For me some days it starts before I even open my eyes. The alarm goes off and the first thoughts breaking through sound something like this:
“I’m still tired. I should have gone to bed earlier.”
“I need to go to the gym. I should have set the alarm for earlier.”
“I want to eat something healthy for breakfast. I should have gone to the grocery store yesterday.”
And the “should” train is off and running.
Never mind that a lot of items on my daily list of things I “should be doing” compete with one another for my time.
I should read more. I should sleep more.
I should move more. I should be still more.
I should spend more time alone in prayer. I should spend more time serving others.
I ignore this conundrum and optimistically think of each thing as a bright and shiny opportunity to get things right. After all, no one can argue that getting more rest, hitting the gym, and having a healthy breakfast are not all great ideas. As are, “I should clean out my closet. Call my mother. Work on my blog. Practice obedience training with my dog.” The list of good things I should do goes on and on.
So I set off, listening to the voice inside telling me what I should be doing, and feeling kind of good about having some healthy goals.
But…there are a few things I need to remember before I get in too deep.
We can’t do all the things we “should.”
Not in one day, anyway. It’s just not possible. And no new-fangled planning tool or time management system is going to change that.
When I let “should” pile up, every day ends with a list of things I didn’t get done. Things I didn’t do well. Things I should try harder to do tomorrow.
Then the seeds of shame take root. Because for some of us, “I didn’t do enough” can quickly morph into “I am not enough.”
But we know that living with shame is not part of God’s plan for us. (Romans 8:1 NLT)
So, we need to be realistic about the amount of time and energy we have to invest each day. And find the things that matter most to God and us. Where is He inviting us in? What opportunities is He placing before us? Asking not, “What should I be doing?” But instead giving ourselves permission to ask, “What are the possibilities set before me today?” Then choosing and doing those things that bring us joy.
“Should” robs us of our joy.
It’s no secret that the grown-up life is full of responsibilities that simply must be handled every day. But when everything we do is motivated by what “should” be done, we miss out on something special. The sheer joy of doing something not because we “should” but because we actually want to.
What desires has God placed in your heart? And what gifts, talents, and resources has He handed over so you can make those desires a reality? Nothing will bring more joy than living into the things God has designed you to do. So don’t miss the chance to do something unique, beautiful, and meaningful because you’ve buried yourself under a pile of “should.”
Plus, when we focus only on what we should have done and failed to do, we can’t experience the full sense of accomplishment and satisfaction that come from all the things we did do well today.
Like I said, “should” is a joy thief.
Our “shoulds” spill over onto others and can damage our relationships.
This is a tough one. When we live our lives guided only by “shoulds,” it’s easy to project onto others what they “should” be doing, too. And “shoulds” ruin relationships.
I once knew a young mom who was angry with her husband. She told me, “He doesn’t even bring me a glass of water when I’m nursing the baby!” I asked her if she ever asked him for a glass of water and her answer was, “No! He SHOULD know to do that! He obviously doesn’t care about me at all!”
Do you see how quickly “should” caused that situation to go downhill?
As we set goals for the days and years ahead, let’s ask God to show us a better way to live.
Not trying to do everything we think we should be doing. But listening for His invitation. Watching for opportunities He sets before us. And stepping into each day with more peace and greater joy as we trust God to guide us toward the things that matter most.
Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart. (Psalm 37:4)