Are you feeling stuck?
One of the most counterproductive phrases in the English language in my humble opinion is “suppose to”.
My skin crawls when someone begins a sentence by saying, “You know what you are suppose to do . . .” Even if they have the best of intentions, my wall immediately goes up. I’m deaf to whatever is said next. Why?
It gets us stuck. When “suppose to” is used in this context it is an implied obligation. It’s duty bound. It’s a command. It’s an expectation. It eliminates choice. It’s a dead end. It’s the voice of guilt. It’s unconstructive criticism. It’s pressure to conform.
It holds you back from being your true self.
What’s even worse, how many times have you told yourself, “I’m suppose to do this . . . “? When you feel you are “suppose to” do something, your source of motivation is external. When you “want to” do something, your source of motivation is internal.
Lifestyle design is all about aligning your purpose with your internal motivation.
The Crushing Guilt of Hearing “Suppose to”
More often than not, it’s even harder to hear a family member, a close friend, someone you admire, a colleague or your boss tell you, “You are suppose to . . .” It triggers feelings of guilt.
You don’t want to disappointment them. You want their acceptance. You want their approval. You want to make them proud. You end up doing what you are “suppose to” even though it’s not what you “want to” do.
By the way using the word “should” also raise the same red flag as “suppose to” does for me.
When you tell someone they are “suppose to” or “should” do something a particular way, you aren’t considering other viable alternatives or empowering them to discover their own solution.
You are automatically deferring their options to predetermined societal standards that may no longer be valid.
For example, I remember my dad telling me I was ‘”suppose to have settled into a long-term career by now” after I told him I got laid off after working for just 5 years at 4 different companies. Initially I was a little crushed.
Let me give you some context, my dad worked for AT&T for 30 years and for Bayer Pharmaceuticals for 12 years. His generation built their careers from a completely different rulebook than ours.
Rather than feel offended by his comment, I new his intentions were coming from a good place, but I realized his path in life was no longer even an option, so I had to find my own.
When you feel like you “should” give into a comment like this, remember you are being motivated by external forces rather than being motivated by your own inner voice.
It’s not your choice. You are outsourcing your decision to someone else. You are doing it to make someone else happy without any consideration of your own happiness.
Bowing to guilty feelings in the short term, usually results in long-term misery. Been there, done that.
Living Your Life the Way You Are “Suppose to”
Are you working in a job or chose a career because that’s what you thought you were “suppose to do”?
Have you ever asked yourself where that pressure is coming from? Your parents? Your spouse? Your peers? The media?
Don’t you think it’s time to find a better way to define your career and your identity?
If that pressure is coming from within you, then why are you giving into this pressure? What is preventing you from want you really to do?
Take the time now to write down responses to the following questions:
1) What’s the work you’ve always wanted to do or what kind of work do you think would be satisfying to you?
2) What are the obstacles holding you back from doing what you want to do?
3) What is a small action you can take to start overcoming the toughest obstacle preventing you from doing what you really want to do?
The only thing you are “suppose to” or “should” do in life is be a good person and be respectful of others. Outside of that, you can do whatever you want.
Otherwise you are giving up control over your own life and have no one to blame for your unhappiness, but yourself.
I’m not advocating shirking your responsibilities, but rather recognizing the need to balance them against your own personal happiness.
You should (wink) stop giving into the thought “I’m suppose to”. Let yourself have choices. You deserve them.
Create Options Using “Suppose to”
The next time someone starts a sentence with the phrase, “You’re suppose to . . . ” or “You know what you should do . . . . “ take the following actions:
1) First, visualize a red flag and pause for a moment. Take it as a cue to begin a discussion, rather than listen to a lecture.
2) Next, turn the tables. Respond by saying something like, “Suppose I was considering another option? Suppose I did . . . “
That response prevents you from getting backed into a corner. You are letting the other person know there are other valid options beyond the one they think you are “suppose to do”.
3) Don’t get defensive or give into your guilty feelings. Recognize the concern the other person has for you. Generally their advice is coming from a place of love. Their misunderstanding arises from their lack of knowledge about the type of work you really want to do.
4) Finally, clearly explain your needs and why you are considering other options. Most people only have the best intentions when they are offering their advice. Sometimes they unknowingly present it in the form of a lecture by launching into it be saying, “You’re suppose to . . .”
Sometimes it’s tough hearing someone else tell you what they think you are “suppose to do” when you haven’t figured it out for yourself yet. Take the time to consider your most pressing needs and what makes you really happy.
Bring awareness every time you hear or even think “suppose to”. I know it might sound extreme, but simple language like that is one of the root causes limiting your beliefs about your true potential.
You should stop saying “suppose to” to other people too;)