I Should…

I should, Photo by Ye Jinghan on Unsplash

One of the most telling words I listen for when I coach is ‘should’. It usually shows up as the statement ‘I should…’. What follows is a variety of things we feel obligated to do. This came up for me recently as I was planning the launch of my book. I read a variety of articles outlining best practices for marketing a book. My first reaction was to start planning how to do them all. Looking back, I wanted to do a good job and I now knew what I needed to do.

On the surface this sounds fine. The advice seemed to be sound but beneath there was a sinister message. Do more. There was a list of over ten things any self-respecting author should do. And therein lies the problem, I was being shamed into believing I must do these ten things. If I didn’t, I would do a lousy job of marketing my book. It wasn’t said that way, but the underlying message was clear.

Should and shame

I use the word shame in the previous paragraph deliberately. Brene Brown describes a key difference between shame and guilt. Shame means ‘I am bad’, whereas guilt means ‘I did a bad thing’. If I wanted to be a good author and market my book properly I better do these ten things. To me that’s all about shame. The alternative is much more healthy. Pick several activities I assess to be most important and see how each works. If the results aren’t good, I’m not a bad author, I simply tried something that didn’t work. And that’s ok.

Working harder isn’t the answer

It’s not bad, I’ve learned what doesn’t work and I can try something different to generate a better outcome. In fact, this is a core principle in my book ‘Do Less, Lead More‘. Choose your action carefully, assess the results and change your plans if needed. This is so much better than working harder and harder, which in this case equated to completing all the activities on the book marketing list.

The next time you are feeling disappointed, pay attention to the story you are telling yourself. If it starts with ‘I should’ you will be well served to challenge your story. Just because you could, it doesn’t mean you should.

You can learn more about how to take action and achieve your goals without risking burnout in ‘Step 3 – Make Good Plans’ in my book, ‘Do Less, Lead More‘.