Want VS Should

 We are bombarded with “how to live our best life” on tv, social media, and from our friends. Every person seems to know the secrets to a perfect life, but instead of this information helping us achieve the life we want, it becomes discouraging to attain. We desire change and improvement. We know this will take some effort so why is the struggle so difficult?

There is no “one-size-fits-all” template for designing a life we love. The things that are important for one person may not be of interest to another person. Some things are easy to do while other things are more difficult. Exercise, for example, is one of those things. The issue of “what I want” and “what I should do” is one of the reasons we struggle to make the desired changes in our lives.  But once we understand the difference between a "want" and a "should" we will be better prepared to conquer this mental tug-of-war.

“Wants versus shoulds” is a common conflict.

“Wants” are things such as, “I want a bowl of ice cream.” The focus is to achieve an immediate result or instant gratification. In this example, the ice cream fills the want for something sweet or to satisfy hunger. It is often an emotional solution. If a person had a rough day at work and now they “deserve” to have ice cream. We comfort our emotions with "wants."

“Shoulds” are things such as, “I should eat a salad.”  The focus is to achieve a long-term result and it has a future benefit. A “should” usually has a logical solution. A person will not see immediate results, but with continued healthy eating, will experience better health. We have to be patient in order to see the results.

It is important to examine our “shoulds” because these are usually the things we desire to change in our life but have trouble turning them into solid habits. Here are a few tips to help make better choices and make the changes you desire.

1) Know your WHY.

The first question to ask ourselves is, “Why is this important to me?” When we are faced with choosing between something we want and something we should do, knowing our “why” can help us make the better choice. “I eat salads and veggies because I want to be healthy and strong. There is always a reason we desire the "shoulds" in our life.

2) Reframe a “should” into a “want.”

Instead of saying to yourself, “I do not like going to the gym,” try reframing this as “I have the opportunity to go to the gym tomorrow.” Reframing isn’t making up false truths but finding an aspect of truth to make the “should” more palatable. Focus on the part of the should that you enjoy. For me, I focus on how good I feel after I have gone to the gym. I remind myself how strong and healthy I am becoming because I completed my workout.

3) Check your attitude.

People with positive mindsets tend to choose “shoulds” over “wants.” People with negative mindsets tend to focus on their emotions or feelings. “Wants” are used to comfort emotions not encourage logical choices. If you are struggling with one of these want-vs-should choices, notice if you are in a positive or negative mindset. Change your mindset because it may help you make a better choice.

4) Reward yourself.

Dangle a carrot to help motivate yourself. For example, if you go to the gym three times this week, you can treat yourself to a small scoop of ice cream, a new sweater, or an outing. It is okay to give yourself a motivating reason to do one of your "shoulds." Try to find a reward that encourages another healthy choice.

5) Combine a “should” with a “want.”

If you are faced with a tough struggle, you can ease your “should” by allowing yourself a “want” at the same time. Some examples are to walk on the treadmill while watching your favorite show, work on a project while enjoying a latte, or eat a salad with a sliver of pie on the side. This can help especially when you are trying to develop your "should" into a daily habit.

6) Find an accountability partner.

Ensure your success by having a partner who can keep you accountable. Meet someone at the gym, walk with your neighbor, or hire a trainer. You may not need accountability forever, but it can definitely help you when you are beginning a new habit. You may just need to check-in with someone by letting them know you accomplished your habit that day. 

7) Imagine your future self.

Envision yourself and your life if you complete your "shoulds" for one year. What would your life be like if you went to the gym four times per week for one year? Would you feel healthier and fit? Would your confidence be stronger? This vision may motivate you to go to the gym. Next, imagine yourself if you do not go to the gym for one year. Which version of yourself is most appealing? 

The next time you are struggling with yourself internally to make a better choice like going to the gym or eating healthier, try these tips until you find one that works for you. If you want to make changes in your life, remind yourself of the long-term results you desire.

Making changes and developing new habits is not easy. It takes some effort, focus, and determination. You can do it! I believe in you!!

The image was taken by Gina Lin and can be found on Unsplash.