“There are three musts that hold us back: I must do well. You must treat me well. And the world must be easy.”
— Albert Ellis, Ph.D.
A constant statement I used to tell myself as a Leader was “I should be perfect in all that I do”. I held this for a long time within me by repeating it and also suggesting others to use it. I did this only because I was under the impression that I was pushing myself and others forward to reach our greatest potential.
Though I was striving for success, there was an underlying pressure or demand I had placed on myself to be perfect. For a while, this “motivational” statement continued to support me by making me receive awards, recognition, and delivering consistently.
For how long did the fuel of my statement last?
Slowly, I started to feel drained, exhausted, and noticed a constant void within me. I definitely reached success the way I had envisioned, however, my motivation was becoming my drawback. And this led to another statement- I “should” figure out what’s going wrong?
And, another pressure to figure it all out. On further self-exploration, I discovered where the problem was. It came to me as a shock as I discovered the power of words and the impact it can have on my life. The pressure wasn’t really coming from external factors but from within myself. The external world looked great but there was something up deep within.
In the chains of the should and the must, my choices had got buried over time. I felt a compulsive need to be perfect and successful. I couldn’t breathe. My inner felt like a bottomless pit, no amount of success ever filled me up. It was never enough.
In an attempt to get things done/right, we use statements that may seem motivating on the outside, however, they do carry an element of pressure, demand, and command. Words like “should”, “must”, “have to”, “can’t”, or “but” are all attached to a negative connotation that can impact our energy and performance.
These words take away our freedom to choose, to be free, and to be accountable. They make us feel like we are a victim of the situation at hand and have little to no control on the outcome.
Whom am I talking to now?
I am addressing Leaders because I can understand them clearly. I was one, am one and will be one till my last breath.
Often in my coaching sessions, I get to hear these statements,
“I have to achieve my targets,
I can’t fail,
I can’t afford to relax,
I have to manage home and work but its so difficult,
I can’t take breaks, so much to finish
I can’t say No to this project even though I am already stretched. I have to somehow manage”
This list is long and endless.
If these are one of your statements, I urge you to see the energy behind the words?
The world of Energy
There are two kinds of energy
- Shrinking energy – which is demanding, compulsive, which makes us feel cringy and small
- Expansive energy – which is affirmative, uplifting, inspirational and makes us feel open and in wonder
Can you identify the shrinking energy in the above statements?
Can you sense the compulsive & commanding energy which feels like a whip and makes you feel small and restless?
We use these statements because we are wired to think choiceless and compulsive. Our thoughts say we can’t, emotions comply, our behavior executes and we act exactly as per our mental strategy.
Imagine our thought shifts, our mental strategy shifts and our words shift to “I can take breaks even thought I have so much to finish or I can manage home and work in the best manner possible or I can say No to this project else I will breakdown”.
We have shifted our energy from shrinking energy to expansive energy and we are now left with choices. We feel resourceful in doing so. Isn’t it?
We have got many of our shoulds and musts from our childhood, our role models, culture, upbringing, bosses, our mentors and so on.
- Do we really need to enforce the same on ourselves?
- Is it working for us?
- If the answer is No, are we willing to drop it?
Another important word to pay attention to is “BUT”. I started noticing how the use of BUT displays internal conflict. I am saying one thing and simultaneously disregarding everything I say before the usage of But.
For instance, “I want to start exercising BUT I don’t have time”. If I simply shift my language from “BUT” to “AND”, I can shift the energy and manifest what I want. By saying “I want to start exercising AND I will find time”, I have completely changed the tone and feeling the words produce hence, the energy. I am holding the possibility of accomplishment by just letting go the false choice I forced myself to make.
Clearly, our words have power and as Leaders we could use them for enhancing our wellbeing and Success.
I am becoming more and more conscious of the power of word. I am also realizing that by using the power of words and declaring the energy I want to feel, I can shift my state and get the outcomes I desire. To me that is “Success with Balance”
I am choosing to be in expansive energy even when life circumstances push me in the direction of the but, should and must.
What choice are you willing to make for yourself, Leaders?