Get rid of your “shoulds” and live life with purpose

"I really should have that talk with Jo-Anne at the office.”

"I should clean out the garage.”

We use “should” a lot.

I should. . . lose a few pounds, stop smoking, start exercising, eat healthier food, play with the dog more, visit mom once in awhile, learn to skydive—the list, it seems, never ends.

If you say that you should do something, it’s clear that you have no plans to do it. So, why even mention it? Do we even need the word “should”? If you want to achieve something, your “should” will have to become a “must.”

Without a purpose, nothing should be done.
— Marcus Aurelius

So, how do you do that?

As humans, our willpower is limited. If you start your day with a weak “should,” you can be sure that by the end of the day, you’ll have wasted your time and will be left with nothing but frustration. 

If you want to achieve something, really achieve it, it must come from your heart. You need to think about the purpose of what you want to achieve. And if your purpose aligns with your values, all the actions that will follow are a “must”—you don’t have a choice. No need for procrastination, it must be done, now. And freedom is the reward.

We tend to think that the word purpose is there for bigger goals such as saving the world or, at the very least, redesigning our education system.

I don’t believe that. I think purpose is more like a muscle—use it a lot for small achievements so you are ready for the big ones in life.

If you start your day with purpose in mind, this will help you focus on what you really want to achieve. What will today bring? You can start with a completely open mind, and just let the day come to you or you can stare your day in the face and decide what your goal of the day will be so you can get things done.

Even with very small tasks, you can decide to do them with purpose. Think about brushing your teeth, cooking your meals, exercising, driving, eating, you name it. You are doing all of them for a good reason. If you do them all mindfully—the opposite of mindlessly—this will bring a sense of achievement and peace to your life.

Another benefit of focusing on small tasks is that you will start to train your mind. Over time, this will also give you the strength you need to attack the bigger tasks with more determination.

When you start doing things with a sense of purpose, you may find you stop doing many of the things that you do now. Before you start, ask yourself: Why am I doing this? If you realize there is no purpose at all, don’t do it. If you are spending hours surfing the internet or just going from one TV channel to the next, stop doing it. Take a walk, be mindful of your steps and breath, and when you come back, do something meaningful. If you can’t get motivated to do something, it might be a sign that you are simply too tired. Then sleep. That is purpose. You are resting to give your body energy.

Here are a couple of examples where purpose and mindfulness can change your life in big ways.

Think about conversations with your loved ones or colleagues. When was the last time you had a conversation with someone where you believe you were there fully and completely? One where you listened, you were mindful and you had purpose. There is a Buddhist saying speaks to this issue. “The greatest gift you can give someone is your presence.”

Having a sense of purpose may help reduce anxiety, as well.

There is no purpose to anxiety. You are worried about a future that hasn’t happened yet. Chances are, you are worried for no reason—that future you are worried about will likely never come true. And even if it does, worrying changed it not one bit.

If you want to accomplish something important in your life, you need to think about your purpose. Once you are crystal clear on what you want to achieve, your next steps will become clear—and massive action will bring you closer to creating the life you want. “Shoulds” have no place in the creation of the future you want. Let purpose, focus and massive action fuel your journey.

If you have a moment, I’d love to hear from you. Has this article helped you? What do you think about the role purpose play in our lives? Can you tell me more?