The idea for today’s post comes from a wonderful online resource for folks with moods – MoodScope.com (they have an interesting mood tracker app and blog). They wrote about the power of changing a single word in one’s thoughts – going from I should do something, or I should have done something, to I could do something. Give it a try right now. Think of one of the shoulds that you often get caught up in. Now reframe it with could.
We have been coaching folks on this idea all morning and it has been working incredibly well.
It started with another healthcare provider, someone we have been seeing for years. For six weeks we have been having a discussion about how increasing his mindfulness practice could really make a difference for him. But every time he came in he still hadn’t done it… And he really knows that it would help. Last year when he was practicing consistently he had the best and most sustained good mood he has ever had.
In the moment, in my office, I could see in his face that we were on track for another repeat.
So I mentioned the should versus could idea. He was at first reluctant to do the mental substitution (I mean it sounds a bit crazy). But then he toyed with the idea that he “could” do more mindfulness…. or not… It was a choice. And this got him out of the “should” struggle.
As he pointed out, “should” can be a “lose – lose” situation. If you don’t do it you feel guilty. And if you do it then you are spineless, just doing whatever anyone tells you to. (This kind of dilemma often has roots in childhood… and we have spent a number of sessions talking about his relationship with his father, the former drill sergeant (really)…)
A similar window into this process was his comment that when his beagle wants him to go for a walk he can look at him and evoke his father (“you should take me for a walk”). Which highlights the fact that the voice is internal, that his father no longer needs to be around at all to evoke it.
But replacing should with could got around the old struggle. Could keyed him into his adult side. There are options, how should I choose. Considered that way, the problem seemed to have more positive solutions.
Try it yourself.