Everything I’m about to write should come with the caveat that this is just an opinion of mine, albeit one I feel strongly about. I won’t pretend to be some sort of half-witted life coach, nor do I even know if I give advice that is considered to be good! I’m an only child, so I didn’t have any practice giving sage advice to a younger sibling. In fact, I’ve always considered myself a loner that happens to have a brilliantly spun web of friends, near and far, distant and close. A dichotomy for sure, but strangely enough describes me to a “T”. But I will say that I fancy myself a good-hearted, kind, balanced person and have been told as such but many. And as a nearing-middle aged woman working in a male-dominated field, I’ve been asked that oh-so-dreadful question, “For young women coming up in your field, what is the one piece of advice you would give them?” numerous times. I loathe that question- everyone expects some Tony Robbins-esque, “Be all that you can be!” answer, and I’m sorry, I prefer something useful…something pragmatic…something that may not light a fire immediately, but can sustain a glow for the rest of one’s days.
So here’s my advice- for career, for relationships, for home, for life- Never underestimate the power of “Should”.
Initially, perhaps it sounds strange, or silly, or pointless…but I feel that if everyone employed the power of “Should”, they’d be happier…healthier…calmer…any number of possibilities. It’s an ordinary exercise that may have extraordinary effects. When you “Can/Could”, all you do is determine ability. Can you do this? Can you have that? But “Should” has so many other parameters- be it ethics, manners, appropriateness, or other, which thus leads to intelligent decision-making, something so many of us fail at time and time again.
One of my proudest achievements is my financial health. Notice I said “health” and not “wealth”, a critical distinction to make. I’m a biologist…”wealth” is really not an achievable goal for me. But in a country anchored in credit card debt, mortgage and banking crises, and overall poor financial decision-making, my financial health is not something I’m shy about. And part of the credit (pun intended) goes to the power of “Should”. Picking out a new handbag, shoes, even a car, I would always ask myself:
“Can I afford this? Yes.
Should I afford this? No”.
I am, admittedly, less disciplined when it comes to things like donuts.
Maybe it’s not universal advice…and sometimes, the answer is “YES, YES YOU SHOULD <fill in the blank>”, especially if it pertains to something in your date’s teeth, or going to the gym. I simply feel that if more of us used this to develop decisions, we’d just make smarter ones overall. I will probably ALWAYS struggle with the donut example, but I’m working on it!