How To Avoid The ” Should and Must ” Trap

The school holidays start around us this week and it’s going to be a strange one this year. Usually, the kids are really exhausted and desperate to lounge around at home. This year, although they are still very much in need of a break from schoolwork, they are fed up of being around the house.

Every summer holidays I fall into the ‘should’ and ‘must’ trap. I feel I should get them off devices or I must spend more time with them rather than working. I realise it’s negative thinking but that doesn’t stop me listening.

The words should and must are a particular problem for me. They seem quite innocent and inoffensive but they can put huge limits on our choices in life and they are also straight from the mouth of our inner critic.

If we have too many shoulds in our lives then it usually means we are following a set of rules and expectations that may not match our values and personality. We have fallen into the “should and must” trap.

These rules come from messages we picked up as children from parents, school, friends and society. We then reinforce them over the years to become beliefs that we accept as adults.

Could it be time to challenge those beliefs?

To understand how rules and beliefs were affecting my life I chose to count for a week the number of times I used these two words, either in speaking or thinking. I can honestly say I was shocked at the result. I had thought it was a habit I’d broken but obviously not!

My inner critic had a wonderful time telling me “I should be working when I was out with the kids” or “I should be spending time with the kids when I was with clients”, I can’t win. Other favourites were “I should be having a night off wine” and “I must eat at the table and have a good conversation with my husband tonight” and these were just the ones in my head.

If you have a tendency to use the words should and must I suggest you try my experiment and see how often you use them, what sort of rules you are putting on yourself and ask where do those rules come from?

Then try replacing should or must with could, which is a softer word and you are less likely to beat yourself up about it.

Enjoy experimenting and do let me know how you get on by contacting me here or book a free call at

Jo x