team if you’d like to apply these teachings, help members on your team, or discuss the biggest current challenges you are facing today.

Wishing you good mental, physical, emotional and social health. 

May you take this time to pause, renew and reset. Wishing you a blessed end of year where you are happy, do what matters most and have a wonderful reset! Thank you for a wonderful year of connection, breakthrough and partnership!

Remember to find resources to inspire you here.

Yours in practice,



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