You run into a lot of Shoulds in your life. You should eat your vegetables, you should be nice to people, you should save money, go to college, get some exercise, do what you’re told …

But Shoulds are things that society, family, or work want you to do - to make life easier for society, work, or your family. It’s easier if everyone does the same thing. The only problem is that Shoulds are what someone else wants you to do, not necessarily what you want to do.

Sometimes, Shoulds are prefaced with a statement like, “If you want to be successful …” or “If you want to be happy…” These statements may be true from the perspective of the person who is talking to you, but they may not work for you. There are a lot of ways to be successful, or to be happy. And you get to define what they mean based on your own experiences and perspectives.

By addressing the Shoulds in your life, you can free yourself to do the things you want to do.

The first step is to ask yourself “Why?” Why should you do it? What difference will it make in your life? Is it something that has a specific purpose, or just something that has always been done? Many Shoulds are born from habit, and no one has asked why things need to be done that way.

Next, ask how the Shoulds will help you get to where you want to be? Going to a four-year college may be a good thing to do, but if you want to be a chef, going to a culinary program at a community college may be more effective. Look at the programs, classes and training that are necessary for the type of work you want to do. In some cases, you may be much better off going to school rather than taking an entry-level job and working your way up. In others, it will be just the opposite.

Finally, realize that it is your time, and you only have so much of it. Why spend time working on Shoulds rather than taking steps that will help you achieve your goals?

Of course, there are things that really are Shoulds – family matters, work-related tasks, and things that help create a positive image for you, etc. It’s okay to do those. But do them because you see why they are important to you, not just because you should.

The only Shoulds that are really important are enjoying your life and working on achieving your goals.