February 26, 2020 Level Up Coaching 0 Comments

I can’t pinpoint the exact moment it hit me that my life was not anything like I had expected. It was a gradual realization. I was going to lose weight. I was going to pick a career. I was going to figure out who I am. I was going to see the world. Wait, I’m in my late 30s now? It was like I was in one of those movies where the adult comes face-to-face with their 8 year-old self, and the 8 year-old is like… WTF man? What happened to you?

We were given a Book of Shoulds at birth. It was written by previous generations, culture, and tradition. This book lays out the proper way to be a person. According to the book, if we are doing things the right way, we should have certain things checked off the list: career, money, physique, marriage, kids. The list goes on. We should want these things. We should have these things. These things should make us happy. If we don’t, something is wrong.

We compare everything to the Book of Shoulds.

Most of us come up short. Take me for example; I am 36, unmarried, and childless. I spent at least a decade trying to convince myself to want kids, because the Book of Shoulds says so. I watched other women get married and have kids. I should want children. I will regret not having them. What if it’s too late? Insert mid-life crisis and feeling powerless.

Our inability to control the world does not make us powerless. Our inability to control ourselves does.

“Our society is founded on a very limited definition of power, namely wealth, professional success, fame, physical strength, military might and political control.  My dear friends, I suggest that there is another kind of power, a greater power: the power to be happy right in the present moment, free from addiction, fear, despair, discrimination, anger, and ignorance.  This power is the birthright of every human being whether celebrated or unknown, rich or poor, strong or weak.  Let’s explore this exact kind of power…” –Thich Nhat Hanh (The Art of Power)

Where does power come from? The answer is simple. Decisions. 

The most powerful thing we can do in our lives is make decisions, but the Book of Shoulds has been making our decisions for us. It can’t possibly know what will make us happy. We are not all the same person. Here’s the truth, my fellow Millennials; when my clients tell me they feel powerless in their lives it’s not because they lack power, it’s because they have given it away to the Book of Shoulds

Michelle, I make decisions all the time?

Of course! Everything we do in life is the result of a decision. The difference is the why behind each one. It matters so much because not all of our decisions are made deliberately. In fact, most of them probably aren’t. We typically make decisions as a reaction to something, instead of conscious intention. Deliberate decisions are full of purpose that produce something we want. When we don’t have a clear idea of what we want, we avoid making decisions until the last minute, at which point we are forced to, and the result isn’t want we’d hoped for. This is handing over power.

If you’re living according to the Book of Shoulds you are not living you at all. You haven’t decided what you want. You are just going by what the Book of Shoulds tells you. No wonder you feel out of control.

Now, I’m not suggesting that wanting any of the examples I listed above is wrong. There is no wrong answer as long as it’s your answer. I am not here to tell you what you should do. I am here to tell you it is important to know why you are making any decision. As long as it’s yours, then you are doing it right. You have the power.

The Book of Shoulds is a work of fiction. We can draw inspiration from it as we write our own. 

If you want, I’ve provided you with your first blank page, just click the button below. Happy should’ing, everyone.

Powerless was last modified: October 4th, 2020 by Level Up Coaching

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