The six-letter word that causes more internal angst than almost anything else
Carl is a conscientious, well-meaning man.
He pays his taxes scrupulously. He flosses religiously. He never kicks his dog.
He is a good man with a good heart.
But Carl has a problem. Every day he feels overwhelmed by all the things he feels he should be doing.
Yesterday, for example, he woke up, saw his reflection in the hall mirror and thought, I should start doing Crossfit. Crunches. Something.
In the kitchen he poured his coffee, unconsciously rubbed his gut, and mused, I should stop using half-and-half.
Carl then took his creamy coffee over to the table. He opened his laptop, then his email. Soon he was lost in a thousand thoughts: I should respond to this right now, before I forget… What?! I should call him later today….I should read that book…check out this conference…go to that civic event…unsubscribe to this newsletter….
Thirty minutes later he lamented I should figure out some way to keep email from dominating my life!
A few seconds later, an inaudible voice, “You should check Facebook.”
While scrolling hurriedly through his feed, Carl mumbled things like, “I should take my family there one day…I should 'friend' that guy…I should 'like' that…I should try Plexus…and Limu…and do Whole 30…and watch that series on Netflix…I should change my old profile picture…whoa, I should get to work!”
At work, he heard more voices, some from without—“You should check with compliance on that…You should read this report before tomorrow’s meeting”—and some from within—I should have chosen a different career. I should learn some new skills. (Then, after a tense exchange with his boss, I should maybe dust off my resume.)
A co-worker stuck his head in Carl's door and said, “We’re eating an early lunch at The Three Caballeros. You should come.” A friend texted him and said, “Allyson and I are going to the lake this weekend. You and Fran should join us.” Just then Fran called and said, “Your dad's birthday is in three days! You should stop after work and get him a card.”
After work, while inching along in rush-hour traffic, Carl had thoughts like, I should walk over and meet the new neighbors tonight and I should get a haircut and I should clean this nasty old truck…then I should sell it and get a more economical vehicle… Then, spying a Powerball billboard, he blurted out, “$240 million?! I should stop and get a ticket! Or two.”
Pulling into his driveway (without a birthday card, but with five lottery tickets), the drumbeat of “shoulds” continued. I should mow before the neighborhood association files a complaint…I should go inside and hug my wife, and ask about her day…then I should take the kids to the park...But first I should check the mail.
After supper while perusing three requests for donations, he nodded. I should support these causes. Then staring at his checkbook balance, he shook his head. I should figure out a way to make more money.
After the kids were asleep, he remembered his "work homework" and groaned. After a few seconds he thought, Nah, I should just set my alarm an hour early, and read the report first thing in the morning.
At the end of a very full day, the good man with the good heart fell into bed. It was late. His wife was already snoring. Carl felt extremely weary…but even more guilty.
I didn’t floss he realized. I should get up and floss! he chastised himself.
Utterly frustrated, he lifted his eyes heavenward and whispered, “God, my life isn’t working…what should I do?”
To his great shock, the Almighty actually replied.
“Stop listening to all those voices telling you all the things you should be doing.”