Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Banning "Should"

"What if ____" and "How might ___" are magical questions that open more doors and broaden more visions than any other two-word combinations in the world!

On the other hand "Should I _____" is one of the most damaging two-word questions on earth. The reason why "Should I ____" gets me in trouble is because it implies a "yes" or "no" answer. Black or white. Right or wrong. Judgements! Questions rarely have an absolute answer. Life just isn't like that. There are always grey areas and most of time an agreeable or practical answer is somewhere between "yes" and "no." So I change the question.

I've finally learned this lesson when it comes to my art. These days I rarely ask my self questions like:
  • What should I do next?
  • How should I finish this?
  • Should I put this here?
Instead I have learned to phrase the questions differently, eliminating the word should and substituting the words might or what if. The rephrased questions look like this:
  • What might I do next?
  • How might I finish this?
  • What if I put this here?
Ever since I starting to practice might and what if with my art, rather than struggling with should, I've blossomed as an artist. I've developed a more playful and free style. I've become more comfortable and much less critical of both me and my work.

Now, what if I apply this practice to my recovery?!!! Eureka! Earlier today, I recall hearing a voice in my head asking questions like this:
  • Who should I ask to be my OA sponsor?
  • Should I add ice cream to my list of abstinence foods?
  • How should I interpret my meal plan about no snacks?
  • Should I make it OK to nibble and taste while I'm cooking?
What if I apply the principles that work so well for me with my art to my recovery? What if I change the wording of these questions to this:
  • Who might I ask to be my OA sponsor?
  • What if I add ice cream to my list of abstinence foods for a while?
  • How might I interpret my meal plan about no snacks?
  • What if I make it OK to nibble and taste while I'm cooking?
Now the questions seem much easier to answer. I am not in so much fear of making a mistake. I am not stuck in limbo making no decisions at all because of my fears about making wrong decisions.

OK, that's a change I can make! I will be more mindful of my language regarding recovery. Goodbye to"should" and welcome to "what if" and "might!"


  1. I'm a big fan of semantics. "What it" and "might" are good!

  2. Big victory! My favorite question is "How can I ___?"

  3. very positive, hopeful, open minded . Like a wise woman told me (you),any choice you make now can be changed.

  4. I think you're really on to something here! "Should" implies to me a command, as if one supposed to do something, or asking what one is supposed to do here. The implication being that there is, as you said, only one right answer. "What if" is such an excellent way to look at things! Suddenly there are possibilities and ideas I never would have thought of.

  5. I love this. It is so enpowering and so liberating. I can almost feel the weight that is lifted from you. Bravo.

  6. You know I am all about semantics! Actually, I have a couple drafts of posts (not yet published) that play with words. And that new blog I was talking about, it tied in to this. I actually tried to set it up today but the name I wanted was already taken. So back to the drawing board.

    But I digress. Isn't it amazing how that little change can make such a difference?! I wish I was as into word choice when I am away from my keyboard as I am when I sit here thinking.

  7. I just wrote what if and might on a piece of paper & tacked them to my bulletin board. I've been trying to eliminate should from my vocabulary for quite awhile but it isn't easy. I like these two replacements!


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