Stop Using This Word to Instantly Feel Happier

There’s one word we all use with far too much regularity – it starts with “s” and belongs in the swear jar.

That word is "should". “I should call that friend.” “I should start exercising.” “I should finally write that book.”

Ugh. When you use it in a sentence it evokes feelings of guilt and inadequacy – I should, but I’m just too damn lazy/scared/useless to make it happen. As the saying goes, “shoulda woulda coulda, but didn’t”.

But what’s really going on behind those shoulds? In most cases, they fall into three categories:

  1. I should but I don’t want to.
  2. I should but something’s holding me back.
  3. I should but it’s time to let go.

Let’s break them down in more detail.


I don’t want to

This kind of should pops up to make us feel guilty for saying no, when we feel obliged to say yes. But saying no and creating healthy boundaries is perfectly ok – it leaves space for saying yes to the things we can throw our whole selves into and be 100% present for.

So if you’re feeling too tired to meet a friend for drinks, for example, don’t waste your time on “I should”. Instead, say no and commit to spending quality time with her in a way you can enjoy and commit to wholeheartedly.

“It’s only by saying no that you can concentrate on the things that are really important.” – Steve Jobs


Something’s holding me back

Sometimes we know exactly what we want to do, but fear keeps us paralyzed. So we procrastinate by saying things like, “I should start my own business” or “I should go for that promotion” instead of rolling up our sleeves and actually taking action.

First and foremost, take heart in the fact that fear is universal – we all feel it. Second, fear is always present around the things worth doing, so it’s about finding the courage to shove that should aside and lean in.

“Fear is good. Like self-doubt, fear is an indicator. Fear tells us what we have to do.” – Steven Pressfield


It’s time to let go

Some goals and dreams simply run their course, or evolve into something entirely different to what we started with. But because we don’t want to feel like a quitter, we hold onto them with a should. For example, “I really should start writing that novel” or “I should finish that product I started working on 10 years ago.”

Recognising and letting go of things that no longer align with what we truly desire isn’t giving up – it’s honouring the big vision we have for our life. So wrap up that should, tie a bow on it, and let it go for someone else to open.

“Letting go of a dream is hard, yet liberating. Sometimes it’s just time to start living a different dream.” – Bart Knaggs



Emma Lawrence is the founder of Thank Goodness, an award-winning journalist, and dōTERRA Wellness Advocate. She lives on New Zealand’s beautiful Coromandel Peninsula and believes wholeheartedly in a daily self-care practice, lifelong personal development, and growing a thriving business anchored in generosity and gratitude.

Blog, MINDEmma Lawrence