Shoulds vs. wants

On the one hand, getting out of your comfort zone is good. Attend a fitness class, even though you feel out of shape. That’s the path to growth and fulfillment.

On the other hand, continuing to do things you don’t enjoy can be bad. If you study law, but you don’t like it, and you don’t want to get a job in law either—that’s just a waste of time and money.

How do you distinguish between the two?

The key is to listen for shoulds and wants.

Shoulds sound like:

  • I should lift weights so I won’t look terrible in a bathing suit.
  • I should keep this job because my family relies on the income and I can’t risk going broke.
  • I should finish university because I don’t want to deal with negative comments from my family or friends.
  •  I should study German. I’ve already lived in Berlin for two years.

Whereas wants sound like:

  • I want to lift weights because I value taking care of my body.
  • Even though I don’t love this job, I want to stay because I value providing for my family more than the potential of a better job right now. 
  • I want to get this degree, because it will make me a better field researcher.
  • I want to study German, because I plan to live in Germany for a few more years and I want to connect better with locals.

Shoulds are motivated by fear. Wants are motivated by desire. The difference is in your intention.

Are you following your shoulds or your wants?


— Peter

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