After Should

woman sitting on the back of minivan

Welcome back! If you’ve been following along, in 2018 you read about how I lived a life of should—I should be this, I should do that. I was miserable being what others wanted me to be and decided to come out of the closet of should. For 2019, I’m going to talk about how I left a life of should and what lessons I learned to free myself. These learning lessons were earth-shattering ideas for me and changed my entire life. Hopefully, you aren’t stuck in a life of should, but whether you are or not, I bet you can learn something from these lessons. Buckle up and come along for the ride!

When I started the work on myself, I was doing it to benefit my business. I had just moved to Madison and was building my business; I didn’t realize how stuck I was. I started reading tons of thought work books to be a better business person. What I didn’t realize is how much of an impact this work would also make on my personal life.

The first book that changed the way I thought and made me look at my own actions in a different way was Loving What Is , by Byron Katie. This book describes the basic principle of staying in your business and that there are three circles: your business (what you have direct control of), other people’s business, and God’s or the Universe’s business. The concept of staying in your own business, or, as I like to think of it, staying in your lane, is that you can only control what you do and say, not how others will behave or react.

Whenever you’re in one of the two circles worrying about what other people think, what they will do, or what will happen in the world, you’re creating your own suffering. This may sound simple, but it isn’t. Think about how many times in the last 24 hours you worried about what someone else did or thought. I know you’re about to throw out a but, but there are no buts. You have to stay in your lane in order to prevent your own suffering.

It’s easy to think we have more control than we actually do over other people and situations—that we can make someone do something or change their opinion. But we can’t. We can state our opinion and encourage someone to think more about an issue and look at another perspective, but we can’t actually change their opinion. If we stay attached to the idea that we can change others’ minds, then when it doesn’t happen, we become frustrated. Why won’t they do what they should do? Staying in your lane means you let go of what will happen once you’ve done all you can. It’s hard. It isn’t that you don’t care, but the acceptance of things you can’t control and the uncertainty of a situation. It’s letting yourself off the hook for things you never should have been on the hook for in the first place.

“What will people think” are the four words that destroy dreams. Many people have been prevented from doing things they want to do because of worrying about what others will think. The fear of judgement has controlled many people and caused them to behave and live their lives accordingly. I know, I did that.

As I started to comprehend this concept, I began to notice how often my mind was worrying about what other people were thinking about me. It was most of the time, and, consequently, I was rarely in my own business, creating my own suffering.

A couple of things happened once I started staying in my lane. I began to realize how often I apologized for things that weren’t my fault. I was constantly apologizing when someone else wasn’t happy, believing that my job was to make others happy—that I was somehow in control of their happiness. When you say those words out loud, you realize how ridiculous they are. But in my brain, it was a real thought. Conversely, I also realized that I was in control of my happiness, which was something I wanted to pursue. The concept takes practice. It was only when I stopped living my life based upon what others thought I should do, and stopped worrying what they would think of me, that I was able to start listening to what I wanted to do and be.

I wish I could install an alarm in my head like the one in my car that goes off every time I start to cross over the lines on the road. This is really challenging, and once you start catching yourself, you start to realize how our whole society encourages us to be in the business of others. It isn’t easy, to be sure, but the relief you feel when you stay in your business is amazing. You’re freed up to focus on you—your desires, goals, and happiness. An added bonus is that your healthy behaviors will help others around you stay in their business. Not that you’ll care because you won’t be attached to what they do. *wink

Photograph provided by Sandy Eichel

Sandy Eichel is a happy ex-should-er.