Are you God? A fortune teller? Can you predict the future?
Personally, I can’t predict the future. But my mind thinks it can. Or at least it thinks it can predict what the future (and my life) should look like. It even passes judgment on what my past should have looked like. Of course, my mind also loves to tell me how other people should be. And 9 times out of 10, what my mind thinks my life should look like, doesn’t reflect actually is.
Think about the word “should”. It often is used as a mental benchmark to say that something is supposed to be different than it is now. Or something was supposed to have been done that didn’t get done. But embedded into a should is a judgment that the current reality is somehow bad, or perhaps even more accurately, that YOU are bad.
Pause for a moment and see how the following statements feel to you:
In those statements, there is an awareness of what you want (marriage and family, healthy eating, connection, a body you love, sockless sandals), yet there is also a feeling that what happened (or is happening) is somehow bad because it’s not what you want. But reality is reality. There are always going to be things you want more of and things you want less of. But the past is done, over, complete. And the present is simply what is currently so. To push against it or add judgment to it creates resistance in your energy and pinches yourself off from the joy and power of the present moment. (And honestly, who gives a crap if someone is wearing socks with sandals?) If there is something you want, then move toward it because you want it. No need for the energy of condemnation. Feel the difference between “I should lose weight. I’m so fat.” and “I weigh 200 pounds and would like to weigh less. How can I make that happen?” And think of when someone says to you “You should smile more!” Isn’t the last thing you want to do is SMILE?
Think back to how you met your last boyfriend or girlfriend, how you got your last job, or how you discovered your favorite hobby. Chances are, you couldn’t have predicted the who/what/when/where/how of the circumstances that those things came into your life. Life doesn’t follow a script. You might think that you are going to meet the love of your life this Friday night between the hours of 10pm and 1am at the cool bar you’ll be at. But most likely, you won’t. And by having that fixation of how and when he/she is going to come into your life, you are essentially wearing blinders to all the other opportunities that the Universe is already presenting to you. Your mind won’t even notice them because it’s so fixated on how it’s “supposed” to come to you.
“Why do you stay in prison when the door is so wide open?” – Rumi
And how do you know that what actually happened isn’t for your highest good? Steve Jobs says that in life it’s impossible to connect the dots looking forward. You can only do it looking backwards as you see how all the events transpired as part of a perfect tapestry of events.
I noticed this pattern in myself every time I went on vacation. I had an expectation of how the vacation was supposed to turn out, right down to how good I was supposed to feel during key moments. Of course, I had a good time overall, but because I had this mental benchmark to which I was constantly comparing my actual experience, I prevented myself from simply being present to what was true for me in the moment. Maybe I wasn’t supposed to feel bouncing-off-the-wall enthusiasm when I swam in the clear blue tropical waters. Perhaps the quiet, peaceful contentment that arose was what I was meant to experience. But my “no, this can’t be it” thinking just pushed against what was true for me.
“You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something — your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.” – Steve Jobs
You have power and choice in the thoughts you think. Try playing with how your thoughts feel to you when you think them. Do they give you a sense of openness, freedom and expansion? Or do they make you feel contracted, limited, and stressed? If you’ve constructed a mental prison of shoulds, the good news is that one shift in perspective and “POOF!”, the walls immediately begin to come down.
Here are four suggestions on how to let go of any “shoulds” and open yourself more to the flow of possibilities:
Jeffrey Platts is a men's coach and authentic communication expert who is passionate about helping men create amazing relationships with women. With over 20 years of personal study and transformational training, he has led nearly 200 workshops and retreats on personal growth, dating, and communication. Jeffrey's work and writing has been featured in the Huffington Post, Washington Post, ABC News, Authentic Man Program and the Good Men Project. He brings a rich toolbox of insights and experiences to his facilitation, integrating his adventures as DJ, amateur stand-up comedian, salsa dancer, yoga teacher and world traveler.