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27 May The Most Dangerous Word in the English Language

Words are powerful.

I love the word Abracadabra because it means “I create as I speak”. And while it might associated with pulling a rabbit out of a hat, there is a greater truth to it.

Words can have the power to create greatness. They also have the ability to create ‘stuckness’.

What We Think Creates Our Reality

What you think has a direct relationship with what you are creating in your life.

Our thoughts create how we feel.

Our feelings motivate our actions.

Our actions create outcomes.

It’s not magic, it’s cause and effect.

To change the outcomes you have in life, you have to start with consciously adjusting the focus of your thoughts.

Unlike our magician pulling a rabbit out of a hat, changing how you think is an ongoing practice. Over time, it has the ability to make major shifts in your life.

Start by changing this one little word


I don’t know about you, but when I hear ‘should’, I start to feel stressed. Usually, I’m the one telling myself that I ‘should’ do something.

“I should exercize more.”

“I should go to more networking events.”

“I should meditate daily.”

I call that ‘shoulding on myself’.

Each time you should on yourself, or on someone else, you add the burden of an expectation.

“I should do this…”

“You shouldn’t do that”

By using ‘should’, you are pointing out something that’s lacking. Or, you are creating an expectation of some action to avoid disappointment and frustration.

And while you might be shoulding yourself about something healthy, like exercise or eating less sugar, shoulds have a negative impact on your mental wellbeing.

The longer you tell yourself you should do something without actually doing that thing, the more guilt and shame you create in yourself.

The focus is on what you didn’t do in the past, or what you think you need to do in the future. It stops you from being mindful of what you need or want in the present.

Should sets you up for failure

You ‘should’ with good intention.

You are trying to motivate yourself into action. You are trying to skip to the outcome of your actions as quickly as possible.

So you keep trying to motivate yourself with shoulds.

The problem with shoulds is they are dipped in big bucket of judgement.

This usually stems from a long history of not taking the actions you know (or think) will create the results you want.

Or even worse, when a should is given to someone else, the assumption is that you know better than they do.

But consider this… if shoulds worked, you’d have everything you want in life.

And while a should might inspire action, it’s usually short lived. It’s often followed swiftly by feeling unmotivated and stuck.

Start By Dropping All Your ‘Shoulds’

When I realized the negative impact that shoulds were having on me, I decided to drop them all. I spent a couple of months practicing not telling myself (or anyone else) I should do anything.

I gave myself a clean slate. And it was liberating.

The main challenge I experienced was shoulds are very persistent. We get them from society, friends, family and work. I found myself worrying that if I didn’t should myself, I’d never get anything done.

But then I found that there is a big difference between a should and a responsibility.

While shoulds are rooted in expectations, responsibilities are what we actually need to do.

I need to pay my mortgage if I want to keep my house. It’s not a should, it’s an adult responsibility.

By making the distinction between the two, I was able to drop all the shoulds that had been weighing me down.

Shift Your Focus with Power Words

Power Words are a perfect antidote for the serial shoulder.

A Power Word is a word you pick as a theme to guide the decisions you make and cultivate qualities in the present moment.

Currently, I have two power words, Gratitude and Savouring. Over the past couple years, these words have transformed my life – both mentally and externally.

Instead of saying to myself, “I should get outside for a long walk today”, I now think, “I’m so grateful for this beautiful weather. I want to get outside for a walk and savour the sunshine.”

That shift in language creates a shift in mindset. That mindset actually changes the way I behave in the world. That, in turn, creates more positivity and productivity, which ultimately leads to a better, happier life.

So, you can continue to should on yourself, or you can tap into your Power Word and actively make positive changes in your life. The choice is up to you.

If you’d like to learn more about how to use Power Words to transform your life and work, download my The Little Book Of Power Words today. It’s a great resource you can put to work right away.

Power Words Download image of magic wand and stars with yellow download button


  • Greg van Riel
    Posted at 09:54h, 27 May Reply

    Very interesting. In Louise Haye’s classic “Heal Your Life” she thinks the word should can be eliminated from our vocabulary. And replaced with could.

    • Dan
      Posted at 09:11h, 29 May Reply

      Love that! Thanks Greg.

  • Michael Zroback
    Posted at 09:57h, 29 May Reply

    Great post, Dan! Words to live (better) by. Thanks of your imparted wisdom.

    • Dan
      Posted at 10:31h, 30 May Reply

      Thanks Michael! Be sure to check out the Little Book of Power Words too!

  • Dean Poblete
    Posted at 18:22h, 13 June Reply

    Perfect message for me today. Thank you Dan!. Also was wondering if I could send you all my to-do/should lists. Could you “convert” them for me 🙂

    • Dan
      Posted at 11:56h, 14 June Reply

      Ha! Sure – I’d be happy to. 🙂 It’s actually pretty easy to do that yourself. Just go through each item on the list and ask yourself if it’s a responsibility. If so, it stays. If not, then ask, ‘why is this on my list?’ If it turns out that it’s something that is rooted in someone else’s expectations, it may be a ‘should.’

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