The one question I ask myself

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I believe that all human problems stem from two places: fear or desire.

If you’re scared to confront someone then it relates to fear. It could be your fear of upsetting them, your fear of making a situation worse or your fear that the person won’t like you anymore. That’s fear stopping you having a conversation.

A lot of our daily decision making is driven by fear and I suggest that this is neither rational nor useful. I’m going to share something I use when making difficult decisions.

I ask myself just one question. It has worked for me to lead to less fear and definitely better decision making. I’m going to ask you the same question:

“What’s the worst thing that could happen?”

And notice that I asked what thing, not plural things, I don’t want a list of all possible bad things you may ever encounter.

So, what was your answer? Chances are that no matter who you are it’s something to do with loss and death. I don’t consider death a morbid subject, it’s a reality for all and as I read recently it is “the greatest equaliser”.

Now that you’ve established the singular worst thing that could happen, you can use this to lead to less fear and better decision making.

Let’s say you’re at work and someone keeps interrupting you and all they want is a chat. You have to leave on time, have deadlines and could do without the constant chatter. You don’t want to offend your colleague or come across as unapproachable – that is your fear voice talking. Now ask yourself this: If you tell that person that you’d love to talk to them it’s just that you need some uninterrupted time, and suggest to schedule a lunch/coffee together another day to catch up, will the worst thing
happen? No, it won’t. Easy.

Now, I know that there’s a whole list of ‘but this or that’. Ignore it. The worst thing won’t happen and that’s all that matters.

Give it a go for just one decision today and see how you get on. It takes practice and I promise you it’s well worth it for overcoming your fears.

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The biggest loser in the English language

Should. It’s the most useless, redundant word used in everyday language. It’s a word that annoys, frustrates, causes anger, and acts as a catalyst for guilt and other negative emotions.

When was the last time you said it? Talking about a mutual friend “well you know what she should do, she should tell him to”. Or maybe at work “you should go and speak to”. Or with your partner “we really should go to that party/christening/dinner”.

The worst type of conversation involving the word should is the one you have with yourself. You know that discussion with your internal voice where you think about what you should or shouldn’t do. Or what you should have or shouldn’t have done.

The more I type it the more I despise the word.

The redundancy of should is not new to me. It’s a concept I’ve been sharing with people both in my personal and professional life for at least the last couple of years. I had assumed that once I had explained the case for never using that word again that I would never hear it from those people. I was completely wrong. I underestimated the power that people’s inner voices have over them.

Let me explain why you must remove the word should from your vocabulary. The word is subjective.  By that I mean its use is based on a person’s feelings, ideas, and experiences and not on facts. We cannot assume another’s feelings, ideas or experiences as every person on this planet is unique.

Should never relates to fact and can never be used to tell yourself, or another person, how to behave, think, feel or act. How quickly do you switch off when someone tells you how you should do something?

Even as I typed this I thought it could be useful to look at the online dictionary definition of the word and I got the following:

  • Used for saying or asking about the right or sensible thing to do or the right way to behave; used for saying what is correct, especially when the situation is different from this
  • Used when you have strong reasons for believing or expecting something
  • Used after “if” or instead of “if” for describing a situation that may possibly happen
  • Used for saying what someone thinks is important
  • Used for saying what someone decides, suggests, or orders

The first example there is about the right or sensible thing to do or the right way to behave. Well don’t we all have different ideas about what is right or sensible? I saw a man yesterday walking down the street wearing only a pair of speedos and a hoodie, for him that was his ‘right’ way of behaving. It wouldn’t have been my personal choice of outfit on a cool day (on any day in fact) but he wasn’t breaking any law so why not?

Breaking the law is often people’s counter argument to me when I talk about losing should from vocabulary. A frequent response I hear is “but the law says that you shouldn’t kill someone as that is wrong.”

No, the law says that you cannot or must not kill.

The dictionary’s second point is that it’s used when you have strong reasons for believing or expecting something. Beliefs are personal and not based on facts. E.g. some people believe in religion, some people believe eating bread will make them fat.

Beliefs cannot be applied unilaterally. Expectations are also non-factual.Who can predict the future?

And talking of predicting the future we reach point no. 3 in the dictionary definition – the possibility that something may happen. Well, let’s use ‘may happen’ instead of should. If you were conducting an experiment where you placed a tooth in a cup of cola overnight there is no rule to say that you
should find the tooth dissolves overnight. You would say that three thing may happen: 1) Nothing would happen to the tooth 2) the tooth would partially dissolve, 3) the tooth would completely dissolve. There’s no should about it. Something will happen or something won’t happen. It’s the
same when we’re predicting the future of our lives.

I won’t go through the rest of the dictionary definitions. I’m sure you can see by now how it works.

All I ask is that for one day you replace the word should with could or would. Take note of what happens to your inner conversations. Listen to the change in your external conversations. See what happens to your written communications. Perhaps it will take a bit longer to explain something, it’s worth it for the more positive results.

If you manage a day without it, see if you can do two days. You’ll start to notice how often it’s used and yet how useless it is. Join me on my mission to make should the dictionary’s biggest loser.