'Should do' or 'Want to'?

Tom Simpson
February 19, 2024
2 min read
2 min read

Navigating your 'should do' vs 'want to'

When was the last time you said to yourself:

"oh, I really should..."

"I really should message that person...", "I really should do that thing...", or "I really should get something for…"

I’ve been pulling myself up on this phrasing over the last few weeks and it’s astonishingly frequent.

What you should do’s are loaded. Loaded with what others might expect of you, what you expect of yourself, what unwritten rules you’re trying to live up to.

Who said you should

Try and catch yourself saying it. See how many times you do. If you’re anything like me, it’s a lot.

A prudent reminder of how I filter my thoughts through what I believe others think I should be doing, and who I think I should be.

A ‘should do’ is a judgement. “I really should do ____. Because if I don’t then I’m ____. Or they will think ____ of me.”

A criticism disguised as a thoughtful reminder — often the source of stress and ultimately unhelpful.

There's a difference between 'should do' and our duty. We all have to work that is required of us, but often that list gets convoluted as we add more and more items that we feel we should do, rather than taking a critical path approach.

The risk is that if we can only ever respond to a constantly expanding but ultimately unmeasurable list of expectation (not duty), we will never learn to have vision in the midst of it all.

It's the choice of language that exposes the intent.

Release yourself from should do, by flipping it.

What do you need to do and what do you want to do?

I’m taking a page out of Tim Ferris’ book “The 4-Hour Workweek” here. Think about the next 6 months, or the next 12 months. What do you want?

Write down your list. No should’s permitted. Allow yourself to feel compelled by the things you want to do. A creative pursuit, an adventure? Career related or personal—or both.

It’s not a selfish question. Quite the opposite. It’s important to be in touch with what you’re working towards, no strings attached. Just you and your ‘want to’.

I was surprised at how hard I found this exercise. So deeply am I rooted in the phrasing of should do and out of touch with my want to’s that it was hard to come up with a list.

And yet I was surprised at what power this simple question held within it.

A sharper clarity.

There’s less pottering around the office with one eye on the clock when our goals are front and center.

This doesn’t have to be a stereotype of ‘fun’.

“They say that purposeful work is the work that never ends and I began to realise that this was in fact true because we are lost in it when we find it.” — Jim Antonopoulos

I love the idea that you’ll know you’ve found it when you get lost in it.

With a different focus on what’s close to heart we approach things differently, with a different kind of zesty passion.

Why? Because work is not the goal, but rather we work towards our goals.

And by removing the ‘should do’ from your schedule, you're free to work towards the goals that you’ve decided are important, not someone else’s goals for you.

What’s your want to’s?

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